If you’re looking for somewhere to store your files in the cloud, there’s a new service to consider — alongside the many options that you’ve already got. The developers behind Proton Mail have launched a Proton Drive service that promotes security and privacy, so we’re going to weigh up its various features against one of the major incumbents it’ll be looking to take users away from.
It’s worth saying right at the outset that we’re not expecting the just-out-of-beta Proton Drive to match up in every department to the 10-year-old Google Drive — but it might be useful, if you’re considering switching, to know about the various tools and features that are already available in the new challenger.
Proton Drive vs Google Drive: the basics
You only get 500MB of space for free with Proton Drive, so you’re going to have to pay to use it seriously: Subscribe to Proton Unlimited for $US12 ($17) a month, and that goes up to 500GB (it’s cheaper if you pay a year or two in advance). It’s worth noting that the Unlimited package does include perks across the other Proton products, including more email aliases in Proton Mail, and Proton VPN software you can use on up to 10 devices.
Google gives its users 15GB of storage space for free, but that’s split across all Google products, including Gmail and Google Drive. For $US10 ($14) a month, you get 2TB of space (it’s cheaper if you pay a whole year at once), and Google’s plans go all the way up to 30TB if you really need that much — that will set you back a hefty $US150 ($208) a month.
You can store files of all types in both Proton Drive and Google Drive, and organise them into folders, but Proton Drive is a long way behind Google Drive in terms of its file previewing capabilities: It’s just images at the moment, so you can’t open up video files, audio files, or even PDFs in a browser tab. Proton Drive doesn’t offer the Docs, Sheets and Slides suite of online apps that Google does, either.
When it comes to apps, it’s just the web interface for Proton Drive for the time being — you don’t get the mobile apps and the desktop syncing software of Google Drive. However, mobile and desktop apps are on the way, as is support for previewing more file types in your browser. Once those upgrades arrive, the Proton Drive experience should be much more comprehensive.
Proton Drive vs Google Drive: features and interface
Proton Drive is keen to push the full end-to-end encryption of its product (using elliptic curve cryptography and OpenPGP if you want the details). Proton Drive is even able to detect when it’s being censored at a high level, and reroutes traffic accordingly; it can also be accessed via the Tor browser for even more privacy and security. These extra features are clearly the biggest reason to pick Proton Drive over Google Drive right now.
Google Drive certainly isn’t lacking when it comes to keeping files safe and private, but they’re not fully encrypted at all stages — potentially, they can be gotten at via a data breach, or a law enforcement request, or perhaps a rogue Google employee. The risk is a slim one, but it’s one that Proton Drive almost completely eliminates (bearing in mind that no digital security system is ever fully 100 per cent safe).
File and folder sharing is another feature that Proton Drive does well with, just about matching Google Drive in what it offers. Shared links can be password protected and have an expiry date attached to them — it is possible to set up these options in Google Drive, but right now, Proton Drive does it in a more intuitive and user-friendly way.
We’re also impressed with the Proton Drive interface on the web. As with the web-based email client, it’s slick, fast, and well put together — you can also pick between seven tasteful themes for the look of the online app, which isn’t something that you can do at the moment in Google Drive. Spend a few minutes using the Proton Drive interface, and the Google Drive one looks rather dated by comparison.
Again, though, there’s much more functionality and flexibility with Google Drive. Proton Drive’s search feature is fine, but with Google Drive, you can search inside files, put filters on file types and file dates, and plenty more besides. It’s perhaps no surprise considering the history of the company, but Google Drive is ahead in search.
For now, you’re limited to uploading files to Proton Drive by dragging and dropping them into a browser window, or using the upload button in the web app. Based on our testing, file transfers and modifications are handled as quickly as they are in Google Drive, and there are no issues in terms of speed and stability.
Proton Drive vs Google Drive: verdict
Google Drive is clearly the superior product here in most categories, which — as we said in the introduction — is to be expected. With a decade of development behind it, and a range of related apps like Docs, Sheets and Slides, it has a scope and a feature-set that Proton Drive can’t match up to at the moment. That said, the new Proton service does have a certain amount of potential.
Like Google Drive, Proton Drive is part of a suite of apps, most notably Proton Mail. If you’re willing to add to your monthly subscriptions, then you get a set of apps that are all very secure and reliable — and which wean you off your reliance on a big, advertising-driven company like Google. You can be just that little bit more sure that your data is your data.
On the other hand, if you’re already fully invested in the Google ecosystem — emails, photos, videos, documents, notes and everything else — then you might consider the security and privacy trade-off worth it for everything that Google offers. You get more storage space for less money, and you certainly get a lot more features.
Overall, Proton Drive is off to a great state — and it’s certainly going to appeal to those who prioritise user security and privacy over everything else. Right now, though, Google Drive has a lot of features that Proton Drive doesn’t, from more advanced search capabilities to file previewing and editing, so you’re going to need to carefully weigh up what you need from your cloud storage product before making the switch.
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