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Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage review 2021

A powerhouse of online workflows and collaboration

OneDrive logo
(Image: © OneDrive)

Our Verdict

Microsoft OneDrive is one of the best cloud storage platforms for individuals and small teams looking to up their online game. Expect premium features and seamless cloud syncing and collaboration.

Pros

  • End-to-end encryption in the vault
  • Easy PC backup
  • Deep Microsoft 365 integration

Cons

  • No backup for Apple devices
  • More expensive than closest competitors

OneDrive is the cloud storage service offered by Microsoft, featuring a range of features for businesses but also offering a free service for personal users, and its range of plans provide a wide variety of tools for collaborative working as well as storage.

Microsoft OneDrive review: Snapshot

OneDrive has almost everything you want in a cloud storage platform. It's affordable and highly secure, with robust encryption frameworks. Business customers also get access to a wide range of compliance and auditing capabilities. 

The platform is widely supported, with apps available across most operating systems and device types. These apps are responsive and intuitively designed, and make it easy to work alone or collaborate with colleagues. Deep Microsoft 365 integration makes OneDrive perfect for working online, and it is our top pick for businesses wanting a premium digital workspace and communication ecosystem. 

New features to appear in the last year include Add to OneDrive, which enables users to add shared files and folders directly to their personal OneDrive account without losing collaborative features. When it comes to customer support, business customers always have access to a professional global team of Microsoft representatives.

Although it is more expensive than some cloud storage platforms, in our OneDrive review we found it one of few providers that can truly claim to be among the best cloud storage platforms.

Score: 4/5

Read on for the full review. 


OneDrive's competitors

How does Microsoft OneDrive compare to its main competitors?
Microsoft OneDriveApple iCloudGoogle Drive
Score4/54/54.5/5
ProsUnlimited end-to-end encryption with premium plans - Works well on most operating systemsDeep integration with iOS, macOS, and iPadOS - Seamless device backupWorks well on most operating systems - Free access to Google Docs, Sheets, and Files
ConsMore expensive than iCloud or Drive - Not as deeply integrated as iCloud or Drive - No device backup for iOS or macOSMinimal end-to-end encryption - Only suitable for Apple devicesWeak encryption framework - Vague privacy policy - Minimal device backup features
VerdictOneDrive is a feature-rich and highly secure cloud storage platform providing a premium user experience when bundled with Microsoft 365iCloud is one of the best cloud storage platforms for Apple users, although platform-wide end-to-end encryption is overdue Google Drive is interoperable across most operating systems, although its sub-standard security framework is worrying
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Key features

Microsoft's encryption framework is impressive, and is superior to most other big-name platforms such as iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive. However, it isn't best in class in this category, and there is room to improve. 

When data is in transit between your device and the Microsoft data centers, it is encrypted using Transport Layer Security, which is industry standard. When at rest on the Microsoft servers, all files are encrypted at AES 256-bit standard. Although the combination of in transit and at rest encryption is very secure, it isn't as strong as complete end-to-end encryption. 

Fortunately, premium customers gain access to unlimited end-to-end encryption via the Vault, a subsection of OneDrive that provides enhanced protection to your most sensitive and personal files. Although end-to-end encryption is exceptionally secure, it's important to note that Microsoft maintains a backdoor in the Vault, which means it could, in theory, access your files if compelled to by authorities, or if its systems were the target of a major hack.

Along with encryption, Microsoft maintains a robust physical data security policy that ensures customer data is not improperly accessed or stolen. This takes many forms, such as highly secure data centers that require biometric authorization and 24/7 security, to ensure facilities are safe. 

Microsoft's access control systems also ensure that Microsoft employees don't see your data unless it is absolutely necessary. The company's "zero-standing access" policy means that an employee can only see a customer's data if access is explicitly granted in response to a specific incident. So unless you've reached out to the Microsoft support team, no Microsoft employee can access or edit your files.

One of our favorite OneDrive features is document scanning. This feature enables users to scan physical documents into OneDrive, such as receipts, business cards, or contracts. Users can crop images to precisely the size of the document being scanned, and all uploads can be annotated or given visual effects such as greyscale, sepia, or a grain resembling a physical scanner. 

