I’m a Dropbox Pro user. This means that I’m paying around £60 per year (or £5 per month if you will) for an extra 100 gigabytes of storage, over and above what free users get. This is mainly because I use it to keep photos in sync between my devices – and as I have a SLR camera, those images can be quite large – but also because I believe in paying for services that I rely on.
But lately, two things have happened.
One, I signed up for Office 365, which gave me an additional 20 gigabytes of storage in Microsoft’s rival cloud storage service OneDrive. Coupled with the 28 gigabytes that I have free, that means I have almost 50 gigabytes available that I’m also partly paying for anyway. As I was able to purchase the Office 365 University package, that means that I paid less than £60 for four years, and also get access to Microsoft Office and some Skype minutes thrown in. So, using OneDrive would still give me plenty of space, at a significantly reduced cost.
The other thing that happened was a recent appointment to Dropbox’s board, in the form of Dr Condoleeza Rice, the former US secretary of state under George W Bush’s presidency. During her time in office, she authorised widespread wiretapping, which is a bit of an issue when it comes to privacy and cloud storage. Plus there are all of the uncomfortable things that surround the War on Terror that happened during that time. Whilst I’m pleased that Dropbox has a woman – and a woman of colour at that – on its board, this appointment makes me feel a little uneasy, in the same way as Brendan Eich’s brief presidency of the Mozilla Corporation.
With these two factors in mind, I decided to explore OneDrive a little more, and see if I could really replace Dropbox with Microsoft’s cheaper alternative. Last year, this would have been a non-starter, as I was still using Windows XP at work which SkyDrive (as OneDrive was called at the time) would not run on. But whilst OneDrive supports fewer platforms than Dropbox, it does support the ones I use – Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac OS X and iOS.
However, its Mac client isn’t as good as Dropbox’s client, and this is the first reason why (spoiler alert!) I’m not going to ditch Dropbox. Sure, it does the same basic job of synchronising the content of a folder to the cloud, but without any status icons on each file informing you of its state. So whereas Dropbox shows you which files have been successfully uploaded, and which are still pending, with OneDrive you’re in the dark.
Dropbox’s other useful feature is photo importing. Now OneDrive is happy to import the contents of my phone automatically – as is Dropbox, and indeed Google+ and most recently Flickr in its version 3.0 update released yesterday. But on the desktop? Not so much. With Dropbox, I can put the SD card from my SLR camera into my Mac, and have it automatically import the new photos, which saves me the effort of doing it manually.
There’s also the issue of third-party app integration. OneDrive does have an open API and integration with sites like IFTTT, but not to the same extent as Dropbox. For example, I use Dropbox to keep my 1Password keychain in sync between my devices. If I didn’t use Dropbox, then I’d either have to use iCloud (which wouldn’t work on Windows) or over a local Wifi connection (no use at work). I suppose I could switch to using another service like LastPass instead, but I’ve already paid for the individual 1Password apps and like using them.
I also use Dropbox for collaboration – Christine and I had a shared wedding folder for planning our wedding, which was really helpful. OneDrive does this as well but I’d also have to convert Christine over as well.
So really, I can’t use OneDrive as a drop-in replacement for Dropbox. I could cancel my pro subscription for Dropbox, and drop back to being a free user for those services that need it. But then OneDrive makes it more difficult to upload photos and that’s the main reason why I pay for extra space in Dropbox. And I’d have to run both the Dropbox and OneDrive clients simultaneously and remember which one has which documents in it.
As much as Dropbox is the more expensive option, for me, it’s the better service.