OneDrive vs Box: Which is best?

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(Image credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash)

In days gone by, companies would store their data on servers that would occupy vast spaces of their offices. With access to the Internet, these hard drives can now be located elsewhere, freeing up office space while helping to decrease an organization’s capital outlay.

This has opened up the door to a whole new type of problem, though, as tens of companies bid to make their offerings the best in the business. With each tailoring its own experience to customers in terms of pricing, encryption, and storage space - just to name a few variables - making an informed decision is key.

In this head-to-head we weigh up Microsoft OneDrive against Box, delving into what it is they offer, how they perform, and most importantly, their costs.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Box: Features

OneDrive is considered to be the default option for many Windows users - both of which are Microsoft products - if for nothing else but its deep integration into the operating system and the everyday tasks a user is likely to encounter. 

The cloud-based storage solution runs in conjunction with Microsoft’s suite of Office apps, the most relevant of which being Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and while these aren’t the only file type supported, features such as auto-save make them the most obvious choice for productivity. That said, it’s refreshing to see Windows offering support for competitor file types, such as Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, as well as plenty of other common file types like PDFs, images, and videos.

For the best experience, users should install the desktop client which handily syncs in the background with no input needed from the user (beyond saving the file in the right place). This also allows users to open and edit non-Microsoft files (such as those mentioned by Apple, or Photoshop templates, for example) with minimal fuss. 

Yes, there is browser-based access to OneDrive, but this is where things become more limited. Online editing is limited to Microsoft’s own suite of products, so you’ll need to be using apps like Word unless you’re prepared to download non-native files and re-upload them after making changes.

There are iOS and Android apps, too, so getting access to your files shouldn’t be an issue wherever you are, as long as you have access to the Internet or you have downloaded files for offline use on your mobile device. 

Much like Microsoft OneDrive, Box integrates support for Office 365 apps, however these make up just a handful of the more than 1,500 apps supported by the cloud storage drive, including Slack, Adobe, Google Workspace, Airtable, DocuSign, and even automation service IFTTT. This all helps to make Box a really powerful tool for companies that rely on various technologies to get their work done. 

That said, the desktop client somewhat lets Box down. If you’re expecting it to sync files across your entire computer, then you may be disappointed. It instead occupies a single folder which you can place anywhere in your File Explorer or Finder window. That said, if you’re prepared to make that one extra (small) step of opening the correct folder, you can store all manner of documents within it and there’s nothing stopping you from setting up folders for photos, videos, documents, and so on to mirror the setup you may already be used to locally on your hard drive.

Team management features are spot on, too, with controls for file access, live collaboration, and history. Sharing both within and outside of an organization is about as easy as it gets, too.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Box: Performance

Unlike the Box desktop client, OneDrive’s computer software does allow for user control of the network usage. Options include unlimited, an automatic limit, or a custom limit where the user can set a predetermined maximum bandwidth allowance, in KB/s. The closest Box comes to this is a warning on its mobile apps when uploading or downloading files over 20MB on mobile data.

In our testing, both pieces of software managed to upload a 1GB test file in around five minutes with a 35Mbps upload speed, which is fairly average. Box downloaded the same file in less than two minutes using a 300Mbps connection, which again is a fairly average time compared with other cloud drives we have tested. OneDrive took a little longer, however we suspect this might be more to do with the reliability of our connection rather than internal throttling, given the access to advanced throttling controls.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Box: Support

Microsoft OneDrive comes with access to a huge number of self-help articles which are great for troubleshooting easy-to-fix concerns, however we were disappointed with how hard it was to get live help. Buried deep inside several menus we were able to send off an email, and while response times are reported to be quick, we would prefer to see other options like live chat. Phone support is somewhere in there, too.

Box also benefits from a whole range of self-help articles, though these are combined with community threads too so not every solution will have come from Box themselves. Handily, there’s email, phone and chat support, so it should be easy for users to get support in a timely manner.

Overall, neither cloud service makes it particularly easy to get real-time support, which is a shame.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Box: Pricing

There’s not a lot that separates these in terms of the plans that are available: both offer free cloud storage options as well as bigger paid-for accounts for personal and business users. Pricing does vary slightly, and depending on which sort of user you are, this could sway your decision somewhat.

OneDrive’s free account comes with 5GB of storage and the full range of features, including online editing, sharing, the ability to keep desktop files in the cloud to save on space, and 30 days’ version history. Box comes with twice as much space - 10GB - however it does compromise with one one file version available and a 250MB file size limit.

OneDrive’s cheapest paid plan provides 100GB of space for $1.99 (£1.99) per month, which is significantly cheaper than Box’s cheapest paid plan which also provides 100GB of space (and an increased file size limit of 5GB compared with the free plan), for $14 (£11) per month. 

Individual OneDrive users can opt for 1TB of storage and access to Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Skype for $6.99 (£5.99) per month, while Family plans provide 1TB for up to six people for $9.99 (£7.99) per month.

There are no other personal plans for Box users beyond the 100GB plan, and because it’s significantly more expensive than the equivalent OneDrive plan, it can be hard to recommend.

In terms of business users, there are three OneDrive plans offering 1TB per user and a fourth plan with unlimited storage space. Depending on whether you want access to Office apps and other collaboration tools, you can expect to pay between $5 (£3.80) and $12.50 (£9.40) per user per month, however the OneDrive-only subscriptions require an annual commitment. All other business and personal accounts are priced monthly, with savings to be had for users who opt to pay annually.

Business users considering Box’s services will pay $7 (£5.50) per month for 100GB of space, or between $20 (£16) and $47 (£37.50) per month for unlimited storage, each tier adding higher file size limits, extra app integrations,§ and additional security measures. There is also an Enterprise Plus plan which comes with customized pricing. Business Box accounts require a minimum of three users.

Regardless of plan - personal or business - Box users can save around 25% by paying annually, which does make things more attractive.

Microsoft OneDrive vs Box: Verdict

With so many cloud storage solutions offering slightly different propositions, there’s never a clear winner, with each product appealing to a different audience. That said, OneDrive will likely be more popular thanks to its deep integration with computers (especially those running Windows OS) and its own range of apps that it calls Microsoft Office. 

Box, on the other hand, is especially appealing for its 1,500+ app integrations, including Microsoft’s Office, which can be handy for companies working with a wide range of software to get their work done. That said, OneDrive’s competitive pricing makes it a hard one to ignore.

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!