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Clash of the Titans: Amazon S3 vs. Google Drive Cloud Storage

A few months ago, Pics.io added Amazon S3 to the list of supported storages. And we started to receive questions about whether it’s worth moving from Google Drive to AWS. Our clients have probably heard about the scalability and affordability of S3 storage. So we weren't really surprised by these questions.

And so we decided to help our readers to choose between the two platforms. In the post, we covered both the pros and cons of Amazon S3 and Google Drive Storage. And we also explained the basic differences between them.

But let’s not be hasty. Today’s market of cloud computing has a lot to offer but also many facets to consider. And since we’re going to compare the two largest vendors in this field, we need to stay precise with what each platform offers us in terms of storage, functionality, security, ease of use, pricing, etc., etc.

A teensy bit of backstory

Launched in distant 2006, Amazon S3 belongs to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) group. Without any exaggeration, S3 storage is called the first cloud computing storage. There was no analogy to S3 when it just entered the market. And first alternatives started to appear only in several years.

With its functionality and high scalability, Amazon S3 attracted many businesses. Plus, AWS is a subsidiary of Amazon - the largest on-demand cloud computing platform. And this worked in favor of S3 storage. So during the next six years, Amazon S3 completely dominated the market…

Until Google Drive joined the competition. Established by Google in 2012, GD challenged the assumptions around cloud storage. With its 15 GD of free space and ease of use, the company proved that any user can take advantage of cloud computing. Access to the internet is the only condition here.

So what about the difference between the two storages?

Two storages equal two different principles

When it comes to contrasting Amazon S3 vs. GD, the first thing to know is the difference between file and object storage systems. As it’s self-evident, the two storages work based on two different principles. And a user needs to understand the underlying concept of both to be able to choose the best storage.

To start with, Amazon S3 is object storage. This means that the storage manipulates data as distinct units called objects. They are structured in a flat environment, with no specific organization or hierarchy.

A single object is composed of files, plus their metadata. The file also has its unique name or identifying ID number, which helps a user to find & access it in the storage. And when you upload the file, whether it’s a document, image, or video, it gets transformed and stored as an object:

Object = file + metadata

Object = file + metadata (optionally)

In turn, more-usual-for-us Google Drive is file storage & synchronization service. In simple terms, it means that GD stores and organizes data in a hierarchy model. Information is “packed” in files, these are organized in folders, and folders are grouped under directories and subdirectories. Here’s how it looks like:

Directory > subdirectory > folder > file > data

Directory > subdirectory > folder > file > data

So users clutter files in the system, uploading them from any device or virtual machine connected to it. And then they read & retrieve information. You might be surprised, but file-level storage is relatively new, at least compared to object storage. So GD uses a so-called FUSE adapter to mount files from its buckets and then convert them into a file system.

So which is better?

Now when we know the basic distinction between the two tools, we can shift to their benefits & drawbacks. But we don’t want to bother you with a never-ending list of pros and cons. Instead, if you don’t mind, we’ll answer the key question that interests any GD or Amazon S3 users. Here it goes...

Why is Amazon S3 better than GD?

There are many reasons why you should choose Amazon S3 over GD. But we ignore its long-standing commitment to cloud computing, and write about more objective factors. So these are the reasons why:

1) High scalability

In information technology, scalability means that the app or product continues to function well even with the change in its size or volume. In other words, the performance of Amazon S3 isn’t affected when the number of your files grows. Even more, your S3 storage grows together with your materials.

2) Exclusive durability

Durability is one more factor other storages cannot compete with Amazon S3. The storage was designed to provide 99,99% durability. So no need to worry: the risk of losing your data is reduced to nothing.

3) Super-cheap prices

At first glance, AWS prices don’t really differ from GD. But they’re still more flexible due to the pay-as-you-go approach. What’s more, the storage is more than affordable in the long run. Amazon S3 costs approximately $0.03 per GB. But the price goes down with the more you store.

For this very reason, Amazon S3 is a top choice for many large corporations. Owning thousand or even million assets, these businesses prefer AWS because of its charges based on usage. And they merely can’t afford GD, with its charges for every separate feature.

