OneDrive vs Dropbox — What’s The Best Cloud Storage Provider

obrBy Joseph Gildred — Last Updated: 14 May'18 2016-06-20T21:15:13+00:00
Dropbox and OneDrive are two competing cloud storage picks that might seem very much alike at first glance. It therefore stands to reason that many people probably stick to checking out how much storage they’re getting and how much it will cost before making their pick.

At Cloudwards.net, however, we know there’s much more the average consumer should be looking at besides these things. To help our readers make the decision about the best cloud storage service, we’ve put together this head-to-head comparison piece to help illuminate the most important differences between Dropbox and OneDrive.

Our conclusion is that while OneDrive might appear to offer more value on the surface, the Dropbox approach to content control and encryption make it the clear choice for users who value their online security.

The Battle: Dropbox vs. OneDrive

Since cloud storage solutions can differ in very important ways, it’s important to take a look at how Dropbox and OneDrive stack up. Over the course of four rounds, we’ll detail each service in the categories of price plans, sync, content control and encryption.

Starts from$ 9 92monthly for 1000 GB
Visit DropboxDropbox Review
  • Very fast sync
  • MS Office Online Integration
  • Dropbox Paper
  • Only up to 1TB
  • Expensive
  • Not zero knowledge
  • No 24/7 support
Starts from$ 1 99monthly for 50 GB
Visit OneDriveOneDrive Review
  • Great family plan
  • Good for collaboration
  • Fast sync
  • No server-side encryption
  • Only 30 days of versioning
  • 10GB file size limit
1

Pricing

First up, let’s look how our two contenders compare when it comes to pricing.

Dropbox

Dropbox Basic grants users 2GB of free cloud storage. While that lags behind many of Dropbox’s main competitors — including OneDrive — Dropbox does let users earn more free space through referrals. On a free account, referrals net 500MB each, up to 16GB.

For people in need of more space, Dropbox Pro comes with 1TB of cloud storage, billed monthly or annually.

PlanDropbox PlusDropbox ProfessionalDropbox Business
Price Plan
$ 9 99monthly
$ 119 00yearly
$ 19 99monthly
$ 239 88yearly
$ 15 00monthly
$ 180 00yearly
Storage 1000 GB 1000 GB 2048 GB
Details

The cost is in line with what I would expect for 1TB of cloud storage. The problem with Dropbox’s plan structuring is that they don’t offer smaller or larger storage allocations. This lack of flexibility again puts it at odds with some of its chief competition, including Google Drive and OneDrive.

Dropbox Pro users can take advantage of the referral program, netting 1GB of additional storage per referral. Referral space is capped at 32GB.

Dropbox does offer a reasonable business plan, which is priced at $12.50 per user. Each business user initially granted 1TB of storage space, but Dropbox will grant up that to unlimited storage upon request — and at no additional charge. You have to purchase at least five licences, though, so this probably isn’t going to be an option for most ordinary consumers.

OneDrive

Microsoft grants 5GB of free cloud storage to start you off with. If that isn’t enough, they offer three different options for ordinary consumers.

PlanFree50GB1TB5TBOneDrive BusinessOneDrive Business AdvancedOneDrive Business All-In-One
Price Plan
Freemonthly
$ 1 99monthly
$ 23 88yearly
$ 6 99monthly
$ 69 99yearly
$ 9 99monthly
$ 99 99yearly
$ 60 00yearly
$ 120 00yearly
$ 15 00monthly
$ 150 00yearly
Storage 5 GB 50 GB 1000 GB 5000 GB 1000 GB Unlimited GB 1000 GB
Details

Comes with Office 365 Personal.

Comes with Office 365 Home.

Microsoft phone & email support .

Unlimited OneDrive storage.

Comes with full Office 365 suite.

The inclusion of a 50GB plan for just $1.99 per month is a nice touch. Many users don’t need 1TB of cloud storage and should appreciate the lower cost option.

Sign up for the 1TB personal or home plan, though, and you also get access to desktop versions of Office 365. Anybody can now use Office Online for free but the desktop versions let you work outside of your browser.

