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Google Drive cloud storage review 2021

An excellent cloud storage service with intuitive file collaboration features and flexible pricing

Google Drive logo
(Image: © Google Drive)

Our Verdict

Google Drive is an affordable, full-featured, and productivity-focused cloud storage provider that is excellent for growing a business.

Pros

  • Best-in-class collaboration tools
  • Generous storage offering
  • AI and search technology

Cons

  • No password protection on files
  • No file expiration

Since launching in 2012, Google Drive has grown in leaps and bounds to become one of the best cloud storage services. From Adobe to Slack, Google Drive integrates with hundreds of third-party apps to help you extend the functionality of your storage service. Drive also boasts fast upload and download speeds, ensuring seamless workflows. 

Google Drive review: Snapshot

In our Google Drive review, we found that the storage provider offers advanced collaborative tools, file syncing, and intuitive search capabilities, making it an excellent choice for team collaboration. 

Despite these benefits, Google Drive is not as expensive as other providers like IDrive and OneDrive. Even without paying a dime, you’ll get 15GB of Drive storage, while IDrive and OneDrive offer only 5GB free.

We were disappointed with Google Drive’s dormant community forum, but its knowledge base articles seemed comprehensive enough. The live chat option, which is available for free users, was easy to use, and responses were fast. 

Google Drive’s lack of password protection is a major source of concern, but the company is addressing that challenge by introducing resource keys to shared links. These resource keys, embedded within the URLs of shared links, prevent third-parties from accessing files unless they get permission from file owners/creators.

Score: 4.5/5

Read on for the full review. 


Google Drive's competitors

How does Google Drive compare to its main competitors?
Google DriveIDriveNextCloud
Score4.5/54.5/54/5
ProsBest-in-class collaboration tools - Generous storage offering - AI and search technologyUnlimited devices - Support for several platforms - File versioning supportOpen-source - Several configuration options
ConsNo password protection on files - No file expirationInterface is lacking - Slow upload and download speedsInterface can be complex - You have to run the cloud yourself
VerdictGoogle Drive is an excellent way to create, edit, share, and collaborate on files, although it’s a little behind other competitors regarding security.IDrive is a full-featured cloud backup offering that gives IT managers better control over their storage.Nextcloud is open-source and self-hosted cloud storage that’s highly configurable, but it may take a bit of time to set up.
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Key features

With its host of features, it’s easy to understand why Google Drive (also known as Drive) is a popular and natural go-to option for many cloud storage users, especially those with a Gmail account. Here are some of the key features Google Drive brings to the table. 

Google Drive makes it easy to sync files and folders across all your devices, from phones to laptops to tablets. Fortunately, you can tweak your sync settings and choose which files to sync and which to keep offline. Organizations will benefit particularly from Google Drive for desktop (formerly Drive File Stream), an application that enables you to stream your Drive files directly from the cloud to your computer. 

Google Drive’s biggest perk is that it offers a wide range of collaborative tools collectively known as Google Workspace. From Google Docs to Sheets to Slides, you can create all kinds of documents to meet your personal or business needs. 

You can assign tasks to team members on files, adding a comment with specific instructions. Several people can edit a document at the same time, although documents can slow down significantly when too many people are making simultaneous edits.

What’s more, it’s easy to keep track of changes in your documents. If someone adds a comment or makes a revision, you’ll be notified through email. Google Drive also keeps an audit log of changes to your document, so you can always revert to a previous version.

Google Drive: key features and highlights

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Google Drive's homepage

Google Drive syncs your files across different devices (Image credit: Google Drive)
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Google Drive's webpage discussing collaborative features

Google Drive provides collaborative tools for efficient workflow (Image credit: Google Drive)
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Google Drive's webpage discussing its third-party app integrations

You can integrate several apps into your Google Drive (Image credit: Google Drive)
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Google Drive's webpage discussing its search capabilities

Google Drive offers powerful search capabilities (Image credit: Google Drive)
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Google Drive's webpage discussing its security features

Google Drive offers 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption (Image credit: Google Drive)

Chances are you and your team use tools like Slack, Adobe, DocuSign, and Salesforce on a regular basis. Thanks to Google Drive’s integration with third-party apps, you can extend the functionality of your cloud storage using these apps and over a hundred others. 