4) Variety of services

Amazon S3 is just one of many other services provided by Amazon. Altogether, AWS counts over 175 fully-fledged services. And this is why it has the reputation of the most mature, enterprise-level cloud provider.

And of course, Amazon S3 is compatible with this growing array of available services. For example, your team would enjoy easy app deployment provided by AWS. Or they can configure & manage the storage infrastructure if they need it. To put it another way, this variety of services contribute to more flexibility within the storage again.

5) Versioning

If you’re not going to transform your storage in a total mess, with files named Version1, Final23, Finalfinal11 cluttered all around the storage, version control is a must for you. In brief, the tool allows you to retrieve older revisions and even deleted files. So you’ll keep all your revisions in one place.

Actually, both Amazon S3 and GD support versioning. But when in S3, you can enable the tool completely free of charge, GD provides versioning at extra costs.

6) Automatic data migration

Another good news for those who want to shift from GD to Amazon S3! AWS offers you many data migration options. You can complete this with rsync, S3 or Glacier command-line interface.

So the moving process won’t be so stressful for you. This is especially valuable if we’re speaking about massive data transfers like 1000+ assets. And needless to say, automatic data import/export will save you time & money resources.

And why is GD better than Amazon S3?

But does Amazon S3 beat GD in all criteria? Of course, no. For a reason, GD has so many supporters all around the globe, and we’ll discuss these motives now:

1) 15 GB for free

For a large enterprise, 15 GB of space is little to nothing. But it could be a good start (or at least a nice bonus) for a startup or an individual user. Especially, if these 15 GB is free of charge. It’s always pleasant to get free stuff, isn’t it?

2) Maximum file size

Not for nothing, they say that GD is the only ideal storage for big data. Indeed, Amazon S3 may be better for large data transfers. But its potential for big data storage is much lower than in GD. Expressed in figures, 5 GB is the maximum file size in Amazon. But this counts for nothing if we compare it to 5 TB maximum file size in GD.

3) The market share

Amazon S3 is more available than GD. The storage covers 21 geographical locations compared to 20 zones covered by GD. But this didn’t affect the market share of GB, which overruns S3 storage almost three times when it comes to the number of actual users:

Number of users per storage
Number of users per storage

4) Getting started with GD is much easier

As an old saying claims, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Indeed, the first impression matters even when you try a new tool. And it’s likely your acquaintance with GD will be much more pleasant than with AWS.

Amazon S3 has a longer and more complicated signup process. For example, you have no access to the storage until you create an AWS account, configure its management console, and figure out the difference between root vs. IAM users. Here at Pics.io, we’ve written a detailed guide to help newcomers in Amazon S3. But still, it doesn’t change the fact that Amazon S3 is not that easy to get started.

And you cannot say the same thing about GD. In this case, you just set up a Google account (and you probably have one, right?) and start using the app.

On one more critical difference between the tools, GD arranges its services by project rather than by account as in AWS. So your teammates may work on wholly separate projects under the same account.

5) User-friendly interface

This point is actually linked to the previous one. Indeed, it takes time to get used to the S3 web interface. All those keys, buckets, objects, etc. are confusing, especially to first-time users. And vice versa, the GD interface is very intuitive. With its UI/UX design, you access the information easily and in no time.

6) Innovation

Both storages work considerably to keep up to date. Still, it’s GD that is usually the first to introduce high-tech innovations. Machine learning, data load balancing, powerful data analytics, AI, etc., etc. These are only a few high-end computing solutions offered by GD, and the platform continues to develop.

7) Effortless public sharing

Again, public sharing is present in GD and Amazon S3. But in GD, you create a publicly accessible URL and send it to whoever you need.

In Amazon S3, the same procedure will take more time and effort. All uploaded materials in Amazon S3 are private by default. And so you’ll need to go to bucket settings and configure public permissions. This could be a bit intimidating to some users.

What else about sharing, it’s more secure in GD than in Amazon S3. In GD storage, data goes fully encrypted to be transmitted. AWS, in turn, uses a more general format for data encryption.

