We compare the capacities, pricing, applications and features of the two popular cloud storage services.
Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive have been around for a few years now, and both are mature, feature-rich cloud services that allow you to store and share files, synchronise files across devices, create and edit documents, and a whole lot more.
Which is best for you and your business?
Don’t forget there are other cloud storage options which we have compared previously, but here we focus on the popular services from the two tech giants and look at what they offer, starting with cloud storage capacity and their various plans.
Capacity and pricing
If you have a Google account, you’ll get 15GB of storage on Google Drive for no charge at all. Your 15GB can be split between Google Drive, Gmail and Photos, so it might not end up being enough capacity, especially if you've had Gmail for a while. But at least it’s substantially better than Microsoft’s offering: 5GB of storage for a free OneDrive account.
However, you can buy more space from each of these companies. Google offers plenty of options, starting with 100GB for A$2.49 a month, or 1TB for $12.49 a month, 10TB for $124.99 a month, 20TB for $249.99 a month, or a monstrous 30TB for $374.99 a month.
For businesses, Google also offers the option of upgrading to G Suite, starting at $5 per user per month, which includes various business features such as hosted email and 30TB of online storage per user – or $10 per user per month with unlimited storage (or, if there are fewer than five users, 1TB each).
While its free account might not overly generous, Microsoft offers some good upgrade options, starting at 50GB for A$2.99 a month – and you can get more if you subscribe to an Office 365 or OneDrive for Business plan. The latter is available at A$84 per year per user for 1TB each or $168 per year per user with unlimited online storage.
Office 365 starts at $99 per year (or $10 per month) for the Personal plan, which offers 1TB plus the full desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, and other additional features – while Office 365 Home allows up to five users, and 1TB per user, for $129 per year (or $13 per month). There are also Office 365 Business plans that add hosted email and additional collaboration applications, starting from $209.88 per user per year.
Google now offers two Windows apps: Backup and Sync, which basically just replaces the previous Google Drive for Windows, and Drive File Stream for those using G Suite. The latter allows you to download individual files on demand, without having to sync the entire contents of Google Drive – which is ideal for those using ultraportables with limited disk space.
Otherwise, downloading and installing Windows clients for Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive is simple. Users only need to configure the location of the folder that is set to synchronise with the respective service.
Both companies have opted for a minimal approach to their storage clients which is no bad thing as it leaves users simply having to deal with a folder in Windows Explorer. Users can upload, open, edit and save files to the elected Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive folder as if it was stored locally on the system.
Although this 'less is more' approach results in ease of use, we would have liked to see the option of synchronising backup of local folders with Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive folders. The ability to set sharing permissions on the Windows client would be very welcome.
You can, of course, share files publically, or only to specific people, using the web interface for Google Drive or OneDrive.
Next: extra features, compatibility and verdict
Although Google and Microsoft have opted for minimal desktop apps for storage, both companies include a host of web apps for sharing files, email, document-editing and more.
Microsoft OneDrive users also get Outlook online, along with web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and more – and the option of downloading mobile versions of these apps. Google account holders get similar web and mobile apps in the form of Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Keep.
Neither Google’s nor Microsoft’s web apps match the features found on Microsoft Office’s desktop applications, but they do have enough features to create and edit simple documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. They also offer quite powerful collaboration features, such as the ability to share documents and for multiple users to work on documents simultaneously.
In our view, neither Google’s nor Microsoft’s web apps should be a deal breaker when it comes to deciding on Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. Both are competent apps that allow users to do light work on documents, and collaborate on those documents, without the need to have fully fledged office suites installed.
Compatibility and deployment
Those looking to use Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive need to consider what devices you or your business’s users have, or what devices you intend to deploy – although this is now less of a consideration now that both companies have realised that customers live in a heterogeneous world and apps have to work with the multitude of operating systems.
There’s now little between the two services when it comes to compatibility. Google Drive can be accessed via a web browser or apps for Windows, Mac OS X, Android and iOS – and there are separate Android and iOS apps for Drive’s companion applications: Gmail, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.
Microsoft offers much the same apps for OneDrive, plus Windows Phone for those still using that mobile operating system.
Both Google's and Microsoft's services are offered on a multi-tenant public cloud, so you need to consider what type of data will be used on the service, how sensitive it is and the possible legalities or compliance issues of it being stored in the cloud, or outside Australia. If the latter is an important consideration for you, Australian Office 365 users’ data is said to be hosted in Microsoft’s Australian data centres – though this is something you should confirm with Microsoft, checking that instances of data are not hosted offshore for backup or disaster-recovery purposes.
It is also important to note the fact neither service offers automatic data encryption and with smartphones and tablets having access to accounts, safeguards on user accounts and user's devices need to be put into place.
Google and Microsoft offer reliable, fast, easy to use storage clouds with clients that run on a number of different operating systems.
Overall, in terms of the storage on offer, Google Drive has the best-value budget and free plans, but if you need 1TB or more per user, Microsoft edges ahead.
However, both offer very good value cloud storage, along with a host of additional features, including the ability to create, edit, share and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and slideshows online.
Users that have grown up on Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint will feel right at home with the Microsoft option, but on the other hand, Gmail has a lot of users too. For businesses, careful consideration of what applications your employees are experienced with could reduce time spent on training and support.
If you need full-blown office desktop apps, Microsoft wins hands-down – if you’re prepared to upgrade to Office 365. Otherwise, it’s a tough choice that may come down to how much storage you need now and potentially in the future, your budget, application preferences, and one or two specific features.
Before making your final decision, we advise trialling both, along with other cloud storage options, particularly if you don’t need the extra applications that come with OneDrive and Google Drive.