Let’s Take a Spin: Google Drive vs. OneDrive


Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work back-to-back with both Microsoft’s OneDrive and Google Drive — taking each for a test drive, so to speak. By doing so, I’ve paid some attention to the similarities and differences of the two resources and thought I’d share several quick impressions about using them professionally.

When it comes to similarities, both allow for online storage, document creation, collaboration and sharing of content. Users can upload text documents, photos and videos, as well as create surveys and presentations. The collaboration aspect is also nice in that either one offers a way to generate public links to content or allow for individual sharing. What’s especially striking is that OneDrive and Google Drive also allow for automatic syncing (a.k.a. no saving needed), and users can access through various devices  and/or download a version to their computer. Even the interfaces share a similar feel with the documents and folders on the right side of the screen and the left sidebar listing the Shared with Me  and Recent links. In addition, both allow for easy uploading of documents.

Despite these similarities, though, there are some important differences in Google Drive and OneDrive that users need to investigate. Personally, I think neither is a perfect choice. There are pros and cons to using each — it comes down to what your personal or professional priorities are. So let’s examine some of those variations:

  • Storage – 15 GB of storage for Google Drive vs. 25 GB for OneDrive.
  • Access — OneDrive is accessed through webmail, which means that the login credentials are tied to a Fayette County network account. In addition, students have automatic access to OneDrive through their network account, which means no age restrictions or need for special permissions. On the other hand, Google Drive requires an account setup and Gmail account, both of which are free. Neither is difficult to put in place, but using it with students becomes an issue. For one, Google’s Terms of Service indicates that users must be 13 or older, so teachers will need parent permissions for younger children.
  • Collaboration and Sharing — For both resources, individual sharing is one of the perks because it offers increased security when it comes to shared editing and other features. With OneDrive, individual collaboration involves emailing through the state’s Global Address List, which makes sharing pretty easy. GoogleDrive is more problematic because individual sharing occurs through Gmail and several social media sites. Since our district has Gmail blocked, student and staff access isn’t possible when logged on to a school’s FCPS Wireless network.
  • Online Document Creation — OneDrive provides a “lite” version of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, with the option of downloading locally to pick up additional tools. However, the online version is pretty powerful in and of itself. Google Drive, though, doesn’t work automatically with Microsoft documents. For example, an existing Word document uploaded to Google Drive will be converted into a Google-friendly format. The original Word format, though, stays intact on the Drive for further access if needed. It just won’t reflect any additions or collaborations completed through Google Drive. As for documents created in Google Drive, those can be downloaded as Microsoft documents that will work in Microsoft Office.
  • Personal Devices — in this area, it’s a mixed bag depending on whether users want document creation using an app or browser. Google Drive definitely has an advantage in the app area. The iPhone app, for instance, allows users to create documents as well as provide access to them. On the other hand, while the OneDrive app for iPhone allows for viewing, uploading and sharing files, it doesn’t allow for document creation. Instead, Microsoft requires users to download its Office 365 and pay for a Level 3 subscription. The Office 365 version that schools have, unfortunately, is classified as a Level 2. This situation is reversed somewhat when using a device’s browser. Using Google Drive on both an iPhone’s and iPad’s browser allows basic document creation, while OneDrive is a different result. Document creation through OneDrive on an iPhone browser generates an error message, while the iPad browser offers a much richer experience than Google Drive. Creating OneDrive documents in an iPad browser offers more options, such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, surveys, and PowerPoint.

    Google Drive

As I said, these are impressions based upon my brief use of both Google Drive and OneDrive. I’m not pretending to be an expert, so forgive me if I don’t cover all aspects or overlook something. One thing is clear, however. Both are excellent tools for both staff and students. Personally, I feel they both serve a purpose and can be used in tandem, thus drawing from the strengths of each.  However, if a user is choosing between the two, then deciding on priorities will determine the final selection.


About Paula Setser Kissick

District Technology Resource Teacher for Fayette County Public Schools.

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