For several decades, companies seeking to store large amounts of data have had to rely on large in-house servers which are not only expensive to buy, but can need specially trained staff to maintain which can prove costly.
Individuals - and even small businesses - have had to make do with the computers they buy. Anything beyond this will typically have been saved on an external drive, which while providing a degree of portability, doesn’t make files accessible on all devices all the time.
Cloud storage drives, by now, are nothing new, but there are so many to choose from that making the right informed decision isn’t necessarily easy. In this head-to-head, we put two popular services through their paces, testing things like performance and support, as well as delving into their true value for money.
Box vs Google Drive: Features
Box takes a Dropbox-style approach to the way in which it stores files, and mirrors that of native computer file management to a certain degree. Files are stored inside folders, but they all live in one primary, parent folder. This is most notable using the desktop client, where everything lives inside one folder rather than being spread across various categories like photos and media, documents, and downloads, which is what you may expect if you’re familiar with Microsoft OneDrive. That’s not to say that you can’t put similar folders inside the primary Box folder, though.
Yes, there is browser access, but the best experience will come from using the desktop client which syncs in the background and keeps all the files up to date. That said, there are more sophisticated clients out there that offer greater control over things like bandwidth throttling, but for many this is an unnecessary extra. There are mobile apps, too, so you should be able to get access to your files wherever you are, providing that there is Internet access or you have marked certain files for offline access.
While it has one paid personal plan, there are several business propositions to consider at various price points (more on that below). This is made better by the 1,500+ third-party app integrations that the company allows, which makes working on things like Photoshop templates fairly seamless, though you will need subscriptions to many third-party apps adding to the cost. This is true of most rivals, though.
Google Drive works in a similar way, with file management reflecting what you are probably already familiar with from your computer. Unlike other cloud drives, though, we think it’s best accessed through the browser portal, especially if you’re using the company’s free word processing apps: Docs, Sheets, and Slides, which are online-only. We would like to see desktop versions of these apps - like Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote - but there are at least mobile apps.
There is a desktop client, which, unlike Box, has controls for things like bandwidth throttling and proxy settings, and this works well if the files you’re working with have desktop-accessible software.
There’s no shortage of third-party integrations here, either, with mind-mapping, document converter, and collaboration tools all available.
Google Drive’s backup tool allows you to select folders on your computer to automatically back up to the cloud, too, but this comes out of the storage you are paying for (or the free 15GB). It’s great to have this as an option, and even to be able to use both types of storage side-by-side if you’re working from multiple devices and want to keep things separate.
Box vs Google Drive: Performance
We tested more than 50 cloud storage drives and backup tools, using the same 1GB test file to check things like upload and download speeds. This is best seen as a comparison and is not fully representative of the products. The speeds you experience will depend on several aspects, such as your own Internet connection.
That said, both Box and Google Drive were among some of the best we tested, uploading in under five minutes and downloading again in around a minute and a half. For comparison, the fastest upload speed we found was Terabox (3m 51s), and the fastest download was Tresorit (33s).
Box vs Google Drive: Support
If the help you need is fairly basic, there’s an entire catalog of self-help articles available on Box’s website to get you started. More complex troubleshooting is best dealt with by Box staff, who are reachable by email, phone, and live chat.
Google Drive also has a large library of self-help articles, which extend to all its services, and are probably best found by Googling the problem. Paying customers get email, phone, and live chat support as well, but members of the free 15GB tier get none of this.
Box vs Google Drive: Pricing
The tiers of subscription for Box don’t just vary in terms of storage space, but there are other restrictions, too. The most prominent is the file size limit, which is a fairly small 250MB on the free plan which allows users to store up to 10GB of data at no cost.
This can be upgraded to 100GB, with a 5GB file size limit, on the paid plan, but this costs $14 (£11) per month which we found to be rather expensive compared with most rivals.
There are several business plans to consider, including Starter, Business, Business Plus, and Enterprise. They all require a minimum of three users, and range from 100GB to unlimited storage. Even the most expensive plan has files limited to 150GB, which should cover some pretty colossal files, but could be a bottleneck for media companies dealing with large, high-quality videos.
Even Google Drive’s 15GB free plan gets access to Docs, Sheets, and Slides, which represents incredible value for money (or no money). Paying customers will subscribe to Google One, which brings 100GB, 200GB, or 2TB of storage for $1.99 (£1.59), $2.99 (£2.49), or $9.99 (£7.99) per month, all of which can be shared among six people. The top-tier Premium plan also gets access to a VPN app on iOS and Android devices. This pricing is fairly standard, but iCloud Drive’s 2TB plan is £1 per month less (it costs the same in USD).
Three business plans are available for $6 (£4.60), $12 (£9,20), or $18 (£13.80) per user per month. They belong to the Google Workspace category, and come with 30GB, 2TB, or 5TB of storage. A further, customizable Enterprise plan is also available.
Box vs Google Drive: Verdict
Overall, we find Box fairly expensive for what it offers. For individuals, it makes total sense to go with Google Drive, and even for business customers, we recommend Google’s offering over that of Box. That said, Google’s desktop client isn’t as featured as some may like, and for that, Box could be worth the extra money.
We've tested the best free cloud storage services.