However, our favorite part of the document scanner is the ability to scan multiple pages into a single file, which is a huge time saver. So if you use your cloud storage platform to archive physical documents, we couldn't recommend OneDrive's document scanning feature more highly.

OneDrive: Key features and highlights

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OneDrive's encryption features described

OneDrive’s encryption framework is solid without being exceptional (Image credit: OneDrive)
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OneDrive's webpage discussing data center safety

All Microsoft data centers are heavily protected by both physical and network security policies (Image credit: OneDrive)
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OneDrive's webpage discussing its document scanner tool

The Document Scanner is one of our favourite OneDrive features (Image credit: OneDrive)
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OneDrive's webpage discussing its On This Day feature

On This Day is a feel-good feature that makes using OneDrive an enjoyable experience (Image credit: OneDrive)
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OneDrive's webpage discussing its backups

Device backup is possible for PCs, but not Apple devices (Image credit: OneDrive)

It might not be a make-or-break feature, but we appreciate that OneDrive shows you photos uploaded in the past. For example, each year, on July 11, I'm reminded of a fantastic family holiday in 2013. It's the small things, like Photo Memories, that make OneDrive one of the top cloud storage platforms for individuals and small businesses.

OneDrive makes it easy to back up your Windows laptop or desktop, and gives users great control over how often device data is synced and where that data is stored. If you're looking to protect your personal or business device against data loss, Microsoft OneDrive is a great choice.

Unfortunately, however, there is no comparable backup capability for Apple devices. Although this is frustrating, and makes OneDrive less appealing overall, it is more attributable to Apple's disdain for supporting competitors' software than any fault on the part of Microsoft.

One of OneDrive's greatest strengths is its integration within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. Bringing together a wide range of applications, including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Teams, Microsoft 365 is a powerhouse of digital collaboration and communication. 

Whether you work alone or in a team, purchasing OneDrive through a Microsoft 365 subscription will enable you to up your productivity to the next level, and to enjoy seamless data syncing across all your devices.

What’s new?

Microsoft appears content with the current iteration of the OneDrive platform, with no significant updates or new features released in the previous 12 months. A series of updates have been rolled out that patch bugs and optimize the speed to the platform, along with back-end updates not worth mentioning in detail here. 

The only new feature of note is the Add to OneDrive feature, rolled out in July 2020. Add to OneDrive makes it easy to add shared folders directly to your OneDrive, making it easier to organize your files. Users can now add shared files and folders directly to their OneDrive account by clicking on a shared file and selecting “Add to OneDrive”, all without losing collaborative and real-time editing capabilities. 

Microsoft also increased the max file size from 15GB to 100GB in July 2020, which was important as teams began to work predominantly online.

Pricing

Microsoft provides a simple, easy-to-understand business pricing model, with individual and home plans on one hand, and a series of business plans on the other. Business leaders can choose between a standalone OneDrive plan, or a Microsoft 365 bundle. We think most businesses looking to invest in OneDrive should consider a Microsoft 365 plan, as it is in this ecosystem that OneDrive really shines. 

The two standalone plans cost $5 per user a month (Plan 1) and $10 per user a month (Plan 2) respectively. Plan 1 includes 1TB of storage space per user, while Plan 2 includes unlimited storage space and a suite of security and compliance features such as file auditing, data retention, and sensitive labels. 

If you want to package OneDrive in a Microsoft 365 bundle, there are two options. Microsoft 365 Business Basic includes 1TB storage per user, Microsoft Teams, and web access to apps such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. It costs $5 per user a month. 

Microsoft 365 Business Standard also includes 1TB storage per user and Microsoft Teams, but adds desktop and mobile access to all Microsoft 365 apps, as well as access to collaboration tools such as Yammer and Microsoft Planner. This powerful plan costs $12.50 per user a month.

OneDrive's pricing plans
Plan type/featurePlan 1Plan 2BasicStandard
Cost per month$5$10$5$12.50
Cost per year$60$120$60$150
Microsoft 365 appsXXX
Advanced security X
Unlimited storageXXX

Testing OneDrive

To better benchmark OneDrive against its competitors, we analyzed its upload speeds, which are a key factor in terms of cloud storage, and the response times for its customer support.

