The main function of each of these sites is to streamline file sharing and communications between members of a group, say maybe, the employees of a small business. It is really a dream come true for employers, because it gives them one place to post a wide array of virtual nuggets in just one place, just one time, for multiple users. I thought the assistant chief of our tribe was going to cry when he saw it yesterday.
There are key differences right from the setup, though the storage space available for free is the same: 100 MB. Setting up a drop is sleek and simple – choose a URL and, if you want, upload files right there and decide whether or not you want to require a password to view the drop. For additional handiness, you can actually set two passwords, one for the admin(s) and one for guests.
Google’s front page for groups is very… Googly. In fact, the whole Groups site looks like the basic HTML version of Gmail. (I’ve seen some groups that break away from this, but not without a ton of effort and expertise.) Setup requires an account with Google and is a little more complicated and tedious. Instead of passwords, permissions are basically Public or Restricted, which means the page is open to all or available only by invite. I could see this presenting problems when trying to give someone access in a crunch.
Back to the appearance – Drop.io’s got it down. It is modern and professional, with better file organization. The user has the option to display files by the date of their upload, but I prefer to group them by type. Thumbnails of pictures show up at the top above a section for links. Documents, such as Word and Powerpoint files hang out together in one section, whereas videos are displayed in another.
Google throws all that stuff into one big messy pile of files. Those files can pretty much only be downloaded, whereas files in Drop.io have lots of options, such as editing the file or its description, embedding it on another site, or transferring it elsewhere (another drop, an email, or a cell phone) – all doable with just a couple clicks.
In terms of communication, Google Groups uses a forum-style discussion board. Emailing the group will produce a post on this message board, which users can reply to. This actually generates two responses, one on the forum and another as an email reply to the sender.
Drop.io has no discussion board. Instead, the posts work similar to that of Facebook. A user can post a note, and others may respond by leaving comments. Users can leave comments on any of the files/links/what-have-yous posted, which is super convenient. But a message board might be nice, too.
However, Drop.io will not be beat in the communications category either. In addition to the comment feature, they’ve included a chat function, which can be embedded into other websites. As if that weren’t enough, each drop comes with its own conference call line and the ability to set up a phone number for voicemails, which appear as .mp3 files in the drop. That, coupled with the easy-embed, means your company can do all of its outrageous podcasting with any phone and any computer with internet access.
Google Groups tosses in a Pages feature, which work pretty much like the pages of a WordPress blog. They are basic, but easily customizable. I wouldn’t be surprised if drop.io picked that up. They seem to cover all the bases with everything else, so I don’t see it as absolutely necessary for the moment, but we’ll see.
Clearly, Drop.io is the winner here. Maybe in the future it will enter the ring against Yammer.