Comparing the three “S’s” for Dropbox and OneDrive: Storage, Synchronization and Security
Cloud storage and file synchronization aren’t new technologies. Both Dropbox and OneDrive provide both cloud-based file storage and synchronization of files between devices. Each has its pros and cons, and this article will focus on comparing three key “S’s” of the two options: storage, synchronization and security.
Both Dropbox and OneDrive offer plans aimed at the home and business user, and each offers both an initial, no-cost option as well as a paid, higher-volume option. While both offer solutions for mobile clients, one difference between Dropbox and OneDrive is the desktop clients supported: Dropbox offers clients for Windows, Mac and Linux while OneDrive only has clients for Windows and Mac.
Dropbox has a free option and several paid options. While none of the Dropbox options includes access to the Office 365 software, the Dropbox folder integrates with the “Places” functionality within Office to simplify access to the files you have stored in Dropbox.
- Dropbox free: 2 GB of total storage.
- Dropbox Plus: $8.25/month for 1000 GB of total storage.
- Dropbox Pro: $16.58/month for 1000 GB of total storage.
- Dropbox Standard: $15/month per user for 2000 GB of storage if paid monthly. The price is $150/year per user if paid annually.
- Dropbox Advanced: $25/month per user for unlimited storage if paid monthly. The price is $240/year per user if paid annually.
OneDrive offers common features across all offerings: Synchronization, mobile app integration, web-based access and search. Much of the advanced functionality only works with Office-based files. Purchasing an Office 365 license (Home, Personal or Business) includes OneDrive storage as listed below. Along with the on-line storage and synchronization, the Office 365-based versions include offline folders, expiring links
- OneDrive personal “storage only” – Free: 5 GB of total storage. Paid: $1.99/month for 50 GB of total storage.
- OneDrive personal with Office 365 Personal: $69.99/year for 1000 GB total storage. Office 365 Home: $99.99/year for 5000 GB total (1000 GB each for 5 users).
- OneDrive business: $60.00/year per user for 1000 GB. $120.00/year per user for unlimited storage.
Both Dropbox and OneDrive offer file synchronization. That is, files are automatically copied from the local device to the cloud storage as they are changed locally. In addition, if a file is changed on one device, the updated file is automatically pulled onto other devices as they access the file. However, Dropbox and OneDrive handle synchronization differently, which impacts the speed of synchronization.
OneDrive uses file-level synchronization. As a file is changed, the whole file is copied to or from the local device to reflect changes. Within the operating system, each file is made up of smaller “blocks.” Dropbox uses block-level synchronization to capture changes to files. That is, if you are editing a document, you may only change a couple of words, which may only update one or two blocks within the file. OneDrive will synchronize only the changed blocks.
The end result of the different synchronization methodologies can be seen when making changes to larger files. The file-level synchronization would require that the whole file be synchronized before allowing subsequent changes, while block-level synchronization only refreshes the actual blocks which were changed, resulting in faster access to your file.
Microsoft’s documentation regarding encryption and OneDrive mentions that client communication is encrypted using SSL/TLS connections. Once the data has been synchronized between the client and OneDrive, it is considered to be “data at rest.” Data at rest is encrypted for OneDrive for Business and SharePoint online users, but not for the free accounts.
For OneDrive Business users, it is encrypted at a disk level using BitLocker and at a file level as well. There are three parts to the OneDrive Business at-rest encryption: The per-file encryption process creates a unique encryption key per file that is stored in a separate location than the file itself; The file is broken into “chunks” which are each individually encrypted and stored as a “blob”; and the map for re-assembling blobs into the original file is stored in a third distinct location. If an intruder gains access to any one of the three components, he or she will not necessarily be able to access the data in your files.
Dropbox provides encryption of the file as the blocks are transferred between the client to the server. In addition, the individual blocks are encrypted as they are stored “at rest.” Dropbox also provides version history of files for up to 30 days (free and Plus) or 120 days (Pro and Business) on the server. Dropbox also enables “remote wiping” of devices which are lost or stolen, which automatically removes data from the Dropbox folder on the client.
Both Dropbox and OneDrive offer cloud storage solutions which enable you to back up and share files from your computer. Each option also synchronizes changes between your device and the cloud and enables you to collaborate with your peers while working on documents.