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OneDrive vs Dropbox

OneDrive vs Dropbox
(Image credit: Future)

In this OneDrive vs Dropbox breakdown, we take a look at two tech titans that helped launch mainstream cloud storage. Both feature on our list of the best cloud storage services, and little separates them in terms of what they offer. However, there are some distinct differences in the way they do things.

OneDrive and Dropbox began as a way to enable individual users to back up and share their favorite files. Today, both come with features that enable businesses of all sizes to manage productivity and communication. OneDrive is most suitable for those that need quick, responsive collaboration on Office documents. Dropbox, with features like unlimited storage space, should pique the interest of those with large file types, like video, for example.

However, that’s not all they’re good for. And the main question here is: which one lets you effectively manage your business the most? Let’s find out.

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Microsoft OneDrive: collaborative software and storage
OneDrive provides Windows and Microsoft 365 integration, allowing for real-time collaboration and automatic file backups. A straightforward, intuitive interface requires little guidance, while comprehensive and responsive support is available for anything more complex.

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Dropbox: affordable file sharing leader
Dropbox remains one of the leading cloud storage solutions, with its unobtrusive dashboard ensuring it's also still one of the simplest to use. Its competitive business plans, alongside an open approach to integrating third-party applications, mean it should not be underestimated in comparison to competitors.

OneDrive vs Dropbox: What we compared

In our head-to-head, we compare core features, performance, security, and app integration. We also look at usability and how each service handles your privacy.


User interface and setup

Dropbox interface

Dropbox offers a clean user interface across desktop, web, and mobile (Image credit: Dropbox)

For new users, getting set up with either OneDrive or Dropbox requires little time and fuss. You’ll need to provide your name and email address to get started. Despite Microsoft offering its own email domains, users can use other providers to create an account. 

After signing up, you can use each service via a desktop, web, or mobile application. Windows users will have OneDrive preinstalled on their device, but it's also available for macOS. Dropbox has Windows and macOS support, and is compatible with Linux-based systems. 

For desktops, OneDrive exists solely as a folder. Users can easily drag and drop files or save them directly to the OneDrive folder. Dropbox exists as a folder as well, but has a desktop application that is similar to the web app in design. Saving and syncing files is effortless, and navigating each platform comes free of complications. 

Each service's web-browser application is well designed and easy to navigate. You can create documents directly inside each platform, which automatically save and sync to the cloud.

The mobile application follows suit, also allowing you to upload and create files from your device. A standout feature on both apps is the ability to scan documents. If your business is yet to go paperless, this feature will help in making the transition.

There’s no clear winner here in terms of usability. If you’re planning to have multiple users, you’ll be able to quickly set up your team, with little training needed.

Pricing

Dropbox pricing and plans

Dropbox provides a range of plans, catering to both individual professionals and teams (Image credit: Dropbox)

Both services offer plans for personal and professional use. OneDrive personal plans start at $1.99 a month for 100GB of storage. Dropbox starts its plans at $11.99 for 2TB of storage, which will likely be too much for light users.

On the business end, users have multiple options. The cheapest option for OneDrive is $5 a month (per user) for 1TB of storage, but there is no app integration. Dropbox’s comparative Professional plan costs $19.99 a month, and gives users 3TB of storage space.

For teams, the best option with OneDrive is the Basic Plan. It costs $5 a month per user, and each user has access to 1TB of storage, as well as Microsoft Sharepoint, Teams, and Exchange. You can also use all Microsoft Office applications. 

If you need more storage for your team, for $15 a month Dropbox provides 5TB of space. With that you can also use Dropbox Paper, the company's take on a word processor. It’s not as powerful as Microsoft Word, but will suffice for basic note taking and collaboration.

The balance here is cost versus features, so which you should choose will largely depend on your needs.

OneDrive vs Dropbox: pricing plans compared
OneDriveDropbox
Free version?YesYes
Starts at$5 per user a month (OneDrive for Business (Plan 1)$19.99 (Professional (Individuals))
$10 per user a month (OneDrive for Business (Plan 2))$31.99 (Professional + eSign (Individuals))
$5 per user a month ( Microsoft 365 Business Basic)$15 (Standard (For Teams))
$12.50 per user a month ( Microsoft 365 Business Standard)$25 (Advanced (For Teams))

Syncing

OneDrive file syncing

OneDrive allows users to upload and sync files across multiple devices (Image credit: OneDrive)

Naturally, OneDrive and Dropbox allow you to upload and sync files across multiple devices. For desktop, OneDrive users can set automated backups for their desktop folders, pictures, and documents. However, there’s no option to perform a full system backup. Those looking for such a service may wish to consider a provider like Backblaze.

A useful feature present with both services is block-level sync, enabling files to be updated in the cloud in edited patches rather than in full files. This provides faster sync speeds and better all-around performance.

What Dropbox calls “Smart Sync” OneDrive calls “files-on-demand,” a feature that enables you to select which files are stored solely on the cloud. You can access them from your desktop, but they won’t download unless you want them, freeing up hard disk space.

File versioning and recovery

Dropbox file recovery

Dropbox allows business users to recover files for up to 180 days (Image credit: Dropbox)

You can recover a deleted or older version of a file with both OneDrive and Dropbox. OneDrive only allows you to recover files for up to 30 days. We’d expect more time, especially from a provider like this. In comparison, Dropbox allows you to go back up to 180 days to recover a file, but only with a business plan. Personal users will have to make do with the same 30 days offered by OneDrive.

