Google Drive and Google Apps vs Microsoft OneDrive and Office 365 – revisited

I ran into an issue using Google Docs for my week class presentations.

First, the web interface is incredibly confusing and awkward to use. I’m forever being bounced into the Docs section when I just want to go back to the Google Drive itself and see the folder/file hierarchy. And I find it hard to figure out where I’m at in the Google Docs hierarchy.

So instead of doing this via the web, I tried using the Google Drive folder on my Mac (conceptually like DropBox) for organizing folder and files. It was then I ran into a weird – possibly showstopper – oddity.

Very often I will duplicate a Doc to use as a template for the next class presentation. Then I’ll move it into a new folder and rename it. I think that’s a pretty typical thing to do.

This works ok in Google Drive on the web (if you can stand all the tabs that open and not exactly knowing where you are at any given time).

But if you duplicate a Google Doc on your Mac in the finder (Command+D) it doesn’t create a separate file. It creates a shortcut to the original file!

It even warns you that if you move the shortcut that if you later delete the original file you’ll lose the contents.

That is incredibly clumsy I think. People want to duplicate and rename files all the time. Why should we have to go to the web and do it?

So I was back to OneDrive, which comes with 1TB of space with Office365. The same problem doesn’t exist with OneDrive. If you duplicate a file in the Mac Finder you get a whole separate file and can move it around and edit it without affecting the original file.

The downside of OneDrive compared to Google Drive seems to be that sync doesn’t appear instantly across devices.

With Google Drive, any time you edit a file on any of your devices – Mac, iPad, etc. – the changes magically appear on all the devices. It’s quite cool to watch.

But with OneDrive, on the Mac side, you have to close and reopen the file to see changes. And on the iPad and iPhone, I was just experimenting, and it seems you can pull-down to resync, which is “ok I guess,” but it doesn’t “magically resync” like with Google Docs.

I’m trying to decide which to go with going forward for class presentations.

Another advantage of Office365 with OneDrive is that on your Mac you have actual, real files instead of pointers to documents in the cloud only accessible via your browser, such as Chrome.

In other words, there are no true “Google Docs apps” for your computer. It’s all browser based. But for Office365 you get actual, real, native Word, Excel, etc. apps.

Come to think of it, that probably explains why, when you duplicate a Google Doc on your Mac, you end up with a shortcut instead of a real file. There is no “real file” there at all.

Tech Note: Google Apps and Google Drive vs Microsoft Office and OneDrive syncing

Just an update of Google Apps vs Microsoft Office on OneDrive –

There are a few nuisances with Google Apps, such as it not recognizing the iOS keyboard Control-Shift shortcut to switch between languages, and no laser pointer in the iOS version of Slides. But when it comes to syncing, Google Apps (Docs and Slides) and Google Drive is a whole different world from Microsoft Office (Word and PowerPoint) and OneDrive.

In Office, with documents syncing through OneDrive, you don’t see the synced changes on either the Mac or the iPad side until you “save” the document. Then syncs are brought in from the iPad and syncs are sent to the iPad (after a bit of time). In other words, there is no real-time collaborative editing of documents. That surprises me. I did a Microsoft Support chat just before, and that was the Microsoft tech person’s opinion as well.

On the other hand, with Google Apps on Google Drive, if you have a file (Docs, Slides) open on the iPad and the Mac at the same time it’s a real-time change that occurs. You can even select text on one device and instantly see it selected on the other device. Very cool! All changes are mirrored instantly on both devices.

Google Apps is a clear winner here on that point. That plus the fact that you can edit for free on all devices (which you can’t do with Office) makes Google Apps the obvious choice to use for class presentations, and for students to learn these basic apps.

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

I found this article interesting and useful (

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 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 is free for most iOS and Android devices, but not for the iPad Pro. I guess that would be the deal breaker for 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 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.