Many of these integrations are seamless, and can improve your overall workflow. For instance, we found that with Google Drive’s Slack app, you are notified in Slack anytime someone adds a comment to your Google Drive files, and that you can respond directly via Slack.

If you have lots of files in your cloud storage, you know how tricky it can be to find the right file, especially if it’s not titled well. Google Drive’s AI and search technology make the entire search process simpler and faster. For example, the Priority search feature can predict what file you are searching for when you enter a keyword, and return fitting results. This process helps you locate files up to 50% faster.

Google Drive uses the standard 128-bit AES keys for files at rest. When files are in transit, however, Google uses the much-stronger 256-bit SSL/TLS encryption. In simple terms, this means that Google makes sure your files are extra-safe when they are being accessed, uploaded, or downloaded.

However, Google does not offer the much-heralded zero-knowledge end-to-end encryption. Thus, Google has access to your encryption keys and login credentials, and in the event of a breach, hackers or even the government can access your data. 

What’s new?

Google has a reputation for constantly adding new features and functionality to its products, and Google Drive is no exception. In November 2019, Google made some major changes to Drive, changing the look and feel of the software both on Android and iOS devices. 

Google introduced a new home tab and made the bottom navigation more intuitive. It also attached a revised actions menu to every file and folder, placing commonly-used actions at the top. These changes have made Google Drive a bit easier to use, but Google is not resting on its laurels.

In 2021, the company has been making sweeping changes to make Drive better. Its two sync solutions (Drive File Stream and Backup and Sync) have been unified into a single client now known as Google Drive for Desktop. This has simplified and made file syncing faster for both businesses and individuals. 

What’s more, file-sharing is set to become more secure from September 2021. Restrictive resource keys will be added to sharing links, and people who have not accessed a particular file before would need to use a URL containing the resource key.

Pricing

Google Drive is one of the most generous cloud storage options on the market: you’ll get 15GB without paying a penny. All you need to get started is a Google account. In terms of paid plans, Google recommends that users go for the 100GB option, which comes at $1.99 a month and includes access to Google experts and extra member benefits. If you pay annually, you’ll save 16%. 

At $9.99 a month ($99.99 a year), the 2TB option is best for medium and large businesses. The 2TB plan gives you 10% cashback on Google store purchases, and a VPN for extra security.

Google Drive's pricing plans
Plan type/featurePlan 1Plan 2Plan 3Plan 4
Cost per monthFree$1.99$2.99$9.99
Cost per yearFree$9.99$29.99$99.99
Storage15GB100GB200GB2TB
Feature 1
Access to Google expertsX
Option to add your familyX
Extra member benefitsX
% back in store credit on Google Store purchasesXX3%10%
VPN for Android phoneXXX

Testing Google Drive

To better benchmark Google Drive against its competitors, we analyzed its upload speeds, which are a key factor in terms of cloud storage, and the response times for its customer support.

How fast is Google Drive?

Google Drive's homepage

Google Drive has an impressive download speed (Image credit: Google)

Google Drive is reputed to be one of the fastest cloud storage options. We put this to the test by comparing Google Drive’s upload and download speeds with that of IDrive.

Using a fast and stable internet (200Mbps download, 41Mbps upload), we attempted to upload and download a 500MB video file using Google Drive. The file downloaded at an impressive 100Mbps. IDrive was not too far behind though, clocking a 90Mbps download rate. 

During our upload of the file, however, Google Drive seemed much slower, although it still bested IDrive. Google Drive uploaded at 39Mbps compared to IDrive’s 25Mbps. With regards to speed, Google Drive is certainly a choice option, although your download and upload speeds can vary greatly based on your ISP’s bandwidth and the processing speed of your device.

How responsive is Google Drive's customer support?

an email from Google Drive's customer support team

Google Drive’s customer support is fast  (Image credit: Google Drive)

Google Drive directs most of its customers towards its knowledge base articles. We found the articles useful, as they cover everything from getting started with Google Drive to fixing problems. 

But Drive’s community forum is rather disappointing, to say the least. Most questions posted there have no replies, and it’s essentially a waste of time if you’re looking for help on the platform. 