Office 365 apps include:

  • Word: word processing
  • Excel: spreadsheets
  • Powerpoint: presentations
  • OneNote: note taking

Microsoft’s 1TB plan is priced below its closest competitors, including Dropbox. Office 365 Home is an especially good deal for families: The $9.99 price tag is what most services charge for a single user.

Like Dropbox, Microsoft also offers a business plan, which come in several flavors ranging from $60 to $120 per user, per year.

Microsoft doesn’t mandate a minimum user count for its business plans. On the OneDrive Business Advanced plan, though, if you sign up for at least five users, your storage allotment per user becomes unlimited. It’s interesting that OneDrive doesn’t extend that benefit to the Business All-In-One plan.

Round One Thoughts

Dropbox started a partnership with Microsoft in 2015 to allow subscribers to view and edit content with Office Online. This integration is seamless and all takes place from within the Dropbox web interface. You have to be online to use it, though.

That 1TB OneDrive subscribers gain access to the desktop version of Microsoft’s popular office suite remains a nice advantage to picking OneDrive over Dropbox. Where OneDrive really shines over Dropbox, however, is flexibility and cost. OneDrive offers a 50GB option and a family plan. Plus, its 1TB plan is $3 cheaper per month than Dropbox Pro.


Winner (Pricing): OneDrive
Dropbox
OneDrive
2

Sync

This round is about determining which of the two providers will keep your files up to date the best, as well as checking the connection speeds of both services.

Dropbox

DropBox lets you sync content across any device on which you’ve installed the Dropbox application. Supported desktop platforms include:

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora)

Installing the application on your desktop creates a sync folder, which can be used just like any other folder on your OS. Moving content into this folder uploads it to a Dropbox data center

Dropbox has mobile apps for:

  • Android
  • iOS (iPhone, iPad)
  • Windows Phone
  • Blackberry

Overall, the devices supported by Dropbox include both the popular platforms and a few that aren’t so common, like Ubuntu and Fedora.

To see how well Dropbox manages the sync process, I performed a few tests on my Windows laptop to gauge file transfer speed. These tests included sending a 258MB compressed folder to and from the cloud.

For context, my upload and download speeds were averaging 160/12 Mbps when these tests were conducted, according to speedtest.net.

 Avg. upload timeAvg. Download time
Dropbox4:440:19
OneDrive3:550:14

These are pretty good times but with Dropbox it actually gets better. That’s because Dropbox incorporates something called incremental sync. Incremental sync is a file transfer process in which only the altered portions of a file are synced. Because the entire file doesn’t get uploaded or downloaded every time a file is altered, it saves both time and system resources.

To find out how much, I performed another test in which I made a small alteration to the compressed folder on my laptop (I deleted one of the files inside of it). The alteration was reflected in my Dropbox cloud storage in just 13 seconds.

To help further manage impacts on system resources, Dropbox lets users throttle the upload and download speeds. This process can be managed from the system tray icon.

While it’s not likely an issue most people will encounter, when you’re uploading files to Dropbox through your browser, there is a file size limit of 20GB. There is no limit if you upload from your desktop or mobile app.

OneDrive

OneDrive comes pre-installed on Windows 10 devices and is designed to be an integral part of the Windows experience as Microsoft follows the trend of shifting services to the cloud.

Installation is also available for Mac OS X 10.9 or higher, which is handy if you like to work from different different platforms for different tasks, or like MS Office but prefer Mac machines. Microsoft does not support any variation of linux.

Mobile access is broad, though, with apps for:

  • Android
  • iOS (iPhone, iPad)
  • Windows Phone
  • Blackberry

To compare the two, I performed the same sync speed tests on OneDrive as I did on Dropbox.

 Avg. upload timeAvg. Download time
Dropbox4:440:19
OneDrive3:550:14

For initial file transfers, OneDrive outperformed Dropbox by a small margin.

The problem is that, unlike Dropbox, OneDrive does not incorporate incremental file transfers into its network architecture. That means that altered files are replaced in their entirely every time a file is changed. This can leave individual users and their collaborators waiting if the file is particularly large.

It also ties up more bandwidth and system resources, which can impact your ability to accomplish other tasks. Making things even more murky for users, Microsoft doesn’t support sync speed throttling. That can be a problem if you’re working from a slow connection or uploading large files.

