Microsoft’s OneDrive has been making a lot of waves in the cloud storage space because of a robust feature set, tight Office integration, and an impressive pricing model. We reviewed the service recently and found it to be a worthy competitor in this space.
But how does it fare against the venerable Dropbox? Dropbox has been able to keep its long-time and loyal following by maintaining an increasingly impressive feature set and rock solid performance. If you’re still debating between the two services, read on as I pit these two services against each other in a head to head comparison.
General Feature Set
Both services are pretty feature packed, but OneDrive barely edges Dropbox out in a couple of categories.
Both services support these features:
- Sync and access files across all devices
- Desktop file folder with automatic sync
- Choose desktop folder location
- Share links to files and folders
- Set shared file access as read-only or full-editing
- Restore previous versions of files
- View and edit Microsoft Office documents in the web browser
- Create and share photo albums
- Selective folder sync
They both carry an impressive feature set, but OneDrive has a few more tricks:
- Embed codes to stick folders in a webpage
- Fetch – Access local computer files remotely in OneDrive webpage (PCs only)
Both features are good to have, but being able to access your computer’s files remotely with Fetch gets a shout-out from me. For those who worry about security, it is an optional feature. But, it’s a great reason to have OneDrive should you use Windows. OneDrive earns a win here.
|Windows, Mac, Linux
|$9.99 / month
|$1.99 / month
|Average Upload Speed
|7.6 Mbps (8 Mbps connection)
|12.5 Mbps (5 Mbps connection)
|Average Download Speed
|30 Mbps (30 Mbps connection)
|50 Mbps (50 Mbps connection)
|Free Online Storage
|Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows Phone
|Android, iOS, Windows Phone
|Keep Deleted Files
|Back Up to Local Drive
|Sync and Share Features
|Public File Sharing
|Data Center Location(s)
|Global (100+ data centers)
Sharing and Collaboration
OneDrive offers most of the necessary sharing options. Not only can you generate links to files and folders, but also directly send e-mails with those links via the website. When sending those links, you can also configure them to be read-only or full edit access.
Once a user views a link, they can view and download files without needing a OneDrive login. Unfortunately, uploading files does require a login, which can be an annoying restriction when requesting files from clients or with your webpage embed.
But when we look at Dropbox, it’s painfully clear how much more capable a collaboration service can be. Dropbox has all of the above plus these additional ones:
- Get sharing links copied directly into your clipboard from the desktop software
- Designate external editors who can manage user access rights (Dropbox Pro)
- Secure collaborate/shared links with a password (Dropbox Pro required)
- Request file uploads from without requiring a Dropbox login
- Subscribe to an RSS feed that updates you on changes made to your Dropbox
- Files and folders shared with you sync into your Dropbox
Notice the only caveat to this impressive feature set is that to do anything with access permissions, you need Dropbox Pro, which is unfortunate since OneDrive offers this for free. But Dropbox truly outclasses OneDrive with features like an RSS feed for file updates and an optional editor pool. For those who want full control over collaboration, Dropbox Pro is well worth $100 a year. For these reasons, Dropbox earns the win.
Both services deal with pictures and videos in similar ways. They both store them of course, but they also both have an aggregated interface that shows you all your photos and videos in a single view, even if they’re scattered across folders. You can also organize photos within albums and share links to them, making for some easy photo management.
But, OneDrive takes organization one step further with auto-tagging. OneDrive’s learning engine will compare your pictures to a database of objects and themes, and will tag them as it recognizes things like #animal, or #city, or #cat. It’s not always accurate, but when it works, it’s a pretty neat way to organize photos.
OneDrive really shines with its approach to music.
Any songs added to OneDrive’s music folder automatically sync up with Microsoft’s Xbox (soon to be Groove) Music Collection. From there, you can stream your music to anything with an Xbox/Groove Music app, including PCs, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Xbox 360 and One, and also the web. This is all free, no file downloads, no subscription required.
Dropbox, though, will only store music and won’t even let you stream it from its apps.
This combined with OneDrive’s soon to be unlimited storage makes OneDrive the better option for those with extensive multimedia collections. OneDrive deserves the win here.
Ease of Use
Both services install a single folder on your computer that lets you work with your files and does all the uploading work for you in the background. Though they both have different methods of sharing files, I consider them both just as easy thanks to their well-designed mobile apps and website UI.
I’m happy to report that both services are easy to use, and so everyone wins here.
Operating System and Mobile App Support
Winner: Dropbox (Barely)
Mobile app support is excellent on both sides of the fence, as they both support iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows, Windows Phone, and will both be supporting Windows 10.
All versions of these apps let you download, upload, move, share links and collaborative invites to your files and folders. Both apps will automatically upload your photos from your camera roll should you activate it. For all intents and purposes, these apps are pretty much equally capable and are intelligently designed since their most recent updates.
Dropbox and OneDrive’s desktop software supports both Windows and MacOS, but only Dropbox offers Linux packages as well as a source file to compile. OneDrive has some third-party options, but nothing official.
Because of its Linux support, Dropbox barely edges out OneDrive here.
Both services offer solid performance on in my tests. On this day, my internet connection was running wonderfully consistent at 15 Mb/s down and 5 Mb/s up.
OneDrive was slightly faster on uploads, while Dropbox was slightly faster on downloads. But the difference isn’t large enough to be noticeable in an average task. Both services performed well here, and once again, everyone wins.
Dropbox and OneDrive both secure all file transfers with 128-bit SSL/TLS encryption, and offer two-factor authentication, which is great and certainly secure enough.
But, Dropbox also encrypts all user files at rest with 256-bit encryption. OneDrive does not. This is a potential security issue for OneDrive as your data would be prime for the taking without the need for decryption should Microsoft’s servers be compromised. Granted, this would be a lofty and difficult hack.
Neither service is immune from the prying eyes of employees and the government. Even though Dropbox encrypts data, all encryption keys are kept on-premises, so data can be easily decrypted. That said, no decryption is necessary for OneDrive.
Due to OneDrive’s lack of on-site encryption, Dropbox takes home the win here.
Dropbox’s free service only gets you 2 GB of storage. For $10 a month or $100 a year, you get 1 TB of storage. That’s not necessarily too bad, but annoying that there are no other higher tiers than 1 TB.
OneDrive offers 15 GB for free, nearly 8 times Dropbox’s limit. But, should you feel like paying for more, buying an Office 365 subscription for $70 a year will currently give you 1 TB of storage, to be upgraded to unlimited storage sometime before the end of the year. That $70 per year also includes 1 license of the full Microsoft Office Professional suite as well, making OneDrive one of the best values in cloud storage today.
Because OneDrive not only will be offering unlimited storage by the end of the year, but also because they’ll be offering it cheaper than Dropbox offers 1 TB, OneDrive clearly wins the pricing war.
Technically, Dropbox takes more wins here than OneDrive, but these are both excellent services with their own benefits and fallbacks.
If you’re security conscious and tend to do a lot of file sharing or collaborative editing with a team, Dropbox will have the features, options, and solid performance that will make you happy.
However, if you need lots of storage or need to store a music and movie collection, OneDrive is going to give you more bang for buck and even let you stream your music collection with any device you want. For that matter, if you don’t need a ton of sharing or collaboration features, OneDrive is a better value and may be “good enough” for the average user.
Both options are quite good for their own purposes, but which would you choose? Let me know in the comments below.