8) Data retention

Retention is one more important feature available in GD and not found in S3. You just set the retention rule and retain all your files on a permanent basis. It’s very useful when you need to know when the file was created or last modified, for example.

Some factors to exclude or what do GD & Amazon S3 have in common?

In some things, the two storages are both good enough. And there is no significant difference between them. In this case, simply ignore the following factors when deciding between GD & Amazon S3:

1) Self-service

This is the core principle for many modern cloud storages. According to this idea, you come to the storage, take what you need, and leave. And so you don’t bother your colleagues, waste time and efforts for redundant communication.

2) Unlimited storage

With GD & Amazon S3, you forget about times when there was no space to fit all your materials. You get as much storage space as you need (and ready to pay for).

3) Performance

Both tools have huge computing (or the processing power) and make efforts to improve their performance even better.

Amazon S3 is famous for its robust storage infrastructure, with a massive network all over the globe. For an extra price, users can increase/decrease their total storage capacity like size, power, or memory.

With more modest infrastructure, GD still makes up a good rival to Amazon S3 due to its innovation: load balancing, faster persistent disks, and so on. And this is why the estimated uploads of big files to GD is 4 times faster than to Amazon S3.

4) Security

You don’t have to worry about security too, regardless of the storage you choose. Both Amazon S3 & GD offer strong security measures like state-of-the-art encryption, multi-factor authentication, network firework, and others.

5) Backup

Similarly, none of the services will allow you to lose your data in case of some emergency or human error. The simplest way to backup your data in GD is to manually make their copies and save these somewhere on an external drive. But there are also more advanced solutions like Backup & Sync service.

In Amazon S3, you don’t have a direct backup tool. But still, you may use AWS disaster recovery. In this way, your data gets automatically converted so they load and run natively on AWS.

Whatever storage you choose, use DAM to manage your files the most effectively

As you see, each storage has its own pros and cons. And your decision should be made exclusively based on your needs and preferences. But don’t place severe expectations on Amazon S3 or GD.

They’re just storages and can’t help you organize your files, access them easily, or distribute in the most presentable way.

For all those purposes (and many more), we have digital asset management. This is a top solution in today’s market to manage large and small amounts of assets. Here are a few ways how DAM will compliment your chosen storage:

  • Find & access your files in no time through keywords, locations, rates, content, etc.
  • Organize your assets in the most prolific way, creating collections & subcollections;
  • Get rid of duplicates with the easiest version control created by Pics.io;
  • Share your materials with clients, partners, freelancers, etc. easily and in a sleek way thanks to Pics.io public websites;
  • Collaborate with your team within your storage: leave comments, tag your colleagues, leave visual marks for them to highlight the area on a photo;
  • Receive regular updates on any changes in your storage like what new materials were uploaded and who provided them;
  • Integrate your DAM storage with almost any tool you need, from Adobe Creative Cloud to Slack and Trello;
  • Get to know how your assets are used or your team’s productivity with basic analytical tools;
  • Back up your materials in case you mistakenly delete them.

Pics.io works on top of your Google Drive or Amazon S3. But in case you don’t need to go into the trouble of setting up storage or configuring permissions, consider adopting Pics.io as an all-in-one DAM solution, with its own storage + DAM.

A few takeaways

From the factors we considered, Amazon S3 appears as a better solution for large corporations. It’s more flexible and compatible with other Amazon services. Your company will love it for customization & low prices, especially if you work with the bulk of files.

In contrast, Google Drive is more suitable for small & startup businesses as well as for individual users. It’s also good for non-tech-savvy users thanks to its simple and intuitive interface. You receive innovative & high-productive business storage for small sums of money.

And whatever decision you make, don’t forget to add a simple and powerful DAM solution to it. Pics.io will allow you to go beyond storing so you could organize, access, and distribute your materials most productively.

Pics.io Team
Welcome to Pics.io blog, where you'll get useful tips, resources & best practices on how digital asset management can help your business to manage & distribute digital content on top of cloud storage.