OneDrive also limits file size uploads to 10GB, regardless of whether you initiate these uploads from your web browser or your device’s sync folder. That’s not going to impact most users, but it is something to be aware of.

Round Two Thoughts

Dropbox supports a slightly wider range of platforms than OneDrive but most users won’t care since both support Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android.

The bigger issue — and a really compelling reason to pick Dropbox over OneDrive — is Microsoft’s inexplicable failure to incorporate incremental file uploads in their transfer architecture. This can cause sync to drag unnecessarily. For those with limits on their data plans, it also consumes more megabytes.

The inclusion of sync throttle controls by Dropbox is just one more reason why it’s the easy pick in round two.


Winner (Sync): Dropbox
Dropbox
OneDrive
3

Sharing and Content Control

How easy do our two contenders make sharing files and content across devices?

Dropbox

Sharing with Dropbox is executed via the web interface. Simply highlight the object or objects you want and click the “share” button.

When sharing content, you create a link attached to that content. For distribution, you can either email the link to specific individuals from within the interface, or just copy and paste it wherever you want (i.e., Slack, Facebook, text message). Anyone with that link can then access that content and comment on it.

You can share content at both the file and folder level. Only folder shares can be granted edit permissions, though. If you share an individual file, invitees are restricted to viewing.

One of the key aspects of content control that Dropbox gets right is the inclusion of both passwords and expiry dates for links. Unfortunately for non-paying users, you need to be a Dropbox Pro user to access these options.

From the Dropbox web interface, you can easily monitor your shared content from two different different pages.

The “sharing” tab lets you view which folders and files you have shared and which have been shared with you. The “links” tab lets you manage link options tied to your shared content.

There’s a third page called “events” where you can audit general activity on your account. This includes actions taken both by you and those invited to access your content.

Should you or one of your collaborators make an unwanted file change or accidentally delete a file, Dropbox lets you recover both deleted files and previous file file versions.

You can recover deleted and previous versions of files so long as it’s within 30 days of the deletion or file change. If you’re a Dropbox Pro user, there’s also an option to purchase extended version history (EVH), which bumps that up to one year.

If you’re a Dropbox Business user, you can recover deleted or previous file versions indefinitely and without having to pay for the privilege.

OneDrive

OneDrive has one of the best looking web interfaces of any cloud storage service. It’s crisply designed and well laid-out — making it easy to share multiple objects at once.

As with Dropbox, when you share a folder or file OneDrive creates a URL link pointing back to it. You can attach permissions to that link that lets users edit shared content or restricts them to view-only access.

From within the web interface, you can either copy the link to distribute manually, send it via email, or share to a variety of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

OneDrive does not let you set passwords or expiry dates on shared links, though. That’s a cause for concern, since it means those with whom you’ve shared links can pass them along to others without your consent or knowledge.

OneDrive’s web interface does let you audit shared content with a “shared” tab, which will help you not lose sight of what is out there.

OneDrive integrates automatically with Office Online. While you can audit what changes others have made to a particular document from within the relevant Office application, OneDrive doesn’t give users with a way to audit activity more broadly like Dropbox does with their events page.

OneDrive lets you recover previous versions of files, only for Microsoft Office file types. You’re stuck with any changes made to non-Office files, which makes the exclusion of better control and audit options even more dangerous

Deleted items can be recovered from your recycling bin for 30 days regardless of file type. However, should the contents in your recycle bin exceed ten percent of your total cloud allotment, the oldest items will be automatically and permanently deleted after three days.

Round Three Thoughts

Both services make it very easy to share content. Not being able to adequately protect that content should make you wary of doing so with OneDrive, though.

While you have to be a paying subscriber to attach passwords and expiry dates to content shares with Dropbox, at least the options are there. Dropbox also offers better audit capabilities and more flexible deleted file and version recovery.


Winner (Sharing and Content Control): Dropbox
Dropbox
OneDrive
4

Security

Last but not least, how safe is storing your data with either service?

Dropbox

Dropbox encrypts data in transit with transport layer security (TLS) and 128-bit AES encryption. 128 bits might seem low when 256-bit encryption is an option but for all practical purposes its uncrackable. Also, the less complex the encryption, the faster the upload time.

