We often get asked about the differences between Dropbox, Google Drive, Egnyte & OneDrive cloud storage (aka file sync & share) products. If you want to know about OneDrive & Sharepoint differences, then keep an eye out for our next article. In future posts, we will also be covering more specialist file sync & share products that include things like zero knowledge encryption.
For the sake of clarity File, Sync & Share is the name given to storing documents in the cloud, synchronising them with local copies on your devices (Laptops., Phones, Tablets) and the ability to share them with colleagues, teams, external users like clients and suppliers.
So in no particular order lets commence.
As of writing, Google has already announced the discontinuation of Google Drive in favour of two alternative replacements; File Stream and Backup & Sync. For the sake of relevance, we are not going to write about apps we have not had enough time to work with, so we are going to cover Google Drive. File Stream introduces features found in other products already.
Google Drive is part of G Suite (Formerly Google Apps) it is the standard storage application for users, each user has their storage allocation, and it syncs all contents to and from the users local Google Drive folder to the cloud, so it is available on all their devices. Google Drive is what we refer to the Owner to People sharing (One to Many). When you create a document in the G Suite and save it to Google Drive or Put it into your Drive Folder, you are the owner, and no one can see your document until you decide to share it.
Google Drive is not an off-the-shelf file server replacement; it works great for teams collaborating on documents but becomes challenging to manage – for example, if you delete a user sharing the Projects folder, then the projects folder gets deleted. Subsequently, anyone with access and maybe working on this document will also lose it. This challenge does mean you should have what we call a robust user de-provisioning process as part of your leaver's process.
Another challenge (and not unique to Google but often the most significant culprit) is the ‘shared with’ function – almost every Google Suite business we have worked with, were not aware to the extent of unmanaged and externally shared content. In one example we found over 100,000 items shared externally in an audit comprising over 70% of all data - now how much of that is potentially intellectual property or sensitive?
Google Drive has some advantages too. However, it is lightning fast at syncing, straightforward to use and integrates with many products. It is worth noting you can disable external sharing in the admin console, and there are third-party products to help better manage sharing and ownership.
Dropbox started it is life in the consumer arena, offering cloud storage – they provided lots of free storage, promotions and incentives – if you ever bought an Android phone from HTC, Samsung there was a good chance it came with a load of storage to upload your photo’s.
Dropbox became the name of sync and share and a term coined by many as a way of sharing stuff; Dropbox started moving into the business space when they realised many users were using the service in the workplace to circumvent email restrictions or legacy FTP to get large documents from one place to another. It has taken some time, but today Dropbox has a robust and compelling business or Teams service. It is more traditional in the sense of being a Fileserver replacement – administrators setup team folders and permissions and users then have access to what they have been granted to see. Dropbox has selective sync with other services and a very cool feature called smart sync which allows users to see all of the files and folders they have access to without having to sync them all – modern MacBooks and Windows Surfaces have ultra fast but small Solid State Drives. When a user double-clicks the smart file sync will select the file to sync and keep it in sync. Users can also add files to Dropbox and choose to un-sync them once they have uploaded them. Dropbox probably has the broadest range of third-party integrations too – because it has been around the longest and came from personal heritages and as people we expect everything to integrate!
Probably one of the most significant features, one often overlooked is the LAN sync feature; when you add a file to your Dropbox, the data sync to the Dropbox cloud. When changes get made to the document, all linked computers and shared folders will then download any new version of the file. With LAN syncing, Dropbox will look for the new file on your Local Area Network first, bypassing the need to download the file from Dropbox servers, thus speeding up the syncing process considerably.
LAN sync is an extra advantage for use in locations where computers are on the same network or where internet connectivity would be adversely affected by lots of computers suddenly downloading files that have changed.
Egnyte is aimed squarely at the business market with its term Enterprise File Sync & Share, Egnyte has been around for some years, it is not as well known as others on this list, but that does not mean it should be discounted from consideration as it has some unique features not found anywhere else.
Egnyte has the most extensive array of options and permissions compared to other products in this list, making for the almost perfect file server replacement, you can selectively sync and even map drives or folder across Win/Mac rather than syncing. Egnyte is the only product we are aware of to offer Hybrid deployment of on-premise and Cloud, you can get funky and start publishing existing Server shares out to mobile/external users with Engyte, and you can also present cloud document to an on-premise repository and publish these out to users on a local network. Egnyte integrates with both Google &Microsoft along with a variety of other services and also has mobile applications.
Egnyte has also taken great lengths to address GDPR, with a variety of useful information and services built around privacy, compliance and security. The Engyte Protect solution, for example, provides governance control and protection across Egnyte Connect, SharePoint, and Windows File Servers, not only an excellent feature for security and compliance teams but also great for assisting with data categorisation and sharing control.
Out of all the products listed, Engyte is probably the most feature-rich and great product, but this does not mean it is the best one for you. You might not need all of these features, and it is worth noting that Egnyte is also probably the most complex regarding licensing, services and add-ons and this can all quickly add up to much expense if you are not careful.
OneDrive for Business
The clue is in the name; Microsofts sync and share offering builds upon OneDrive with business-focused integration and security features. Out of the box, it is very much like Google in that is an owner to people style of cloud storage, while there are ways around this you may not want to add additional layers of complexity.
That said, when you use SharePoint online, OneDrive can shine as you get a set-up that gives users clear focus. SharePoint Sites are a great way of building out your fileserver replacement, and OneDrive for Business offers users a place (other than their desktop and local home folder) to save documents too.
OneDrive for Business, included with some Office 365 plans, so it is worth considering if budget is a concern. Also using OneDrive means you can take advantage of some fantastic Microsoft Services such as Azure Rights Management and Microsoft
Graph and the other discovery features in Office 365.
However, OneDrive is not without it is considerations – in our experience, it is not the most robust sync client across Win/Mac systems, and there are still various file format/naming considerations that do not play well with OneDrive.
As you can see, each product has unique features. Moreover, there is no one solution for all –at appliant, we use a variety of products to suit specific business and client needs.
One thing that’s clear however is there is no definitive ‘File Server in the Cloud’ that so many businesses strive to achieve with these products. Essentially using cloud storage products requires changing the way you think about storing/sharing and collaborating work – in most cases, we companies struggle with these products because their expectations are vastly different to how each particular solution behaves and how people should use them. Just because Office 365 and Google come with their solution bundled in – it does not mean you have to (or should) use them but likewise using a third party can be costly if it is not needed.
Our advice before choosing any is to make a list of all the things you want to achieve with cloud file sync and share, what are your must-have’s, what are your nice-to-haves. Also, it is worth getting feedback from your staff – you would be surprised at what you might hear. Also consider migration, privacy, security and exit strategy of data in your decision-making process.
If you want to discuss your current collaboration challenges, security concerns or just which product is most suitable for your business need then get in touch.