Tech note: Google Drive and Apps vs DropBox vs Microsoft OneDrive and Office

I found this article interesting and useful (https://www.cloudwards.net/dropbox-vs-google-drive-vs-onedrive).

One error was that the author says the free 15 GB of Google Drive space is also used by Mail and Google Photos. If you use the default high-quality optimized photos option then Google Photos is unlimited and doesn’t eat up your Google Drive space.

I did finally buy a yearly 100 GB Google Drive subscription recently, because decades of email had finally reached 15 GB. That’s only $20/year.

Currently I pay for that, $100/year for 1 TB of DropBox space and $70/year for Office365, which includes 1 TB of OneDrive space.

I don’t find the OneDrive space that useful because of file size limits and things break when folder or filenames are in Japanese. That doesn’t happen with DropBox. So I find I’m not really taking advantage of the included OneDrive space.

I find the DropBox syncing speeds generally faster, and find it easy to use and share different DropBox folder with different friends and clients. It has been very reliable. I would hate to give that up. DropBox doesn’t really have “apps” so DropBox is just my go-to solution for file syncing and sharing.

I’ve been playing more with Google apps the last few days and have been impressed with how well they work for a browser-based solution. It’s pretty cool. I can actually watch myself select text on my Mac and see it selected at the same time on my iPad. It’s eerily fast considering that it does this via the cloud. I can move lines around on my Mac and see them move at the exact same time on my iPad. And vice versa. Same with my iPhone. My impression was that this is faster than with Office apps.

Of course with Office365 you get the actual desktop clients to work with. It seems those are generally easier to use on my Mac than doing things in the Chrome browser interface. While I’m impressed with how well the web interface does work, there are also web-based limitations and awkwardness in the UI that you don’t see in the Office apps on your desktop. Still, the web-based apps work surprising well.

So right now I’m paying a total of $190/year for 1 TB of DropBox, 100 GB of Google Drive and 1 TB of OneDrive bundled with Office365.

Note: I have an old “grandfathered-in” Google Suite account for my personal domain and company domain, so those accounts remain free for up to 50 users in each domain.

It’s not bad in total, but I feel I get the least use out of OneDrive.

I have a question I’m pondering right now. I teach a volunteer class in computer skills for seniors and disabled people on Sundays. I’d like a free solution for them. I am debating whether to start the students with Google Drive plus Google Apps, or OneDrive plus Office.com. I’m leaning towards Google because (1) there is more free space; (2) many people already have a Google account for email, YouTube, and Google Photos; and (3) it’s completely free.

I think Office.com is free for most iOS and Android devices, but not for the iPad Pro. I guess that would be the deal breaker for Office.com right there. Plus the limitations on free disk space.

 

Tech note – Comparing the speed of cloud storage solutions

There are many “cloud storage” solutions out there, and I’m using a few of them. I decided to do a simple speed test consisting of uploading and syncing a folder containing one 186.4 MB .mv4 file.

I did several tests of each service to see if the results were consistent, and they appeared to be. My home network is Sony Nuro fiber optic with a theoretical bandwidth of 2 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, though in practice I never get that throughput. But it is safe to say I do get at least 100 Mbps over wifi from my MacBook Pro.

Also, note these tests may vary depending on your location relative to the cloud storage centers.

Currently, I’m not actually paying for any cloud storage service; I have been using the free version of each of each. But as my cloud storage needs grow I’m trying to decide which I might invest in more and actually pay to use!

I’m still grandfathered in with a free 50 user Google account for my company, so even my Google services are currently free.

The amount of storage I have with each of the cloud storage services I tested is:

DropBox –  11.25 GB. Their basic free account is 2 GB, but there have been various promos over the years which added space for me. DropBox was the fastest in my tests. They also recently dramatically lowered their prices and are charging $10/month for 1 TB of cloud storage. DropBox is the what I use most office for cloud storage and file sharing.

Box – 50 GB. They are conceptually similar to DropBox. Their basic free plan includes 10 GB, but I signed up during a special promo period. I have not really made much use of their service to date.

GoogleDrive –  15 GB. Their basic free account is 15 GB for everybody. They are also charging $10/month for 1 TB of storage and there is a lower cost $2/month plan for 100 GB of storage. My hesitancy about upgrading is I’m not sure if I can upgrade just one user in my free account or whether it means losing all the other free users in my package. In other words does it become all paid or stay free at the current storage level? It’s a bit confusing if you have multiple accounts, which many people do. I tend not to use GoogleDrive for “storing and sharing files” like I do with DropBox. I mostly use Google for email and for collaborative document creation and sharing.

Microsoft OneDrive – 30 GB. Their basic free plan is 15 GB for everybody, but there was a special recently where if you sync images you got an extra free 15 GB. See more about their pricing and services below.

SpiderOak – 9 GB. Their basic free plan is 2 or 4 GB (they say 2 GB but it really seems to be 4 GB), and I got some extra referral bonus space.

I didn’t include Apple iCloud in my test because I am not sure how cross-platform compatible it is yet. But the free amount I have is 5 GB and for just $1/month you can increase that to 20 GB of space. Apple is playing catch-up in this service area since DropBox became so popular.

Now back to Microsoft for the moment…

As far as paid plans go, Microsoft’s OneDrive is intriguing because it is bundled with Office 365. For just $7/month (personal user – but they don’t care if you use it for business purposes or not) you get 1 TB of cloud storage + the completely current desktop version of Office + the iPad version of Office + the online version of Office + 60 minutes of international Skype calls per month.

You have to admit seems like a good deal, and it saves on buying the Office suite. But I’m worried because OneDrive clocked in as one of the slowest for syncing files.

My results of syncing the above-mentioned folder containing the movie file were as follows:

DropBox 7 seconds – the fastest by far. Also the movie played via the web almost instantly, which is great for sharing.

