Right out of the box, the truth is that any of these three are great. With just the free options they each offer, your basic needs will be well met, but as always, the devil is in the details. Each is targeted to a slightly different audience and works in different ways than the others, making the clear winner dependent on a variety of factors.
To begin, the first question on anyone’s mind is also the most obvious: how much free storage do you get? Free means all it costs is a sign-up, and each has their strengths and weaknesses in this arena. Google Drive has an impressive amount of free storage at 15GB, which is enough to last quite a while even for an average uploader of pictures and videos. The second highest is iCloud, at 5GB. Dropbox offers 2GB free to people trying their service, but the twist here is that by connecting your social media account and sending referrals to your friends, Dropbox will upgrade your storage to 16GB. One solitary gigabyte over the competition isn’t much, but it’s still free.
Apple’s customers want cheap storage and generally use it for lightweight purposes like media. Accordingly, the first tier of iCloud starts at just $0.99 per month for 50GB or 200GB for $2.99. Google Drive offers 100GB for $1.99 and 1TB (1000GB) for $9.99. Dropbox, aimed at professional users, offers just one service. Dropbox Pro gives users 1TB of cloud storage for $9.99 – the same price as Google. While there’s no clear winner, the nuances of each service will likely be the deciding factor.
Collaboration and Ease of Use
Google Drive is generally considered the easiest to use, as it has excellent support for its applications on both iOS and Android, as well as Windows and MacOS. It’s great for lovers of the “G Suite”, working seamlessly with Google Docs, Google Sheets and more. The ecosystem is already integrated naturally in Android devices, and works well with Chrome if that is your browser of choice. It’s very easy to manage permissions for sharing, and to collaborate with coworkers or friends, similar to well-known services like SugarSync.
Apple’s iCloud, which apart from having a very comprehensive backup service and friendliness with iWork, places less emphasis on syncing. It also doesn’t have a mobile app for either platform, despite supporting both desktop versions. Dropbox is the veteran cloud service here, and is considered the most apt for workplace use. Dropbox Business features unlimited storage for team member accounts, sharing and collaboration, and special safety measures like versioning and scheduled backups. It’s similar to services like Carbonite, which offers unlimited, continuous backups for just $59.99 per year. Pro users should consider either of these.
An important factor, security is comparable between each of the three services. However, there are always slight advantages, and Dropbox comes away with the win over Google and Apple. Both Google and Dropbox use the same 256-character encryption method, but Dropbox has been less cooperative when it came to sharing data with government. Apple uses a weaker form of encryption and has suffered from hacks in the past, like the now infamous iCloud celebrity hack of 2014, which released hundreds of compromising photos to the web.
Before you make a choice, ask yourself what applications you use most, and how much storage you need. Do you like Google’s app suite or Apple’s? What devices do you use most, and is security a serious concern? Is this for personal or business use? The answers will vary, but know that you will have chosen well if any of the three cloud storage services listed here come in first place.