Dropbox vs Google Drive vs SkyDrive

Posted on Posted in Techy

UPDATE: See new setup here.

I’ve been testing out various online backup/sync tools for the last few weeks and thought I’d share some of the things I’ve found out. This is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of these platforms, just some points I’ve found interesting that are not broadly covered/discussed.

Position

I have 3 sets of files: work docs (45GB, 90k files), personal docs (1GB, 5k files) and media (80GB, 54k files).

Work docs need to be shared with everyone in my company, and they are the most important. They need to be backed up on a solid platform, ideally with unlimited change history and shared between multiple computers. We use Dropbox for this, and have done so for a few years.

Problem

Dropbox doesn’t let you selectively share files with certain users, without having multiple Dropbox accounts (or using Teams), and it doesn’t let you sync to an external drive.

Dropbox

Reliability: Very reliable. I’ve found it to be the most reliable of the 3.

Cost: The most expensive. 100GB costs $100 a year. Full prices.

Speed: It scans local folders very quickly, and syncs very quickly. If you change one file, it will be recognised and uploaded almost immediately.

Scanning: It’s smart enough to know that if I add a file locally which is already in Dropbox, it doesn’t need to sync it, because it’s already there!

Deletions: I believe that deleted files do not take up your storage quota. As I’m a legacy customer, I get unlimited change history/deletions for free (Packrat).

External Drives: Does not sync with an external drive.

Google Drive

Reliability: Can’t comment on reliability, as I’ve not used it extensively enough.

Cost: 100GB costs $59.88 a year excluding VAT. Although they charge you in USD, they add VAT for UK purchases. You also have to buy monthly, you can’t pay for a year up front. Full prices.

Speed: It scans local folders very quickly, and syncs quite quickly.

Scanning: If you add files to your Drive folder and it starts to sync them, then you delete those files halfway through the sync, it continues to upload them. IE you add 50 files, delete them after 25 have uploaded, and Google Drive still reports that it’s uploading 25 more files, then 24, then 23 as it works its way through.

If you add files locally which are already in your Drive, it will add them again as duplicates. IE the only way you can add a new computer is to do a full download of all your files. Very time-consuming if you have a lot of files.

Deletions: Deleted files are not stored indefinitely (I think for only 30 days), and eat up your storage quota.

External Drives: Does not sync with an external drive.

SkyDrive

Reliability: Can’t comment on reliability, as I’ve not used it extensively enough.

Cost: Cheapest. 100GB is £32 per year.

Speed: Seems like the slowest of them all. Seems to spend quite a while processing changes. If you change one file, it feels like it scans all files to see which ones have changed rather than recognising which file has changed automatically.

Scanning: It’s smart enough to know that if I add a file locally which is already in Dropbox, it doesn’t need to sync it, because it’s already there!

Deletions: I don’t think deleted files are recoverable at all.

Scheduled Sync: I use the FolderSync Android app and it reports that SkyDrive does not support scheduled sync. IE I have to manually start a sync to/from SkyDrive. Annoying. The other seem to be OK.

External Drives: Supposedly does work with external drives. However, that experience has not been faultless so far. I’ve experienced a few situations where disconnected my HD or putting the computer to sleep has disconnected SkyDrive and then I need to set it up again (IE login, choose directory to sync etc).

Solution

What I’ve ended up doing is using Dropbox for my work docs which are the most important, and Dropbox is the most reliable and has the unlimited change history.

I then use Google Drive for my personal docs, and use FolderSync to sync any new photos taken on my phone to Drive instantly (this feature doesn’t work with Skydrive, otherwise I would sync them there).

I use Skydrive to sync my media. This also has the benefit of having a nice web interface to access my photos/music on the go, so I don’t really need to have them on my laptop hard drive all the time. However, periodically, I’ll run it when my external hard drive is attached to keep that copy up to date.

Lastly, I uploaded all my music to Google Music and use that to play music on any device while I have a net connection. In the rare situation that I’ll be on my laptop without a net connection, then I can fall back on my external hard drive if I have it with me.

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