Box 46 seconds.

GoogleDrive 47 seconds.

Microsoft OneDrive 2 minutes 12 seconds – disappointingly slow. Also, the movie would not play via the web.

SpiderOak 2 at minutes 38 seconds was the slowest. This is a relatively new service I saw recommended by Eric Snowden, and read some articles about, and was interested in it because of reportedly good privacy policies.

This isn’t a review of all the features of each service. The one I’m most familiar with is DropBox, and most everybody I know has DropBox so it’s easy to exchange files with them. 

In my multiple tests just now I saw how each time I deleted the folder from DropBox, an archive was kept of each deleted version, and it was easy to restore. There are lots of user-friendly DropBox features, and it is available for just about any computer system and mobile device, which is why it is usually the “go to cloud service” for most of my sharing.

GoogleDrive is next in familiarity, and many people I work with like using it. Plus they have a competitive set of Office-like online apps for collaborative document creation and sharing. So it’s not just storage – it’s a work environment.

Microsoft OneDrive and Office 365 have come late to the game of online document creation and sharing. However the Office suite is ubiquitous, and the fact you can easily switch between the online version at Office.com and your desktop version is attractive, and you can collaborate and share, as with GoogleDrive. Plus you get the desktop versions of Office with it, so it seems like an economical way to have Office online and offline, plus loads of cloud storage at a great price. But it just seems so slow for file syncing, which is what worries me.

I am less familiar with Box, but was impressed that the syncing speed was as fast as GoogleDrive.

If Microsoft OneDrive was anywhere near as fast as DropBox – or even GoogleDrive – I would leap on it, because there is so much bundled in. But the speed, and the fact that my uploaded movie won’t play, worries me. So I suspect if I got an Office 365 subscription I would not make great use of the OneDrive storage area.

Bonus fact: Apple’s iCloud has a nice new feature if you use Apple Mail in OS X 10.10 (Yosemite). You can email an attachment up to 5 GB in size to anybody. The file is stored in iCloud and if the recipient’s email account doesn’t allow the receipt of  large files they will automatically receive a link instead to download the file from iCloud. Sounds clever.

Two drawbacks (so far) found in SkyDrive

I’ve been trying SkyDrive and have run into two stumbling blocks so far.

Here are my questions in the SkyDrive forums and replies from Microsoft which explain the issues.

(1) Local storing of files on an iOS device

Me: I’ve been hunting around for some manual or feature explanations of SkyDrive for iOS but can’t seem to find anything. I’d like to know some details such as, are the items all stored locally on my iPad and iPhone, or do I have to mark items I wish to save locally? Any tidbits like that.

Microsoft:  You can read features we support from the app description in appstore. We temporarily don’t have Offline support on iOS. But we do cache files/photos locally on your phone once you’ve manually opened it. You may use that as an alternative way for offline access but it requires you to manually open each of the file you want to access.

Me:  I see. 

I would just like to point out that this makes dealing with large-ish files in iOS quite awkward in comparison to, say, DropBox. In DropBox you mark as “favorite” those files you wish to store locally, and it downloads them in the background.

For example, I created a family slideshow yesterday – a movie that is about 180 MB in size. In DropBox I marked it as favorite and eventually it downloaded and I was able to view it in DropBox in airplane mode. But I wasn’t able to do this in SkyDrive. In fact, I wasn’t able to watch the whole movie in SkyDrive because the streaming was poor and I could never get past the first 15 seconds of the 6 minute movie.

I hope this is improved sometime.

(2) Search doesn’t work

Me:  Search doesn’t seem to work. I created a test Doc file via the web interface in a folder, and in the doc I wrote: To whom it may concern. And I had a sentence in my test document: This may concern you.

But if I try to search documents for the word “concern” it keeps coming up with no results.

Is this still buggy? Or does it take a long time to index? Are others experiencing this?

Microsoft:  Hi Doug,

 

Please be informed that the search function in SkyDrive only supports files that are in .doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx, .xls, and .xlsx formats. Also, you cannot use the contents within each documents when searching. You have to search for the name of the document instead.

 

Thank you.

Me:  Search in SkyDrive cannot search the contents of documents created in SkyDrive? 🙂

Hmm…

OK. Thanks.

doug

A 5 minute look at SkyDrive

If you know DropBox, you know SkyDrive. In my 5 minutes cursory look at SkyDrive I can see it being a real challenger for DropBox. Or another way of looking at it is, why not have both?

Conceptually they work the same way. But there are some immediate advantages to SkyDrive as well. For one thing, there is more free space (7 GB to start with, instead of 2 GB). And you can more selectively control sharing. While I hear this is/has changed in DropBox, their permissions has always been very rough. Basically giving somebody shared access to a DropBox folder lets the other person control the folder’s contents, and all the sub-folders and files therein. SkyDrive has more selective settings it seems.

SkyDrive also lets you create Word and other Office documents via the web, much like Google Docs. I haven’t checked to see if there is collaborative editing or not.

There are also search features (though it was not able to find a word in a test Word doc I created via the web UI). Photos uploaded can also be automatically resized, which is nice when sharing. That worked great from my iPhone.

Google is also coming out with Google Drive, but (1) it’s not ready for me yet when I try to access and (2) the iOS apps are not available as of this writing. But I was able to immediately download and use the iPhone app for SkyDrive (which synced to my iPad) and it works just fine on both. So Microsoft has beaten Google out the door on this one.
I see a lot to like and not really anything to dislike about SkyDrive in a first test drive, except the search didn’t work on the web. Of course I never get search to work in DropBox either, so they are even on that score so far.

This is just a superficial look so far, but I say why not go for it and get some more cloud storage. I mean, why not?

doug