Google Drive vs. iCloud – How to Use Them

Please go to my updated article comparing Google Drive and iCloud!!! Comparing the Top Cloud Storage Services

There are many products which offer “in the cloud” storage for saving your digital files and photographs. “In the cloud” storage means you are saving your files on a server accessed via the internet instead of on your own computer. It frees up your own memory, gives you access to those files from multiple devices anywhere in the world, and keeps those files backed up.

Two very popular companies, Google and Apple, both offer “in the cloud” storage for their users. With Google, the storage is called Google Drive. Apple cleverly calls theirs iCloud. Both are extremely useful, but for different applications.

Google Drive is an amazing free service. Every Gmail address shares 15 GB for email, Google Drive and Google+ Photos. Additional storage may be purchased.

From any computer with internet access, anywhere in the world, you can access just about any kind of document you’ve uploaded to Google Drive. You can also create word processing docs, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings in Google Drive. There are even additional apps you can add to Google Drive for office productivity, drawing, graphing, etc.

Apple’s iCloud provides 5 GB of “free” storage for Mail, Documents and any backing up you do with iCloud. Of course, an initial purchase of an Apple product is required before you receive the iCloud storage. Your purchased music, apps, books, TV shows and photo stream don’t count against the 5GB of free storage, which is nice. Even most music you have loaded into your computer from CD’s gets “stored” in the cloud. Apple also sells additional iCloud storage.

I like to use Google Drive for storing documents or copies of documents for these reasons:

  • Access to certain information from any computer device in the world
  • Keeping certain documents always backed up in the cloud
  • De-cluttering my computer
  • Easily sharing documents with others and even allowing editing

I like to use iCloud for some very Apple-specific reasons:

  • Automatically backing up any data I’ve saved or created in my iPhone/iPad apps
  • Automatically backing up my iPhone/iPad device settings
  • Automatically backing up photos and videos taken with my iPhone/iPad
  • Access to and backing up of all my iTunes library of music
  • Finding my iPhone/iPad when I’ve misplaced it
  • Accessing an iPhone/iPad photo immediately on my iMac computer via Photo Stream

If you haven’t used “in the cloud” storage very much, Google Drive and iCloud are great products to begin using. And, if you need a little guidance, visit my How I Can Help link in the menu bar. Be sure to subscribe to my email updates on the right, too!

28 replies
  1. Don Wagner
    Don Wagner says:

    Hello – I love google drive, and use it both for backup and sharing between devices.

    It’s great – BUT – for some reason it is blocked in China. The Chinese bureaucrats don’t like it. So “anywhere in the world” isn’t entirely correct.

    Can you recommend a different cloud storage service that can do all the same things as google drive?

    Regards
    Don Wagner

    Reply
    • Lynn
      Lynn says:

      Oops! I stand corrected, and thank you, Don. You can tell I live in the more or less free world and never considered the countries who do not have the freedom of information that I have.
      I recommend and use Dropbox for backing up and sharing files. In my experience, Dropbox doesn’t care about the format of my files and Google Drive actually does. Therefore, Dropbox is my choice when I want cloud storage of my Apple word processing or spreadsheet files like Pages or Numbers. (I can also use iCloud, but my account is quite full with my iPhone and iPad backups.)
      All the best,
      Lynn

      Reply
      • metz2000
        metz2000 says:

        Lynn, could you give me an example for file format what is not accepted by Drive? I’ve used Drive (Google Docs) for many years and I never had any limitations. Can upload even binary files, i.e. zip, exe, msi.

        Reply
        • Lynn Huffman
          Lynn Huffman says:

          Hi,
          I really appreciate all your input. When I wrote this article two years ago, I could not use Google Drive for Apple only formats like Pages without Google Drive changing the format to docx. Now, it’s not a problem and you are correct that there are basically no format limitations with Google Drive. I recently wrote two articles on the subject of cloud storage: A Simple Explanation of Cloud Storage and Comparing the Top Cloud Storage Services.
          Thanks for reading and contributing!
          Lynn

          Reply
    • metz2000
      metz2000 says:

      Hi Don, have you tried OneDrive? It’s Microsoft and used by many companies, maybe is not blocked in China. Has about the same features like Google Drive, i.e. you get Word, Excel, Power Point and 15GB storage for free, web and mobile clients too.

      Reply
  2. eric
    eric says:

    Like you I use a variety of cloud storage options, interesting here in Canada, Nova Scotia particularly educators are forboten to use any of these listed, google drive, icloud or drop box!! Something to do with American homeland security laws. Not just China that doesn’t appreciate the free world.

