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Reviews and expert opinion Microsoft OneDrive

Mark Holden Mark Holden Cloud Hosting Expert

Microsoft OneDrive is a well-known cloud storage solution with speedy backups and a user-friendly interface. Its free plan is very basic, but has access to features like Office for Web and Personal Vault. Premium plans can be a bit costly, but the pricing is affordable if your storage needs aren’t sizable.

Overview

You don’t have to know much about cloud storage to have heard about Microsoft’s popular OneDrive cloud storage solution. Chances are that you might have already used it because computers that run Windows 10 automatically include the OneDrive desktop app.

OneDrive makes it easy to store data with automatic backups and syncing, user-friendly interfaces for each of its apps, and useful features so you can access your data from almost anywhere. Even though it’s a popular solution, is OneDrive the right option for you?

I reviewed OneDrive’s various features, focusing on its ease of use, security options, performance, and other key areas to see if it lived up to expectations. I was impressed by quite a few of its offerings, but there were some areas that missed the mark.

5.0

Features

Simple, Reliable Cloud Storage Solution

Data Server Locations Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland, France, India, Japan, Brazil, Switzerland, UK, and US
Backup and Restore Options Continuous/scheduled backup, backup status reports, offline restore option
Limits and Restrictions Limits on file size and type, fair use limits, bandwidth throttling
Applications and Operating Systems Windows Server 2008 and later, Windows 7 and later, macOS X 10.12x and later, iOS and Android mobile apps
Encryption Keys AES-256 encryption, TLS 1.2 encryption, optional private encryption key
File Access Via web, desktop, and mobile apps, multi-device syncing
File Sharing

Selective File Syncing for Backups

OneDrive is designed to function as both cloud storage and a cloud backup. You can sync documents, videos, audio, and photos using any of OneDrive’s available apps – mobile, desktop, and web. That same data can be backed up, but only through the desktop app. I was a bit disappointed to discover that you can’t schedule backups with OneDrive.

Once you’ve started your sync, you can use the desktop app to select which files will appear on the device. I like this feature because it means you can connect multiple computers to OneDrive and decide which folders each computer has access to.

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You can choose which folders you want synced to your device

With a free plan, files over 250MB in size can’t be uploaded to OneDrive, but you can upgrade to a school or work account to remove this restriction. Temporary files and those with invalid file names are automatically exempt from uploading, which means backing up your entire computer system isn’t possible.

There’s an “in-house” backup option that will automatically back up your Documents, Photos, and Desktop folders. Unfortunately, these are the only folder options for backups. You’ll have to move any important files to these folders if you want them automatically backed up.

Two Levels of Data Retention (For Paid Plans)

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You can restore files from the Recycle Bin within 30 days of deletion

If you have a full Microsoft 365 subscription, you can use a feature called Files Restore to undo any actions that occurred within the last 30 days. This feature is especially helpful if your file has been deleted or corrupted. Without the subscription, you can restore files from the web app through OneDrive’s version history or from your account’s Recycle Bin.

With a personal account, your files are retained for 30 days – unless your Recycle Bin is full. If it is, the oldest files will be deleted after three days to make room for the newer (deleted) files.

If your account is school or work-related, you’ll have an automatic 93-day retention period. Files that are deleted from the OneDrive Recycle Bin before this time is up will go to the second-stage Recycle Bin, where they’ll remain until restored by an account administrator or removed at the end of the retention period.

Multiple Layers of Security

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OneDrive has multiple options for securing your data

The first step to managing your security settings with any service starts with you: a strong password for your account goes a long way. Once you’ve got this down, OneDrive has a few options for increased protection.

By adding multiple account verifications (a recovery email address, contact number, and security question), it’s possible for OneDrive to verify your account even if you’ve forgotten your password. Through the mobile app, you can set up two-factor authentication and enable mobile device encryption

OneDrive uses both AES-256 and TLS 1.2 encryption, which are industry standards, and operates under a zero-standing access policy. This means that your files are securely encrypted and OneDrive does not have access to your account unless you grant it.

If you’re a Microsoft 365 subscriber, you’ll have even more security with Defender, which is designed to keep you safe from viruses, scammers, cybercriminals, and ransomware. Microsoft also uses automated monitoring systems to scan for suspicious activity and goes to great lengths to ensure that server sites are operated by trusted, authorized technicians.

4.0

Ease of use

Easy Navigation and Straightforward UI

The user interfaces for OneDrive apps are intuitive, which makes navigation simple – especially if you’re new to cloud storage. Although it’s best used in tandem with Microsoft’s other products, it has a few separate features that are worth mentioning.

Create and Share Documents in One Portal

onedrive-screenshot-office-for-web
Use the web app to create and edit Office documents online

Office for Web lets you access popular tools like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote via your browser (although you won’t get full functionality). From your web dashboard, you can create Office for Web files and even plain text documents. This is a great option if you don’t have a Microsoft 365 subscription, but still need access to Microsoft Office.

