DropBox, Google Drive & SkyDrive: An End User Comparison

I have been pretty eager to take to the cloud and most of my often used documents are stored within DropBox. I am sure this is a model that most people have taken as well. DropBox is the first cloud storage service that end users took to really quickly. Google Drive was launched a few months back and SkyDrive has always been there but untouched. Now with Office 2013 and Windows 8 making a Microsoft (and thus SkyDrive) account neccessary, I had to dip my toes in and give it a spin. I will not be talking about iCloud here because it is so locked down and feature short that it won’t compare to these 3 at all.

 

DropBox 

DropBox - Reigning King

DropBox – Reigning King

There’s nothing much to say about this service. Its a benchmark for a good reason. Here’s what I like about it:

Free Space

DropBox is smart, it gives in to the perceptive need of users. Everyone thinks they need lots of space. The truth is, you need a big amount of space only to feel safe. DropBox has been ready to expand space because it knows that the users won’t use all of it. I have 40GB free and yet, I’m only using 20% of it. The huge and expandable safety net is welcoming. Google and Microsoft should learn from this.

Clean Web Interface

The web interface was good, and then it was improved a few months back. Now it’s gorgeous. It’s clean, simple, and works brilliantly.

Web Interface - Smooth and effective

Web Interface – Smooth and effective

Right Click Sharing

This is one feature that should be in every cloud storage product. The big side reason to store things online is for backup and also for selective sharing. The ‘Get Link’ or ‘Share This Folder’ from the DropBox right click menu has been immense.

The Right Click - So Useful

The Right Click – So Useful

Integration

DropBox’s popularity and open mindedness means it became a defacto standard for sharing to and from mobile devices. This expanded the case use scenarios for DropBox and its popularity went through the roof. If you want to replace the physical hard drive, you must be made to slot into any device – and DropBox is just that.

Could Be Better

DropBox is in danger because Apple and Microsoft are closing down their platforms to be more iCloud / SkyDrive centric. I am pretty sure DropBox can work out a deal especially with Microsoft to coexist in a non conflicting manner with internal offerings. If it doesn’t, people will jump ship not because they want to but because they have to. I’d love to see DropBox working towards integrating well with Windows 8 and OSX/iOS.

 

Google Drive 

Google Drive: Docs on Desktop

Google Drive: Docs on Desktop

Google Drive is an effort that mirrors Chromium. As much as Chromium is a gateway to Google’s services from a specifically built laptop, Drive is your local door to Google Docs.

Easy Docs Launching

It used to be a minor pain getting to docs. I have to fire up my browser, log in, go to the docs site and then open up the folder and then the file. Now I just open my Google Drive and double click the document. It’s simple. It still launches the browser but it gets directly into the document of choice.

Web Interface - Same thing on the Desktop

Web Interface – Same thing on the Desktop

Flexibility

Google is the type of company that will catch ’em all. You can put up your own documents and files and Google Drive will do simple syncing. There are no public links and all that but at least there is basic synchronization.

What Could Be Better

I would like to see Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents convert into Google Docs’ format when I put them in my Drive. Google Drive should instantly make a copy in GDocs format. That would make their cloud solution a hit. That would literally convert people from Office to Docs.

The Word Document should have been converted

The Word Document should have been converted

Multiple accounts support would be great as well. I have 3 Google accounts because Google has such a great exchange-esque system (Google Apps) that I host 3 of my emails on Google. All 3 are active Google accounts for varying purposes. I want them all tied in to one Drive app. Google should work on that.

 

SkyDrive 

SkyDrive: Recently Relevant

SkyDrive: Recently Relevant

SkyDrive was brought back to life by Microsoft’s other products. It was nothing stellar on its own but has improved with time.

Nearly Everything DropBox Is

This is a complement. You get syncing, you get a pretty good desktop and web app. You get previous versions, public links, sharing and the like. It’s nearly the gold standard DropBox has set.

Spot the Difference

Spot the Difference

Integration into Windows, Office and Phone

The biggest thing for SkyDrive, if I have not mentioned it many times already, is how well it ties into many other Microsoft products. These are products that are a must use for me. Windows and Office are definitely the big 2. The integration via Metro UI has been looking really positive so far.

Reason: Windows 8 & Office 2013

Reason: Windows 8 & Office 2013 works Beautifully with SkyDrive

Could Be Better

SkyDrive has to hit DropBox standards and exceed them if it really wants to win people over. Give me my sharing link from a right click on the Desktop. Clean up that web interface and douse some Metro on that (I think they would, the way Outlook.com is replacing Hotmail).

SkyDrive needs to play well with other apps as well. People do not want a separate drive only for Microsoft products. They want a drive they can use for everything. Microsoft has to start thinking the way of DropBox because they are an OS provider. And a good OS is one that caters broadly.

 

Using All Three

I have come to a point where I need to invest into SkyDrive and to some extent Google Drive (work related). Having all 3 clients running, I still tend towards DropBox more not out of habit but because of its features and execution. Maybe Windows 8 might change things but Microsoft and Google have a lot more catch up to do to match DropBox.



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