Once files arrive at the Dropbox data center they’re decrypted. Afterwards, file content gets encrypted again, this time using 256-bit AES. They do leave your metadata in plain text, though. This helps with indexing processes but is also a security concern since there’s still much someone can tell about you from metadata alone.

Generally speaking, Dropbox has strict policies against employees accessing user data. In certain cases, though, such as under the direction of a warrant, they will decrypt and share your data.

They’re able to do so because they retain your encryption key. Dropbox does not offer an option for zero-knowledge (end-to-end) encryption. If that’s a concern or you’d like to learn more about what zero-knowledge encryption is, Cloudwards.net has many articles on the subject — such as this article on secure Dropbox alternatives.

Dropbox does let users set up two-factor verification to access their data, which helps protect against weak passwords, which can be undone by brute force attacks.

Once enabled, in addition to logging into your account with your password, in the future you’ll be asked to enter a security code sent to your mobile phone, or use the mobile app to verify your identity.

OneDrive

As with Dropbox, OneBox data is encrypted while in transit using SSL/TLS.

However, at-rest data is only encrypted at this time for OneDrive Business account, and that’s not good given some of the data breach concerns I mentioned above, coupled with the fact that Microsoft is frequently the attack of hacks given its ubiquity.

OneDrive Business accounts are protected with 256-bit AES.

Additionally, by its own admission, Microsoft scans your files for objectionable content. While this is an effort to crack down on the spread of child pornography, and Microsoft claims not to use the scans for anything else, some users might be uncomfortable with this process.

Per their internal policies, copyrighted materials, such as films, won’t be removed unless a copyright infringement notice is filed with them. Furthermore, they claim not to use such scans for marketing purposes.

Still, given their lax encryption policies and the fact that they scan your your data in the first place, my advice is to only use OneDrive for ongoing work projects that aren’t sensitive in nature.


Winner (Security): Dropbox
Dropbox
OneDrive
5

The Verdict

As an optimist with a sense for utility, I try to find the value in everything. However, given that Dropbox integrates with MS Office products, I’m having a little trouble advocating for a case where you might want to use OneDrive instead as this negates the only real advantage it would have.

Microsoft’s strategy behind OneDrive seems like it relies on Windows 10 users to think it’s integral to the experience, rather than one where it tries and match competitors like Dropbox in features and functionality

That’s a shame because if Microsoft made a few tweaks, OneDrive could be superior product. The mechanics of the interface are fantastic, and it looks superb.

For now, though, Cloudwards.net without reservation recommends Dropbox over OneDrive. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below, thank you for reading.

Winner: Dropbox

16 thoughts on “OneDrive vs Dropbox — What’s The Best Cloud Storage Provider”

  1. I have a Dropbox Pro account and the biggest problem I have is that I want to share videos I created to my friends and the file sizes are 4-5 GB. I can’t share them with friends who have a basic account because they count how much space they have available in their dropbox to attach to mine. Dropbox set this limit because people were opening multiple accounts and sharing them together to get more space. I’m switching to OneDrive because of this issue.

  2. Great Article! I have a client who was forcefully moved from Dropbox to OneDrive by their previous IT Admin because they purchased Office 365 where OneDrive came “Free”. The delta between file sharing is huge for this client as they did not realize that OneDrive has different management in order to share files than Dropbox. In their minds Dropbox =OneDrive=Cloudstorage and that just ain’t so. Now when individual A saves a file to “OneDrive” and sends a link to the file to individual B *FOR SOME REASON* the file had a password put on it. Reality is they were just being prompted for access information because it was individual B who was accessing individual A’s files but to them it was a file password.

    It would be great to put a comparison about file sharing / File access differences between Dropbox and OneDrive such that it can go to start demystifying why all the popups are happening with Onedrive but not Dropbox.

  3. Good article, but I sill didn’t made my choice. I’m looking for long term storage where to store all my photos, documents etc. So OneDrive is good because it comes with Office 365, but Dropbox is great because of encryption. I don’t want that someone have access to my private photos.
    Please advice.

