Cloud

Microsoft cuts OneDrive storage, here are 3 cloud alternatives

Recently, Microsoft limited the storage options for its OneDrive users. Here's how you can use Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive as an alternative.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

In early November 2015, Microsoft announced plans to reduce OneDrive storage limits. Customers on Office 365 Home, Personal, or University plans will see storage limited to 1 TB, while free OneDrive users will see storage decrease from 15 GB to 5 GB. Microsoft will offer a new paid storage upgrade to 50 GB of storage for $1.99 a month. The changes won't impact customers with other plans.

So, if you need more storage, what are your options?

Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive are three viable alternatives. All offer some degree of integration with Microsoft Office apps and file formats, and all offer Android and iOS mobile apps.

The services' histories vary, though. Dropbox provided a storage system for iOS apps before the iCloud era. Box built enterprise-friendly file security and controls. Google Drive created world-class document collaboration capabilities.

Here's a brief comparison of these services with a focus on storage limits, pricing, and Microsoft Office app support, to help you choose an alternative.

Free Storage?

Google Drive offers 15 GB of storage free. Box provides 10 GB, Microsoft 5 GB, and Dropbox 2 GB. Remember, files you create in native Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings format don't count toward your storage total.

If you need the most free storage, choose Google Drive.

App and storage integration

OneDrive and Office work together, as much as Google Drive and Google Apps work together.

Microsoft Office also supports third-party storage systems. This means, for example, that you can add Dropbox as a "Place" within Word Online, then open and save Office files to—and from—Dropbox. That works well if you use Microsoft's web apps. Dropbox also offers support for Office files on iOS and Android.

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On a Windows system, Box and Google Drive both offer plug-ins that support storage integration with Microsoft Office desktop apps. Install the plug-in, then the added storage system shows up as an option when you want to open or save files in Office. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides offer the ability to open and edit Office files on the web and on mobile devices.

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Thanks to plugins and mobile support, you can use a combination of services. Keep your complex files on OneDrive to use with installed Microsoft Office apps. Store other documents on one of the other storage services. Or, sign up for all four and you can store a total of 32 GB free. The only challenge would be remembering which files you stored on each service.

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Large file support

Google Drive can store files as large as 5 TB, although file size limits are much lower for files that will be converted to Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Dropbox limits uploaded files from the web to 10 GB, but places no limit on desktop or mobile app upload size. OneDrive limits files to 10 GB. Box's file size limits vary with the account. Files uploaded to a free account must be 250 MB or less, while Business accounts limit uploaded files to 5 GB.

If you need to store extremely large files, choose Google Drive or Dropbox.

Paid storage plans

Google Drive and Dropbox both offer 1 TB of storage for $10 a month. The same $10 a month gets you 100 GB of storage at Box. All are larger, and more expensive, than the new OneDrive paid upgrade of 50 GB for $1.99 a month.

Notably, Microsoft will still provide people who subscribe to Office 365 Home, Personal or University plans 1 TB of OneDrive storage. And, Office 365 Home costs $9.99 per month.

If you need 1 TB of storage, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft all offer comparable storage capacities and pricing.

Ultimately, if you need unlimited storage, you'll need to switch to a business-class account. Google Apps Unlimited provides unlimited storage, and requires a minimum of five users at $10 per user, per month.

The Box Business level plan that provides unlimited storage requires a minimum of three users at $15 per user, per month. Dropbox offers an unlimited plan for a minimum of five users at $15 per user, per month.

Your choice

As of November 2015, the market price for cloud storage sits at about $10 per month for 1 TB of storage. The files and apps you use will determine which storage app—or apps—you choose.

All of the apps and offerings continue to evolve. Dropbox launched Paper. Box released Box Platform to help developers build new file workflows. Microsoft added collaboration capabilities to OneDrive. And, Google built and refined an app to serve teachers, Google Classroom, that relies on core Google Drive capabilities.

What do you think?

Will Microsoft's announcement affect the cloud storage service you use? Will you switch your storage to another vendor? Let us know in the comments.

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About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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