How fast is OneDrive?

OneDrive's web interface in use

It is easy to upload and download files from the OneDrive web interface (Image credit: OneDrive)

We compared three cloud storage platforms for our testing: Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Apple iCloud. We found that OneDrive was the fastest of the three. Uploading a 5GB document took only 1 min 50 seconds, while downloading the same document occurred in a speedy 45 seconds. 

This was approximately 25% quicker than iCloud using the same internet connection, and 30% faster than Google Drive. All tests were conducted on the same Wi-Fi network at roughly the same time. Our baseline network speed was 53Mbps download and 19Mbps upload.

How responsive is OneDrive's customer support?

A screenshot of the writer's correspondence with Microsoft support

We were impressed by Microsoft’s support options (Image credit: OneDrive)

Not all providers are alike when it comes to support, and some are much better than others. Microsoft provides all business users with 24/7 online chat support, although it does not provide 24/7 phone support. Business hours support is available in the UK, the US (all time zones), and Australia, although we were unable to find a single document outlining these hours in detail.

We put Microsoft's customer support team to the test, assessing how long it took to receive support via online chat and how helpful that support was. We were impressed by the Microsoft representative, who responded to our support request after a wait of only one minute. They were quick to ask for details and correctly troubleshot our issue. The entire interaction took less than five minutes.

Alternatives to Microsoft OneDrive

Microsoft's direct competitors are Google Drive and Apple iCloud. Together, these three platforms represent the cloud storage offerings of the three most prominent tech companies worldwide. 

Each commands a considerable market share, and provides users with a whole suite of applications and services beyond cloud storage. In fact, each service should be described as a cloud ecosystem. In this section, however, we focus solely on cloud storage aspects.

There is very little to differentiate the three platforms on cost. Microsoft OneDrive is the most expensive, marginally, but you get the most in return in terms of Microsoft 365 functionality. And while Google Drive is the least costly, users must compromise a little on data security and user privacy.

Indeed, if you prioritize advanced data security, we don't recommend Google Drive. Its lack of a robust encryption framework means it lags far behind Apple iCloud and Microsoft OneDrive in terms of privacy for users and their data. 

If you work in a team and value top-quality collaboration features and file sharing, then Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are the way to go. OneDrive has a clear edge when it comes to security, however. Make sure to read our comprehensive analyses of these competitors in our Google Drive review and our iCloud review.

Microsoft OneDrive's features compared to the competition
Microsoft OneDrive Apple iCloudGoogle Drive
End-to-end encryptionYesLimitedNo
AI search functionalityYesNoNo
Support24/7 chat and phoneBusiness hours chat and phone24/7 chat and phone
Basic plan$1.99 a month$0.99 a month$1.99 a month

The verdict

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. The physical security of Microsoft's data centers further convinces us that the platform is highly secure. 

Another strength of OneDrive is its integration with Microsoft 365. Whether you work individually in a small team, deep integration with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and other applications makes OneDrive perfect for working online. Real-time editing, file sharing, and workplace communications are all built seamlessly into the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, and it's all underpinned by OneDrive. 

We are also highly impressed by the OneDrive web app, which feels usable and responsive, unlike most cloud storage web apps. Finally, when we also consider features such as PC backup, AI search functionality, and online photo editing, it becomes clear why we consider OneDrive to be among the best cloud storage platforms available. 

So, if you're looking to invest in a cloud storage solution that will protect your files and photos, enable you to work productively online, and organize your digital life, then OneDrive is a fantastic choice. It is affordable and supported across all operating systems, and comes with intuitive, easy-to-use apps.

Further reading on cloud storage

Find out more about OneDrive in our comparison features pitting Google Drive vs OneDrive and IDrive vs OneDrive.

We've also compared cloud storage vs local storage, explored what to do when reducing cloud storage costs, and have a series of buying guides evaluating the best cloud storage, the best cloud storage for business, the best free cloud storage, and the best cloud storage for photos.

The Verdict
4

out of 5

Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage review 2021

Microsoft OneDrive is one of the best cloud storage platforms for individuals and small teams looking to up their online game. Expect premium features and seamless cloud syncing and collaboration.