We tried to get in touch with a Google Drive team member using a dummy query, but the process proved rather cumbersome. We had to fill out a short form first, and Google still tried to direct us back to the knowledge base articles. We eventually sent an email, but the response, which came just an hour later, looked like a canned one essentially directing us back to the articles.

Nonetheless, we were impressed with the live chat feature. We had an agent promptly attending to our dummy query and attempting to provide real-time assistance, although the back and forth was tiring. 

Alternatives to Google Drive

For comparison, IDrive and Nextcloud are some of Drive’s toughest competitors. IDrive’s competitive advantage is that it offers comprehensive and innovative backup solutions—something that Google Drive struggles to do. 

For instance, with IDrive Express, IDrive will send you a physical storage device, so that you can copy your data and ship it back to the company. This is especially helpful if you have large amounts of data to store. But Google Drive is better if you just need a quick storage option with lots of space to spare. Drive’s free plan offers a whopping 15GB storage, while IDrive offers just 5GB.

Nextcloud, another of Drive’s competitors, is a great choice if you are looking to self-host and have more control over your storage. You can tap into Nextcloud Enterprise ($2,250 a year), which adds collaborative features to your Nextcloud setup. However, you have to be ready to purchase and maintain your own hosting infrastructure, a hassle that Google Drive takes care of.

In terms of security, Google Drive trails both IDrive and Nextcloud. Although Drive offers 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption, it does not come with the all-important zero-knowledge encryption, which ensures that only the user can read the files.

Learn more about both of these competitor cloud storage services by reading our comprehensive IDrive review and our full Nextcloud review.

Google Drive's features compared to the competition
Google DriveIDriveNextcloud
Zero-knowledge encryptionNoYesYes
Real-time collaborationYesYesYes
SupportKnowledge base, email, phone, live chatKnowledge base, email, phone, live chatKnowledge base, email, phone
Basic plan$19.99 a year$59.62 a year$2,250 a year

The verdict

We found Google Drive to be a smart, full-featured, affordable, and fast cloud storage option. Google Drive's strongest suit is the slew of collaborative tools it offers. Aside from Google Workspace apps like Docs, Sheets, and Slides, you get third-party integrations with hundreds of applications. 

In terms of pricing, Google Drive is one of the most generous. You’ll get 15GB storage for free (although it is shared with Gmail and Google Photos) and an upgrade to 100GB costs only $1.99 a month. For perspective, OneDrive and IDrive give only 5GB for free. 

We were also impressed by the speed of Google Drive's customer support, although its community forum is not as active. Besides a comprehensive knowledge base, you'll get phone support, live chat, and email support, although you have to fill a short form before you can get in touch with a customer representative. The live chat, which is available for free users, was fast and helpful. 

The good news is that Google is constantly tweaking Google Drive to make it more effective both for businesses and individuals, and 2021 seems to be a year full of changes. For years, Google Drive's downside has been a lack of password protection when files are shared. While Google isn't adding a password like Dropbox does, it's adding a resource key to all shared links starting from September 2021. This feature is worth keeping an eye out for. 

Overall, if team collaboration and productivity is your main reason for choosing a cloud storage service, we recommend Google Drive without hesitation.

Further reading on cloud storage

If you're interested in learning more about Google Drive and Google's other cloud offerings, make sure to read our comparison features pitting Google Drive vs OneDrive and Google Drive vs Dropbox; our Google Photos review; and our feature that asks: what is Google Cloud Storage?

On cloud storage, learn more about reducing cloud storage costs, and the differences between cloud storage vs local storage. Take a look at our buying guides too, focusing on the best cloud storage, the best cloud storage for business, the best free cloud storage, and the best cloud storage for photos.

The Verdict
4.5

out of 5

Google Drive cloud storage review 2021

Google Drive is an affordable, full-featured, and productivity-focused cloud storage provider that is excellent for growing a business.

Wisdom Sablah

Wisdom Elikem Sablah is a B2B, SaaS consultant and freelance writer. He combines a background in mathematics, data science, and digital marketing with a knack for storytelling. He writes for top publications, including TechRadar, Tom's Guide, and CreativeBloq.