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Dropbox Vs. OneDrive: What's The Right Choice For The Enterprise?

Dropbox Vs. OneDrive: What's The Right Choice For The Enterprise?
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If you're comparing Dropbox and OneDrive, a look at productivity and collaboration capabilities will play a major role. Here's how the two popular cloud storage services compare in an enterprise setting.

Increasingly, storage seems to be a inextricably tied to productivity. Microsoft's OneDrive service (formerly SkyDrive) is compelling principally because it links so tightly with Office 365 and Office Web Apps. Make OneDrive irresistible, Microsoft believes, and a certain percent of users will inevitably convert into paying Office 365 customers. This is even more true on the enterprise front and could be pivotal in your decision on whether OneDrive for Business or its chief nemesis, Dropbox for Business, is the better storage option for your operation.

Seeking Harmony

In the cloud storage world, Dropbox remains the biggest gorilla for enterprises. With near ubiquity throughout the Fortune 500, Dropbox has done pretty well for a cloud storage service that didn't officially announce a business version (as opposed to the prior and less impressive Dropbox for Teams) until just last year. Dropbox's glaring weakness, of course, is its lack of an Office-like offering.

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However, Dropbox doen't appear to be interested in entering the productivity suite business. Rather, it wants to function as a sort of collaborative layer on top of whatever software users might be running. The heart of this effort is currently known as Project Harmony, announced last April. Demonstrated on Microsoft Office but expanding to other apps soon, Project Harmony overlays a Dropbox marker on the edge of the app window indicating how many other users currently have a Dropbox-synched file open. The marker spawns a chat window allowing the users to communicate about version changes, so that User A, for example, can inform User B, "Hold on, let me do this one thing before you add more changes." User A saves the change, which immediately updates the file open on User B's system, even if it's running on a different platform. This eliminates the need to close and reopen files after synching completes.

Project Harmony is definitely an improvement for Dropbox, but it's not yet on par with the real-time, in-app collaboration enjoyed by Office 365 (or Google Apps) users. On the other hand, Microsoft offers no collaborative capability for third-party software, such as titles from Adobe. At first glance, Project Harmony seems potentially able to run on top of anything. So for businesses that need to collaborate in more than just Office, or in operations where users don't often need multiple users working on the same document at the same time, Project Harmony could be the better overall solution. Businesses should weigh their real-time collaboration needs on this front carefully before finalizing a cloud storage decision.

Dropbox vs OneDrive: Major Considerations

Naturally, there's more to selecting a cloud storage provider than its office suite integration. Far and away, the most-demanded feature is desktop synchronization, and both services from Dropbox and Microsoft excel at this. Dropbox may get all the headlines, but remember that Microsoft has been dabbling with cloud-based sync since the days of Windows Live FolderShare. That said, Dropbox is still widely regarded as the fastest and most effective on this feature.

In terms of OS integration, OneDrive has a clear advantage for users who have standardized on Windows across desktop and mobile, especially Windows 8/8.1, which has OneDrive baked in as a file explorer location. In addition, OneDrive also works fine through clients for Mac, iOS, Android, and Xbox.

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Dropbox's OS integration isn't as complete, but anything within the established Dropbox folder gets synchronized to the user's Dropbox cloud account as well as every other registered client for that user. If Dropbox has a weakness anywhere in this process, it would be its Web-based account UI, which is arguably archaic and clumsy in the name of being simple and accessible. With the exception of Xbox, Dropbox offers clients for the same operating systems as OneDrive.

OpenDrive won't sync open files, and it carries a 20,000-item (files or folders) sync limit. Dropbox has no file size limit when uploaded through a client app. If you upload to Dropbox via its website, there is a 10GB file size limit. Otherwise, Dropbox's only limitation is your quota size -- which is unlimited for Business users.

Obviously, Microsoft makes it easy to exchange data between SharePoint and OneDrive for Business. The company is less aggressive about integrating OneDrive with third-party apps. Dropbox shines on this front by making its API widely available, with over 300,000 apps boasting integrated compatibility. Many of these dovetail well with enterprises, such as Rackspace Email, Cisco WebEx, AutoCAD 360, Asana, and Centrify. 

The biggest Dropbox change in its move from Teams to Business was the addition of support for Active Directory as a means to improving user convenience and administrative security. Dropbox for Business also added compatibility with several single sign-on (SSO) services, including OneLogin, Okta, and Ping Identity. The service also offers 256-bit AES and SSL encryption, unlimited versioning, the ability to lock files from sharing beyond an established team, remote wiping, and the ability to track logins, devices, and locations.

OneDrive for Business continues Microsoft’s long-running SSO efforts, but the platform also stresses enterprise-centric priorities such as auditing and reporting, including the ability to customize audit reports. Admins can control if and how users can perform offline synching (both vendors enable this feature), and Microsoft touts its "unmatched" compliance with standards such as HIPAA BAA and FISMA.

Dropbox And OneDrive Pricing Comparison

Dropbox for Business costs $15 per user per month. The company requires at least five users per account, but storage is "as much as needed," or unlimited.

Microsoft OneDrive for Business costs $2.50 per user per month. This marks a 50 percent discount under the service's usual price. This fee, charged on an annual commitment, covers 1TB of storage per user, with an additional fee of $0.20 per GB as needed.

Clearly, businesses need to take a long look at their average storage consumption per user and its growth rate over time before making a decision. While Microsoft offers 1000GB for practically nothing, break-even between the two services is reached at only 1062GB. Beyond that, Microsoft quickly becomes the more expensive option on a cost-per-gigabyte basis.

Choosing The Right Tool For Your Needs

As with so many other things Microsoft, OneDrive for Business is an amazing, possibly irresistible tool -- if you've already got Microsoft-centric platforms in wide use throughout your business. If you've got a team of Office 365 users with Windows Phones or Surface tablets in hand, yes, OneDrive for Business is a no-brainer.

For everybody else, the debate ensues. Speaking very loosely, our sense remains that Dropbox is the superior choice for file handling and synchronization. For online collaboration, OneDrive puts Microsoft far in the lead until Dropbox can convince us otherwise with Project Harmony.

Which of these two facets takes higher priority will depend on your company and teams and their unique needs. In terms of pricing, there is a clear line at the 1TB per user mark; with Dropbox winning above it and Microsoft below. Neither company is offering clues as to how large the average user's used capacity might be, or how quickly that capacity is growing, so study your organization's patterns closely and project wisely.

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