Your documents are saved in OneDrive and can be viewed and edited from your account. The files can also be shared with collaborators, with editing-level access if necessary. If you have a premium account, you can set an expiration date and create a password for added security.

Access Cloud Files On Demand

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Check the Status column to see where files are stored and how they can be accessed

On Demand files can be stored “online” so they don’t use space on any of your hard drives. . Once you’ve opened an online file, it stores locally and becomes accessible offline. If you ever need to free up space, you can right-click on the file to return it to its online-only status. You can restore multiple files to the cloud at once by selecting them before performing the command.

A green checkmark under the Status column of a file indicates that it is stored locally, always available offline, and always kept on the device. This feature can be turned on and off via your desktop settings by choosing to download files as you use them.

A Folder for Your Most Private Files

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Your important documents can be kept in the Personal Vault for further security

For personal and family plans, OneDrive has a Personal Vault folder to store your most sensitive data. However, if you don’t have a paid plan, you’ll only be able to store up to three files in the vault at a time. Unfortunately, if you have a work, business, or school account, you won’t be able to access this feature at all.

To sign into your Personal Vault, you’ll need to provide a secure access code that OneDrive will use to verify your identity. Once inside your vault, you can view and edit your files as needed. You can manually lock your vault or wait for the program to lock it automatically. If you access the vault via the web, it will lock after 20 minutes of inactivity, but you can adjust these settings to up to four hours for your desktop and mobile apps.

Sync and Backup Files in Minutes

onedrive-screenshot-setting-up-your-account
Use the homepage to sign up and/or create a new email address

You’ll need to create a Microsoft email account in order to useOneDrive. I already have an Outlook email address, but I created a new one to test the process of setting up an account.

Once I created my new email, I was redirected to OneDrive, where I was able to download the desktop app. There is also a feature available where you can enter your US cell phone number and get a text with a link to download the mobile app.

After signing in, the files I added to the web app automatically synced to my desktop app. I had to reach out to support to figure out an issue I had backing up my Documents folder, but it was resolved after about 30 minutes of troubleshooting. Once I’d chosen the folders I wanted to back up, OneDrive did the rest. Within a few minutes, all of my uploaded files were accessible.

Backups and sync with OneDrive are automatic. You can’t schedule a backup through OneDrive, but maybe they’ll add this feature in the future.

4.5

Performance

Speedy Uploads

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My Wi-Fi speeds were relatively high during my upload tests

I wanted to see how long it took OneDrive to back up a 3.6GB folder that contained photos, videos, and documents. I decided to run three tests over the course of a few days, including one during the weekend, to see if there were any significant variations in the upload speed.

My Wi-Fi upload and download speeds before my tests averaged around 160Mbps. I have high-speed internet, but since I live in Trinidad and Tobago (at least 3,000 miles from the nearest server) I wasn’t sure how long my uploads would take.

onedrive-screenshot-upload-progress-bar
Use the progress bar to track your upload

My first test was on a Monday at 1:00 p.m. and took 5 minutes and 53 seconds. I then deleted the folder from OneDrive and ran another test on Friday at 4:30 p.m., which took even less time – 5 minutes and 27 seconds.

The last test I ran was on Saturday at 8:00 a.m. and the upload was finished in 5 minutes flat. To say I was impressed by these results is an understatement.

Fair warning: if you don’t have a high-speed internet connection, you may not experience such quick upload speeds. I was expecting my upload times to roll into the double digits. But as my results showed, none of my uploads took any longer than 6 minutes.

Uploading data on my phone was just as easy as using the web and desktop apps. My files uploaded with lightning speed, and I had the option to track my upload through a progress bar that showed up in my notifications.

After I ran my upload tests, I wanted to see how quickly the same 3.6GB file would take to restore to my computer. It took a bit longer than the uploads and finished in 18 minutes and 15 seconds. It was automatically downloaded as a zip file, but extracting the files is pretty straightforward.

Overall, I was satisfied with how well OneDrive handled both the backups and uploads, and the folder restore. But if your internet isn’t high-speed, you should anticipate slower upload and download times.

5.0

Privacy

Accessible Privacy Protocols

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OneDrive shares privacy settings with other Microsoft products

When it comes to privacy, OneDrive doesn’t disappoint. Your privacy settings can be managed via a handy privacy dashboard. Since Microsoft is its parent company, many of the privacy settings are not specific to OneDrive, but apply to any and all Microsoft products that you have.

Microsoft’s privacy policy outlines the protection protocols it uses behind the scenes, but it isn’t 100% clear on what data it collects. However, it does say that the collected data depends on how you use its services and your privacy settings. For example, you can turn off settings that allow the company to use your data for marketing and advertising.

Not all of your privacy options are available in the dashboard, but you can email Microsoft if you’d like to manage data that isn’t explicitly listed.

Microsoft is GDPR and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) compliant and, as a US-based company, must comply with intelligence alliances (like Five Eyes) and laws such as the Patriot Act.