App integration

The level of native and third-party app integrations makes OneDrive and Dropbox ideal for businesses of all sizes. Apps like Microsoft Teams and Sharepoint help with large-scale communication across departments. For Dropbox, third-party integrations from Adobe work well for creatives, and Zoom’s integration is perfect for companies holding daily remote meetings.

Overall, Dropbox plays the power move here, mainly by remaining impartial. Users can create Office docs and Google Docs, or make use of CRM solutions like Salesforce. At the time of writing, Dropbox has almost 200 third-party app integrations, making it more versatile, at least with this feature.

Collaboration

Onedrive for collaboration

OneDrive lets you create and collaborate on documents with multiple users (Image credit: OneDrive)

OneDrive is one of the best cloud storage services for collaboration. You can comment and edit documents in real time with internal and external users. Because OneDrive uses Microsoft's own integrated apps, we found that they functioned well, seldom experiencing crashes or slow updates.

Dropbox allows you to do the same real-time collaboration, and for the most part, it works perfectly fine. However, when trying to collaborate on an Office Doc, we found that edits took a little longer to reflect compared to when using OneDrive.

Security and privacy

Both services use industry-standard 256-bit encryption for your files, in transit and at rest. For added security, two-factor authentication is in place, making it harder for hackers to access your account. Also, Microsoft is slowly introducing password-less access to its applications, including OneDrive. Users will instead use a unique code (sent via email or mobile) to access their accounts. 

However, neither OneDrive nor Dropbox offers zero-knowledge encryption, meaning they can technically access and share your data if required to, for example, by government agencies. It also means that if hackers were to breach OneDrive or Dropbox’s security, they would be able to read your files. 

If you are highly concerned with privacy and security, you will likely prefer services like IDrive that do offer zero-knowledge encryption.

Which service is best for me?

Dropbox homepage

Dropbox offers excellent cloud storage for both personal and business use (Image credit: Dropbox)

Both services are similar in what they do. If you don’t need much storage and want to keep costs down, then OneDrive is your best option. That’s especially true if you work heavily with Microsoft applications and don’t need anything else. 

Businesses in the creative field should veer towards Dropbox. Integrated apps such as Adobe and iStock will help you create and manage quality content. And if your company aims to build strong customer relationships, Salesforce will help you manage and achieve that. Dropbox also allows you to upload unlimited file sizes, while OneDrive doesn’t. So if you’re a production company that creates high-quality video, Dropbox is a fantastic option.

The immediate reason to use OneDrive is that your company is already functioning with Office tools. But it’s not the only one. Medium-to large-scale businesses can make use of Sharepoint, Yammer, and Teams, which enable you to communicate with a large number of team members, either remotely or across departments. You can use them to brainstorm ideas, manage meetings, and collaborate on projects and company objectives.

OneDrive vs Dropbox, compared
OneDriveDropbox
UI and setupStreamlined and pre-installed on WindowsDetailed desktop app
PricingUsers need to pay more to use Office appsReasonable pricing for larger storage plans
SyncingBlock-level sync includedSmart sync allows users to free up hard disk space
File versioning and recoveryLimited to 30 daysUp to 180 days on business plans
App integrationOffice apps and MS apps on paid plansNearly 200 third-party integrations
CollaborationFast, responsive real-time collaborationWorks well with Google Docs and Dropbox paper
Security and privacy256-bit encryption for data in transit and at rest, but no zero-knowledge encryption256-bit encryption for data in transit and at rest, but no zero-knowledge encryption

What our reviewers said

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“Dropbox presents two major benefits to its users: workflow optimization and consistent feature upgrades. In terms of the former, Dropbox's seamless app integrations and advanced collaborative features can help you to increase your team's productivity and efficiency. Dropbox's commitment to continually add new services and features goes to show that the cloud storage provider constantly seeks to improve.” Score: 4/5

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“Microsoft OneDrive is one of our favorite cloud storage platforms. It is highly secure, with AES 256-bit encryption at rest for all data and TLS encryption in transit. Furthermore, premium users can store an unlimited number of files with end-to-end encryption in the Vault. Although we'd like to see end-to-end encryption rolled out platform wide, we're still more than satisfied with the rigor of OneDrive's encryption framework.” Score: 4/5

Alternatives to OneDrive and Dropbox

Those looking for an alternative option may turn to another market leader, Google Drive, especially if they already use Google Workspace. Google’s apps have more features than those from Dropbox, but are not as powerful as those that come with Microsoft Office. Google also lacks strong privacy protections, and the company is known for being liberal when sharing your data. Read our full Google Drive review to learn more.

Those seeking tighter privacy practices will want to consider Sync.com, which offers zero-knowledge encryption. Be aware, though, that increased privacy means less third-party app integration. Nonetheless, you can still use Microsoft 365 to edit documents in real time, which are synced instantly across your devices. Sync.com also has Slack integration, which is great for teams, as you can directly share uploaded files. 

Another advantage of Sync.com is the option for unlimited storage space. It requires the most expensive plan, Teams Unlimited, which costs $15 per user. If you have a large team or work in video, it’s likely an option you’ll need and one you can’t obtain with OneDrive. Take a look at our comprehensive Sync.com review to find out more.


Further reading on cloud storage

While some cloud storage services excel at collaboration, others lead the way in privacy and security. If security is your main driver when making a decision, check out the most secure cloud storage providers. For more alternatives, view our list of the best cloud storage for business, and take a look at our IDrive review and Backblaze review to find out more about these platforms.