Three Great Online Alternatives to Google Drive

Here's where to turn when Google fails. 

Jeroen Bennik

Yesterday began like any other sunny, productive day on Google Drive. Documents were written, formulas put into spreadsheets, things were going fine… until they weren’t. Suddenly, Google Drive left users everywhere shaking their fists at the sky for a few hours while the system experienced a “service disruption.”

Users couldn’t open folders or documents and were left confused as to whether it was an issue on his/her browser or a glitch in Google’s system. Unfortunately for Google Drive devotees, the whole system had basically gone dark in terms of usability.

College students everywhere had a pretty valid excuse as to why they couldn’t share that assignment with their professors. People in presentation meetings uttered the dreaded “Just a sec, something’s going on here…” and tapped frantically at their keyboards. Yours truly was left hanging on a conference call wondering why a complex spreadsheet had suddenly been rendered into a tiny, pink error box.

This isn’t the first time that Google has left its users high and dry gone through issues, and you can bet it certainly won’t be the last.

So, in the spirit of saving your sanity when you don’t want to futz around trying to rig up an email like some off-brand document (knock on wood that email servers don’t go down entirely) or can’t use Microsoft Office for whatever reason… we’re here to help.

Here are a few free alternatives to Google Drive that we’ll be using during the next outage. While these won’t help you retrieve the old documents and presentations you need to access while Google’s down, they will make it easier for you to keep chugging along while you wait for Google to get its act together. Heck, you could even use these as an old-school copy-pasted backup for the urgent items you know you’ll need later.


Weird name, great service. (Kinda like… Googl—nevermind.) There are several plans you can choose from — the most expensive is $8 per user, per month. We already spend enough on rent (and Netflix’s ever-rising prices), so we went with the free option. It took two minutes to enter some information (just name, email, and password), click the confirmation email link, and start working. Zoho’s user interface is super easy to understand, and you get all the basic stuff you need — from the usual free font selection (hello again, Trebuchet MS!) and word count tickers, to presentation-making abilities and file/folder sharing. You can even get the app for iPhone or Android and take this little baby on the go. (And because we’re still paranoid about Drive, we’re actually writing this on Zoho now.)


If you need a space where you and your closest colleagues can go through and brainstorm together on a virtual notepad, Hackpad will be your jam. It’s easy to sign up (and free), and you can get to work on a note pretty much immediately. Hackpad’s also owned by the folks at Dropbox, so it’s super easy to click the “Insert” button at the top right and add a photo from your Dropbox account. The downside? Hackpad’s simplicity. This is literally just for note and/or blog-type documents. (You can add a table to your doc, but it lacks a spreadsheet’s ability to understand formulas.) As if to make up for that, one of the cooler elements of Hackpad is that you can actually embed the pad into a website or blog after you’re done hacking away. We’re into it.

Office Online

Office Online is sleek, easy-to-use, and there’s no worrying about whether or not this company is going to fold and take your documents down with it. But, the reason this is our last choice is because you only get a one-month free trial. After that, you’re billed about $10 a month to use the service, which is exactly like Microsoft Office. (Only it’s online, duh.)

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