4.0

Support

Helpful Articles, But Hit or Miss Chat Support

onedrive-screenshot-onedrive-help-and-learning-section
The help and learning section is great for resolving quick issues

There are a few methods that you can use to rectify any issues you may have with OneDrive. To answer the majority of my questions, I turned to the robust OneDrive help and learning section. But I did have to reach out to technical support via live chat for a Documents backup issue and to clarify the rules on private encryption keys.

My initial interactions with support weren’t great. The first support agent didn’t seem to understand my questions, so I ended the chat and started another one. The second agent was more competent but was stumped by my backup problem, so I was transferred to a third person, who was finally able to get my backup problem resolved. The agents were polite and professional, but the first two were definitely not as well-trained as the final support agent.

OneDrive also offers email and ticket support, and Microsoft has limited phone support from Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. PST. If you prefer social media, you can also tweet your grievances to Microsoft Support’s Twitter account, @MicrosoftHelps.

4.0

Pricing

Affordable Basic Plans, but Costly If You Have Large Storage Needs

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Depending on your needs, you may have to opt for a premium subscription

Since the free version of OneDrive only gives you 5GB of storage, you’ll have to upgrade if you have greater storage needs. The Microsoft 365 Personal plan has 1TB of storage, while the Family plan offers 6TB for up to 6 users. You can purchase these plans monthly or annually, but you’ll save more money with an annual subscription.

If you’re only interested in Microsoft OneDrive, you won’t be able to purchase an annual plan. The OneDrive Standalone plan has 100GB of storage and currently costs $1.99 per month. With this plan, you won’t have access to any of the other Microsoft products, but it’s a great option if you need an affordable paid storage solution.

You can’t purchase a OneDrive Standalone subscription for business. You’ll need to invest in at least a Microsoft 365 Business Basic plan, which has 1TB of data per user, with up to 300 users. If you’re an eligible student or teacher, you can get a free Microsoft 365 plan (and by default, a OneDrive subscription), but it may also be offered through your institution.

Microsoft OneDrive can be purchased with a credit or debit card (American Express, Mastercard, Visa, and Discover), or through a bank account, PayPal account, or mobile billing.

Comparison

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Microsoft OneDrive REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE

Microsoft OneDrive is a reliable cloud storage and backup solution that, quite literally, millions of users trust. As I reviewed its features and functionality, it became clear why this online storage service is so widely known and used. The user interface is beginner-level easy, so you don’t need any major technical skills to operate your data syncs or backups.

OneDrive’s free storage option lets you store 5GB of data – and even if you invest in a OneDrive Standalone plan, you won’t break the bank on your monthly fee. Plus, you can use your OneDrive account to access and edit Office 365 documents online at no extra charge.

There are drawbacks, of course. If you need more than 100GB of storage, plans can become expensive. And if you stick with the free plan, you’ll be limited to uploads of 250MB or less and won’t enjoy the perks of unrestricted access to Office 365.

Before you can decide if Microsoft OneDrive is right for you, you need to know what your needs are. If you have tons of data and don’t have a flexible budget, using OneDrive to store and sync your files may not be the best idea. However, if you want an affordable storage-only option or can shell out a bit more money for more space, then you should check out OneDrive’s plan options.

FAQ

Does OneDrive have unlimited storage?Yes, but only on Business plans – although it’s on a case-by-case basis and you’ll need at least 5 team members. For its other plans, Microsoft OneDrive does not offer unlimited storage. However, if you don’t have a need for unlimited storage, OneDrive’s Personal plan offers 1TB of space, which is often more than enough to back up all the files on your computer. If you do have greater storage needs, you’ll have to find another cloud storage solution or consider purchasing a 6TB family plan as the sole user.Is there a difference between online backup and cloud storage?Yes! When you back up your data online, you are saving it at that particular point in time in the virtual “cloud.” If you make any changes to that data, you’ll usually have to run another backup to ensure you always have the latest version of your files and folders. With cloud storage, your data is synced between your device and the servers and is continually updated every time a change is made. For example, if you write a paper, sync it to your cloud storage, and then make edits to it later, those edits are saved to every location where the paper has been synced to.When should you use cloud storage?Cloud storage is a great way to save space on your device. Once your data is stored in the cloud, you can remove it from local drives, but still have access to it whenever you need it. Cloud storage is also a good option if you need to protect your data from damage or need a fast way to restore your files, contacts, and downloads if you switch devices. Don’t decide on a cloud storage service until you’ve read our expert review on the Best Cloud Backup Services in 2022.How do I protect my cloud storage?The best way to protect your cloud storage is to set a strong password and keep this password safe. Many people experience cloud storage hacking because of poor password protection. Once you’ve set a strong and secure password, you can add other layers of security like two-factor authentication. Some cloud storage solutions allow you to password protect individual files or, like OneDrive, allow you to place sensitive data in a virtual vault. Managing your privacy settings is essential to ensuring the confidentiality of your data and the security of your personal information.

Mark Holden Mark Holden
Mark is a full stack web developer specializing in HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, and PHP. When he’s not busy building websites or geeking out over the latest addition to his ever-growing gadget collection, he enjoys playing drums for his progressive rock band. He can also make a mean Spanish omelet.

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