    In their defense the government is slowly setting up their own cloud for education.

    Cheers,
    Eric

    Reply
    • Lynn
      Lynn says:

      Eric, I had no idea Canada had such a law! Does your Google account even show Google Drive as an available product in the toolbar?
      I’ve been experimenting with yet another cloud storage service called cloudup.com. It’s in beta and only available by invite, but I’d be happy to email one to you if you want to try it. The Pros I can see are that you can quickly share downloadable, large files (even photos) with just a link. The Cons seem to be a little bugginess for me with the online user interface.
      Thanks for the info on Canada!
      Lynn

      Reply
  3. Babs
    Babs says:

    Hi Lyn,
    Read I comparison of Google and Apple ICloud. I have an IPad and IPhone. Recently had to get a new computer(Wanted but didn’t get a Mac. Still pricey for my needs) The computer is Dell with touch windows 8.1. Another new learning curve…Here is my problem…I don’t download music or videos on the Ipad or Iphone. There are a number of photos. I use Evernote extensively and it stores all info on their servers and syncs it across all devices. I tried to update the Ipad to the new 7.1 update and got the message that I needed more storage space.It shows I have 2.9gb remaining but NEED more for the 1.9gb update. It suggested I remove photos or apps to regain some space. If photos, apps, videos,etc don’t count toward that ICloud storage, why should I have to do this? I am not enjoying using the IPad because I feel constricted what I can put on it being concerned with how much space I have. Ridiculous! I use tons of articles I clip to Evernote and all data included(4000+ articles,etc) I rarely use more than 2gb of use. Now enter the COMPUTER..It says One Drive is their cloud version and suggests storage of data there. I just want to continue to use Gmail and I Cloud. I was trying to set up ICloud email addresses(and did so) so that I can use ICloud to check it all. Apologies for the confusion but you can see that it IS a confusing situation. I am not a programmer or a computer expert but I have used computers for a long time. I try to keep up to date but this is just causing frustration because I’m spending way too much time without solving the issue. Can YOU help? Yikes! Maybe you should just take an aspirin before you wade through this..it might not make good sense. Reply to BuyWithBabs@gmail.com, please. Thanks !!

    Reply
    • Lynn Huffman
      Lynn Huffman says:

      Hi Babs,
      You are right. This can be very confusing. In order to help other readers I’ll post a short answer here.
      It sounds to me like you are keeping too many photos in the Camera Roll album on your iPhone and iPad. Those take up memory. The Photo Stream album does not take up memory in your device and will save your most recent 1000 photos in iCloud for 30 days , possibly longer. Long enough for you to download copies to your computer.
      Since you have a PC, you can download an iCloud control panel for the PC from http://support.apple.com/kb/dl1455. Set it up to automatically download your iPhone and iPad photos when you on the same wifi network. Then, check the folder you selected for your downloaded photos and make certain they are saved in your PC BEFORE you delete those photos from your Camera Roll. Cleaning out most of your Camera Roll will free up your memory for the 7.1 update.
      If you have to keep a bunch of photos in your iPhone/iPad for some reason, you should back them up via iTunes and not iCloud which will charge you for more memory.
      I agree with you, Google Drive, iCloud and Evernote should be enough and I would not recommend adding One Drive.
      If you aren’t doing so yet, I would recommend a good cloud backup for all the photos and data in your computer. Here’s a recent article I wrote about that:
      All the best,
      Lynn

      Reply
  4. Angus Scott
    Angus Scott says:

    Dear Babs,
    I am a blogger and writer.
    I use Word on my PC and iOS Pages on my iPad.
    I rely on Google Drive. I also have a 200 GB iCloud account.
    Is there an easy way to transfer all my Google drive material to my iCloud ?
    All Good Things.
    Angus

    Reply
    • Lynn Huffman
      Lynn Huffman says:

      Yes.
      Download Google Drive for offline use to your PC.
      Download the Windows iCloud Control Panel to your PC and turn on iCloud Drive in the settings.
      Give it time to load and sync and then from the Computer folder view on your PC, you can either move files and folders by dragging and dropping from Google Drive to iCloud Drive or copy and paste from one to the other.
      Thanks for reading!
      Lynn

      Reply
  5. Ahmed
    Ahmed says:

    Ok got it, one question tho … Since all are good for storge I was wondering if you could transfer files in between them such as transferring photos from Google drive to I cloud or to any other storges?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Lynn Huffman
      Lynn Huffman says:

      Yes.
      I don’t know if you’re on a PC or Mac. Refer to my answer to Angus for PC directions. On a Mac, you need to enable iCloud Drive from the iCloud system settings and download Google Drive for offline use. Then just drag and drop or copy and paste from one to the other on Finder. You can also move to and from Dropbox. I haven’t tested with any other cloud storage.
      Thanks for reading!
      Lynn

      Reply
  6. Bob Boylan
    Bob Boylan says:

    I could be wrong on this, but i believe with icloud only your purchased items are back up. If you want your ripped cd etc collections you have to pay through iTunes Match

    Reply
    • Lynn Huffman
      Lynn Huffman says:

      Hi Bob,
      You are absolutely correct! My ripped CD’s are “backed up” in iTunes only because I do pay $25/year for iTunes Match. I think when I wrote this article back in 2013, I was probably thinking about just my iTunes purchased music.
      Thanks for reading!
      Lynn

      Reply
  7. kim
    kim says:

    First – Thanks for all the time you put in here…
    Quick q: you said that photo stream goes to iCloud for 30 days. what happens after that? trying to free up my computer and devices, not have to then transfer the stream to one of them if they are going to disappear! thx

    Reply
    • Lynn Huffman
      Lynn Huffman says:

      Hi Kim,
      After digging deep, I think I found the answer for you on Apple’s site.
      “Your device will keep up to 1000 photos, even if they’re older than 30 days. Photos older than 30 days are removed from the iCloud server, so your devices might not have the same photos, depending on when you enabled My Photo Stream.”
      The photos that are older than 30 days will still stay in the Photo Stream for each device that had Photo Stream turned on, but they will no longer sync to a new device if you add one. If you are going to turn off photo stream on a device, be sure to save photos you want to keep to your Camera Roll or All Photos (or save on your computer).
      So much has changed with Apple’s Photos app and photo storage since I originally wrote this article. Be on the lookout for an updated article from me on all of this soon.
      Thanks for reading!
      Lynn

      Reply
  8. metz2000
    metz2000 says:

    Babs, I’d rather stick with Drive because I’m not locked in with Apple or any other vendor. I can use Drive without a Google or even an Android device (i.e. Windows laptop, Windows phone, Apple phone etc).
    Note that you can store 25,000 mp3 files (twentyfive thousand) for free with Google without taking out of your storage quota.
    Shuld also be mentioned that photos smaller than 2048×2048 pixels and videos shorter than 15 minutes are not using your quota either.
    Auto upload is also possible either with Google+ Auto Backup or with a 3rd party app.

    Reply
  9. Carol Mockler
    Carol Mockler says:

    Hi. I have Google Content Anywhere through my internet provider, Frontier Communications. I also have iCloud for my iPhone 6. I noticed after an upgrade of Googe through Frontier that my music from my iPhone got backed up to Google. This never happened before the Google upgrade. And my phone did not automatically back up to the iCloud last night as it usually does when it’s charging. Is there it possible that my two “clouds” are interfering with one another? Should I sign out of the Google account tonight so that my iCloud can do its backup properly? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Carol Mockler
      Carol Mockler says:

      Sorry for the typos. I’m using my phone to text and I’m at work. It’s Google, not Googe. And is it possible, not is there it possible. I think I’ll also call Frontier when I get home and pose the same questions to them.

      Reply
      • Lynn Huffman
        Lynn Huffman says:

        Hi Carol,
        If you can, go to Settings on your Content Anywhere app and see if you can “turn off” the backup for your music. If it’s not an option in the settings of the app, then go to the iPhone’s settings, scroll down to the Content Anywhere app, and open those settings to see if it’s there. Since I am not a Frontier customer, I can’t know for sure.
        Regarding your iCloud backup, go to Settings on your iPhone. Touch iCloud and then Backup. Touch Backup Now. Does it work? If so there may be a setting in Content Anywhere that conflicted or prevented the iCloud backup, or your phone was not plugged in, locked and connected to Wi-Fi in the middle of the night when the automatic backup occurs.
        Let me know and thanks for reading!
        Lynn

        Reply
  10. Carol Mockler
    Carol Mockler says:

    PS. I don’t use the content anywhere actually except to back up my laptop. I’ve never accessed it from the iPhone.

    Reply
  11. Carol Mockler
    Carol Mockler says:

    Update. I had problems with the Google Content Anywhere updated version so I had to call Frontier tech support to get that straightened out. They unchecked the music backup for me while they were remoted into my laptop so I’m all set there. Also did a successful backup to my iPhone afterwards. All set. Lynne, Thank you so much for your help.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *