Google Drive Vs Dropbox: Choosing the Best Document Management System

google vs dropboxGoogle Drive and Dropbox are two of the most popular cloud-based, file-sharing platforms on the market today. Both solutions have enterprise versions available that are designed to make storing and collaborating on business documents easier for an increasingly widely distributed and mobile workforce. But which is best?

Google Vs Dropbox - the clash of the Titans

Both companies have the kind of scale and resource available to them that means they can price competitively and focus on high-quality U/X to keep growing their enterprise customer base.

But are these file sharing solutions really flexible, secure and robust enough for a company to store and manage all their business documentation?

Plenty of SMEs and even larger companies are using these platforms to manage their documents and find their agile working practices are well supported by them. Businesses appreciate their scalable storage capacity, fast and seamless user experiences, productivity tools and third-party integrations.

Having said that, there are limitations and risk areas in the capabilities of both that should give companies in certain sectors pause for thought before adopting them as their document management systems (DMS) or as the digital framework for their quality management strategy.

But before we look at their limitations, let’s compare their collaborative capabilities

Why not just use Google Drive as a document management system?

Is Google Drive or DropBox best for productivity?

Both Google Drive and Dropbox have applications for a range of devices, meaning that users can work from desktop, mobile and tablet from wherever they choose. These apps can facilitate flexible working and a high level of collaboration on documentation, allowing mutliple users to comment and edit in real time to get a document ready to be distributed and published.

When it comes to writing and editing documents within the platform itself - Google Drive has Google Docs while Dropbox for Business (Dfb) has Paper - both native word processing style applications which make collaboration on docs a more seamless experience (although neither are pieces of stand alone desktop software like Word or Pages).

Google Docs definitely has the edge on Paper in terms of functionality, with users complaining about Paper’s lack of formatting capabilities, but Paper has some good collaborative features, too. Those include the ability to co-create documents, add comments, tag individuals, assign tasks and view revisions.

Still, both Google Drive and DfB have plug-ins if you want to use versions of Word and other Office products editing them in situ, without downloading them to your desktop and working on them there.

And speaking of plug-ins, both Google Drive and Dropbox support a range of other third party plug-ins. These include integration options for project management apps like Monday, communication tools such as Slack and digital signature plug-ins like Docusign.

In both cases, the more stuff you want to do the busier you’ll be with set up, testing and juggling multiple applications and their integrations to keep projects on track.

So, are the two solutions pretty evenly matched?

Google Team Drive (now renamed as Google Shared Drive) facilitates a new level of team work and collaboration beyond merely sharing and commenting on drafts. Teams can build out shared folders of their own, with specified team members able to control access and editing rights using an intuitive dashboard.

However, at the time of writing - Dropbox has just unveiled a whole slew of upgrades to its offerings intended to rise to this challenge with an ever-increasing array of productivity tools.

Can they be used as Document Management Systems?

The simple answer, is yes they can. But the question is what do you really need from your document management system? As noted elsewhere on this site there is a considerable difference between managing and ‘controlling’ documentation. And this can make a huge difference for many kinds of business.

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Document Control and Quality Management

How, for example, should you treat and store critical quality and process documents if you are a pharma business or medical device developer? Those businesses need robust ways of managing workflows that can’t be subverted or worked around. How do Google Drive and Dropbox for Business (DfB) measure up against the more sophisticated demands of the document control spectrum? Could they help you manage a complex product development process, or organise your documents in a way that meets the requirements of ISO9001 or ISO 13485?

If you’re building a Quality Management System you need to ensure your entire team has clear access to the latest issues of procedural and quality documentation, with an unalterable version history available for each.

Risk of misfiling, document loss or deletion

Dropbox and Google Drive can lock down documentation for changes, but both rely on users to create and observe the naming conventions that distinguish between drafts and issues as they build out their system. A good Document Management System will automate naming conventions, ensuring human error cannot result in misfiling, document loss, or deletion.

Quality Documentation, particularly in highly regulated sectors, needs to be managed and controlled in this way to guard against the risk of procedural failure or deviation, while making auditing more straightforward.

Limited workflow options in Dropbox and Google Drive

Dropbox and Google Drive both support plugins allowing you to create different workflows, but as noted elsewhere, they are often quite limited in their scope and capabilities. Proprietary Document Management Systems designed to work in certain sectors will always have the edge on mass market, one size fits all solutions because they can be much more specific in the tools that they offer for particular jobs.

For example, product developers working in highly complex and regulated environments might want ‘out of the box’ phase-gating capabilities to support Prince 2 project management processes. 

It’s this kind of functionality that DfB and Google Drive users can’t easily replicate and often creates problems for SMEs as they try to bring their systems into alignment with the demands of ISO.


Dropbox for Business and Google Drive are often adopted as low cost or no cost solutions for facilitating the growing document storage, collaboration and remote access needs of rapidly expanding businesses. But the truth is, the per-seat pricing of both solutions means costs can quickly mount up for the average company who end up using them.

Besides, the effort and expense of setting up bespoke workarounds for your particular business challenges may quickly erode any efficiencies or cost savings you gain by not deploying a more specific proprietary solution.

The value of DMS for Product Development

Joe Byrne

Written by Joe Byrne

Joe Byrne is the CEO of Cognidox. With a career spanning medical device start-ups and fortune 500 companies, Joe has over 25 years of experience in the medical device and high-tech product development industries. With extensive experience in scaling businesses, process improvement, quality, medical devices and product development, Joe is a regular contributor to the Cognidox DMS Insights blog where he shares expertise on scaling and streamlining the entire product development cycle, empowering enterprises to achieve governance, compliance, and rigour.