  4. I use them both but I have found a HUGE limitation with OneDrive not being able to handle special charachters (%@#-) in file names. I am an Apple consultant specializing with legal professionals and I have run into many, many instances when clients were trying to move existing files to OneDrive only to be greeted with a message that they would need to go change each file name to remove those characters! When we are talking about thousands of files being moved this is simply impractical and they all ended up avoiding OneDrive for this reason alone. You can simply drag the files into Dropbox and you are done.

  5. I am a Mac user and due to the limited space of my hard drive I am mainly using my Dropbox account to keep my rarely used large files on cloud, to free up space on hard disk. However, I find Office 365 option rather tempting. So, does One Drive offers the same file storage options as Dropbox (keeping the files on could but not on the computer) or does it work like iCloud (just backing up files that are physically on hard drive)?

  6. Hi

    As a mac and PC user I am currently using Onedrive, I have found OKish on the PC but very poor on my Mac, doesnt sync correctly worse than that newly edit files can get overwritten by older ones on the icloud. I am currently looking at moving over to dropbox. I think if MS spent a bit time polishing and refining the client for Mac I would be tempted to use it again but as it stands it is too unreliable for me.

  7. After using OneDrive for a couple of years I have decided to migrate to DropBox. OneDrive is slow to sync new files, sometimes gets hung up and doesn’t sync at all. With all the problems, we noticed our DropBox file never had problems. Went ahead and upgraded the account and are in the process of moving about 100,000 files over. As far as being effortless and reliable, DropBox is the way to go. I’ve noticed download speeds are 3-5 times faster as well.

  8. I have been using Dropbox for years, including DB for Business.

    I found this article while investigating making a switch to Office 365/OneDrive. I’m migrating our email accounts to O365… I figured why not take advantage of the “free” 1TB included with O365 and save some cash over the cost of DB for Business?

    I love the integration of DB with so many sites and apps across the board — Windows, Mac, iOS…

    After reading this, I don’t think we’ll be switching anytime soon. We are mostly Mac users, and DB sync is outstanding.

    We store our training videos on DB in .mp4 format, and can **watch them directly** in the iOS app or in a browser. They even have a SPEED CONTROL to watch videos at faster than normal speeds! This makes DB an ideal choice for media storage and distribution. (We frequently produce and share training videos with clients)

    We can also scan and upload document images directly to DB from the iOS app. No need for a fax machine any more!

    I would be very concerned about cloud files overwriting local new files (as mentioned in the comment above) in OneDrive.

    The ONLY challenge we’ve had with DB is some weird syncing issues. If you delete a local folder off your hard drive, DB will delete it from the cloud to sync up. Fortunately, those files are recoverable for 30 days (free) or longer (with an upgrade).

    Thanks for confirming my current choice. I don’t think I’ll be switching anytime soon.

    1. I believe the weird syncing issue is not an issue at all. Syncing means everything everywhere looks the same. It would be a mess, otherwise.

  9. Can I use One Note and Excel across platforms and have it sync with drop box instead of One Drive? Seems it automatically syncs to One Drive.

  10. Although I would rather have more space for free, it looks like I’m going to be sticking it with dropbox.

  11. I am just a casual user but have just been charged an increased monthly fee by Dropbox. No warning was given & when I queried it by email was told it had to do with local taxes which was incorrect. I am getting charged more than you quote for the monthly fee. I am a pensioner & I find their attitude unacceptable-thinking about deleting them & going to one drive.

  12. Dropbox set the wrong spec for the Plus version. It should be cut in half (e.g., $5 per month/500GB). Just canceled the subscription for Plus to save money a while ago simply because I don’t need that much storage.

  13. I’ve been using Dropbox since 2009 and been very happy doing so. I do, however, wonder if they will be able to keep up with developments. It’s getting very common for users to want to have much more stored in the cloud than on any hard drive, so a mapped network folder in which users can see all files, but choose which to have access to also off-line, is becoming what users want and expect. Meanwhile, Dropbox’s web interface is pretty laughable, so the only real option is to use the desktop app, and choose which files to have synced, meaning that all others are not even visible via the app. Interestingly, the mobile app is actually better in this respect, because there the user can choose whether a file should be accessible offline…. THis has to come to the desktop app, or the competitor’s who offer it will quickly swallow Dropbox’s market share while they try to figure it out.

Leave a Reply

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

More about

Most Visited News