What I Use: Dropbox

Posted on July 27, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud with 0 Comments

What I Use: Dropbox

While Microsoft’s promise of unlimited OneDrive storage for Office 365 subscribers remains just that, a promise, I have bigger issues with Microsoft’s cloud storage service, which is slow and unreliable. So I’ve started moving my most critical work-related documents to Dropbox, a paid service that is fast and reliable. Don’t get me wrong, OneDrive has some important advantages, and I’ll keep using it too. But Dropbox is too good to ignore.

OneDrive has some inherent advantages because it’s part of the Windows ecosystem and comes for free with new Windows installs. And it’s not just storage, either, since you use OneDrive to sync settings between your PCs and devices.

So why would one even consider Dropbox? It’s not because of the cost, that’s for sure. The free Dropbox Basic provides just 2 GB of space, so I chose Dropbox Pro, which costs $99 per year and provides 1 TB of storage. (Or you can pay monthly at a rate of $9.99 per month.) You can also add “extended version history” for an additional $39.99 per year, which, frankly, might not be a terrible idea. (I’m not currently doing so.) And there is a Dropbox for Business plan that provides unlimited storage for $15 per month, but it requires a minimum of five users, at $750 per year. (Dropbox will also give you some additional storage when you refer friends.)

By comparison, OneDrive provides 15 GB of space for free, 7 times as much as Dropbox. And Microsoft offer storage plan upgrades in 100 GB ($2 per month) and 200 GB ($4 per month) increments, but you can tell the software giant doesn’t really care about storage per se. What they want you to do instead is subscribe to Office 365, which for individuals can cost as little as $69 per year (or $6.99 per month), for Office 365 Personal. (Office 365 Home is $99 per year and includes up to five accounts, and business plans start at $5 per user per month and escalate quickly.) Office 365 subscribers currently get 1 TB of OneDrive storage for free, but starting late this year, that will convert to unlimited storage.

Put simply, OneDrive is less expensive, regardless of the unlimited storage thing, because you also get Microsoft Office (and in the case of Office 365 Home, get five installs of Microsoft Office, which is an unbelievable value).

So why even bother with Dropbox?

Simple. It works. It works really well. It works quickly. And it works reliably.

OneDrive, meanwhile, is a mess. It’s slow and its unreliable, and when I outfit new PCs—which I do regularly these days since I am knee-deep in Windows 10 testing—my Dropbox storage syncs quickly and efficiently, while OneDrive reports that the subset of storage it is syncing is “looking for changes” or whatever. It doesn’t complete until hours later.

And that’s with the consumer version of OneDrive, which is today vastly superior to OneDrive for Business, the version you get with business Office 365 subscriptions. That service is barely worth mentioning, as it routinely coughs up file sync errors and has no way to determine what gets synced; it’s all or nothing.

The problems with OneDrive for Business were in fact what triggered me experimenting with and then fully adopting Dropbox. After moving one of the books to Dropbox and being rather amazed by the speed, I moved all of the books over to Dropbox, re-shared the appropriate folders with my co-authors, and got busy. And, shocker, it just works. The difference in reliability and speed is astonishing.

Going forward, yes, I will keep using OneDrive too. I like backing up my photos to a service that is (or will be) unlimited in size and retains the full size of my photos, and of course as a Windows user there are benefits to OneDrive in general. But my mission critical work? It’s moved to Dropbox. And while anything could happen in the future—I certainly didn’t see this shift to Dropbox coming even a few months ago—Dropbox works so well, I’m unclear that OneDrive will ever catch up. Maybe the divide between Dropbox and OneDrive becomes work vs. home. We’ll see.

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