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These days there are many good file syncing apps out there with a wide range of features, so I am going to cover the three big ones at the moment: Dropbox, Skydrive, and Google Drive. Below is a chart that maps out some of their major features, space, and pricing.

[av_table purpose=’pricing’ pricing_table_design=’avia_pricing_default’ pricing_hidden_cells=” caption=” responsive_styling=’avia_responsive_table’]
[av_row row_style=’avia-heading-row’][av_cell col_style=’avia-highlight-col’][/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]DROPBOX[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]SKYDRIVE[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]GOOGLE DRIVE[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=’avia-highlight-col’]FREE SPACE[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]2GB[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]7GB[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]15GB[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=’avia-highlight-col’]ANNUAL PRICE FOR 100GB[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]$100[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]$50[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]$60[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=’avia-highlight-col’]iOS AND ANDROID APPS?[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=’avia-highlight-col’]IN-APP DOCUMENT EDITING?[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]No[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=’avia-highlight-col’]WEB ACCESS[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=’avia-highlight-col’]IN-WEB DOCUMENT EDITING?[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]No[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=’avia-highlight-col’]DIRECT SYNCING TO PCS?[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Yes[/av_cell][/av_row]

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All three services start off with a certain amount of space for free. Dropbox does 2GB, Skydrive gives you 7GB, and Google Drive gives you 15GB for free. After that, they all have their own pricing tiers, but to simplify the comparison, you can look at what they all cost for another 100GB of storage. Dropbox runs $100 a year, Skydrive is $50 a year, and Google Drive is $60 a year. From a space to cost perspective, Skydrive and Google Drive are the winners here.

Phone Apps

All three of these services have apps for Android and iOS (Dropbox is the only one for blackberry, and Skydrive is the only one for Windows Phone). All of the apps allow for some combination of file/photo/document management/editing.

Dropbox I’ve found to be the best for pure file management. Using the app, you can upload, download, move, copy, rename, and share any type of file. The app itself has some basic photo uploading functionality built in (recently), but for the most part it is file-agnostic and does not do file viewing/editing itself. Files can be viewed/edited though on any native app on the phone that allows for that.

Google Drive lives on the far opposite end of the spectrum. It is specialized for editing and viewing documents in Google doc format, but isn’t nearly as good for file management or uploading any type of file (it’s doable, but it isn’t as easy as Dropbox). The Google Drive app allows for easy editing of any type of Google document as well as downloading it directly to your phone. If you do a lot of work with documents (word, excel, etc…) and don’t care much for other types of files, this is probably a good choice. Google is also getting better at adding support for other common file types (pictures, pdfs, videos, etc…) and it seems to be getting better all the time, but it is still far from file type agnostic like Dropbox is.

Skydrive falls somewhere in the middle of the two. It allows for some more Dropbox-like file management and photo, but it isn’t quite as robust. At the same time, you can also download Onenote and MS Office Mobile (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) which allow for basic editing directly of these types of Microsoft Office files. If you heavily use Office 2013 (on your computer) and Office 365 (subscription), this can end up being an excellent choice, but since those don’t have much to do with mobile apps, I’ll touch on them later in this article.

Direct Syncing to PCs

Direct syncing to PCs is basically where the program owns and monitors a specific folder on a PC. Anything you drop or edit in that folder gets uploaded/changed on the servers and then synced up to any other PCs that is set up to do the same thing.

Dropbox was the original program to do this, and in my opinion it still does it the best. Anything you drop into the Dropbox folder on your PC ends up synced to any other PC/device with your Dropbox account set up on it. This is very platform  independent by definition, as it is just syncing any files that are thrown at it. Any file in it can be opened by the appropriate program installed on the PC.

Skydrive works in a similar fashion to Dropbox as described above. In addition, Office 2013 is integrated directly with Skydrive, so you can open and save documents directly from within Microsoft Office. This doesn’t make a huge difference in most of the programs (word, excel, PowerPoint), but its integration with Microsoft OneNote makes sharing notebooks and editing them simultaneously extremely easy and useful. I would say Onenote is the killer app of Skydrive (compared to Dropbox).

Google Drive has a desktop app that works similar to the functions above by syncing files directly to the PC. Google documents sync as Google files (.gdoc .gsheet .gslides and .gdraw) and when clicked on, will open for editing in your web browser. And this is where Google docs’ real strength lies – in the web editing.

Web Access and Document Editing

Dropbox allows for uploading, downloading, and most other file management functions (including version history) through its web interface. However, it does not come with much in the way of file editing directly within the web browser. I would say (in my opinion) it is the easiest to use and most robust out of the web interfaces for the 3 services, as long as you’re only uploading, downloading, and managing files.

Skydrive allows for similar web functions to Dropbox, and it also includes basic Word/Excel/PowerPoint/OneNote editing in its web app. If you are a heavy Microsoft Office user, this can be very convenient. If you are managing a wide array of file types or aren’t heavily into document editing, it makes little difference.

Google Drive has a very strong web interface that is the main differentiator between it and Dropbox/Skydrive. It allows for editing Google documents, as well as converting many other types of files (like Microsoft office files) to Google doc formats and editing them. It also allows for sharing with other Google docs users for collaboration, and simultaneous editing of documents. The web interface is the main interface to Google docs, and while it is not as robust as Microsoft Office, it is free and doesn’t require a download or an installation to a computer.


Overall, it’s hard to say one service has a major advantage over the other two, so I really can’t give an automatic recommendation. It depends on solely on what you need. I’ve used all three pretty extensively, and I found Dropbox to be the best for syncing large amounts of extremely varied files between computers and sharing with other Dropbox users (something our company needs to do pretty extensively). Skydrive I find to be a good Dropbox replacement for those who are very heavily dependent on Microsoft Office – it has most of the same functions of Dropbox, but is a bit cheaper and is well integrated with Microsoft Office (just keeping in mind I’m not counting the cost of buying/renting Office). And lastly Google Drive I’ve found to be very convenient for quick and light creation and editing of documents, especially when working with phones and web browsers only. It’s also great that it’s all free, unlike Skydrive/Office which is far more robust, but requires owning Office 2013 to take full advantage.