Why I went with MS OneDrive instead of DropBox or Google Drive (UPDATE: Actually, I didn’t)


Update 1
Update 2
Update 3

I’ve been working off of our departmental server for years – secure, and no need to worry about backing up – but on my last few trips trying to VPN in to get access to files was so slow it made it impossible to get work done.  So I decided look into other, cloud-based options for data storage and file sharing (like a lot of us I have files scattered across the server, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote).  I thought about upgrading to Dropbox Pro and buying additional storage on Google Drive (both $99 / year for a Tb of storage) but in the end I went with out Microsoft One Drive because of the following:

It can be a pain to go through multiple password submissions to get access, and I will have to try it out on my next trip to see what the speed is like (especially when using the online MS Word). But this seems like a good solution for us. And free is free. Any other good reasons of whihc people are aware? Concerns? Comments from users with experience using it?  My students say it’s been really great for them, especially when working from abroad.


Update 1 (29 July 2015): Finding a few big shortcomings in OneDrive (maybe Mac specific)

  • No transfer of entire folders from cloud-based service or departmental server – you can only make new folders on OneDrive and transfer individual files (in groups, but still).  This means if, like everyone, you have nested folders you need to keep drilling down to transfer files. Not gonna happen’
  • There may be a workaround using the OneDrive for business app…only it doesn’t exist anymore.  You can also transfer folders if they are in a Sync Folder on your desktop…
  • …but there’s no Dropbox-style Selective Sync of the subset of folders you want to use offline (this is for Mac OSX, there is one for Windows 10). That means you either sync the entire OneDrive to your desktop or work entirely in the cloud. There appears to be a workaround, but haven’t tried it. UFIT Confirms:

As for your last question, I have not been able to find an option in One Drive that will allow you to selectively sync only certain folders it seems that like you said it may only be available in the personal version. I hope this helps, please let us know if you have any other issues.

  • There is an MS for Mac program to do folder transfer, but UFIT Informs me:

The only option currently for Mac offered by Microsoft is the program that you linked, however please note that it is in Beta and not officially supported by UF so it may or may not work. You will need to log in with a microsoft account since it is not a UF supported service and the download is through their site, but be aware that we have heard of clients having issues with this program, so if you decide to use it please make sure you have all your data backed up and secured separately. The only assured way to do this type of transfer would be to log into  http://uflorida.onedrive.com and manually upload the files one by one. I know this may be tedious but at this time we do not know of a better option.



Update 2 (4 August 2015):

  1. Still struggling to sort this out. Turns out there’s a 20K limit on the number of files we can store in our UF OneDrive allocation. I have >77K files = problem.
  2. We coincidentally got this email from the Director of IT:


I previously sent this message to UF/IFAS IT staff, but it’s probably appropriate for everyone to see.  DropBox and Google Docs applications are not approved for UF Business use.  The following is from a PowerPoint from Cheryl Granto, UF Security and Compliance Office: http://www.it.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/RCDay-Nov2013-Granto.pdf.   The approved alternative for UF use is Microsoft OneDrive for Business.  More information about that is at http://www.it.ufl.edu/gatorcloud.  Contact your local IT support person for more information and assistance.

Summary of 10 days working on this:

  1. Great idea!
  2. Pain to use.
  3. There’s a work around!
  4. It’s in Beta and may lose all your stuff.
  5. I think I got it to work!
  6. It can store less than 1/3 of your stuff.
  7. There are alternatives that work for me!
  9. <insert Kafka reference here>


Update 3 (15 September 2015): I traded emails with our Director of IT, who was quite sympathetic and helpful.  Here is some of what was in the email:


I sympathize with your situation.

It’s unfortunate that Microsoft doesn’t support OS X as well as Windows…UF understands this and IT support is working with Microsoft to eliminate the file number limit and move the current beta Mac program to production.  There is another parallel effort going on to establish a business relationship with [Company X] so that security concerns are addressed and [Company X] can be approved for UF business.  There are still other options being offered or prepared: GatorBox and GatorVault (for HIPAA and other restricted data).  Storage costs for those options is $125 per terabyte per year.

OK, that sounds cool.  I looked into GatorBox,which basically Dropbox and it is great except for one thing:

Do not store sensitive data…this includes Student educational records, including grades, UFID, photos

In other words, none of the files related to teaching my classes at UF can be stored on the UF data storage solution.  Sigh.  I could use GatorVault instead, but because it is intended for sensitive data (HIPAA, FERPA) that means training.  That includes not just for me, but for anyone with whom I want to share files.  Like students. And collaborators. Even if the files themselves aren’t sensitive (e.g.,manuscripts).

  1. Return to Square 1. (again)
  2. <insert Kafka reference here (again)>


One thing I want to emphasize: Our IT team has been really supportive trying to find solutions – I don’t fault them at all, they are doing their best to help us find solutions that help us navigate the rules and policies the university has put in place.


Photo of UF by WillMcC (CC BY-SA 2.0)

7 thoughts on “Why I went with MS OneDrive instead of DropBox or Google Drive (UPDATE: Actually, I didn’t)

  1. Ethan White

    I don’t have any objection to you choosing OneDrive, but stating that it’s for security reasons seems problematic (unless I’m missing something, which has been known to happen from time to time :)).

    For anyone who is really worried about security something like SpiderOak (https://spideroak.com/) is a probably a better choice since you hold your own encryption keys.

  2. Shaun Le Roux

    Onedrive for business is a total waste of time at the moment. I have it in my corporation and its more of a hassle than anything ells. Sync failures for no apparent reason. To repair the sync failures you have to repair the Onedrive for business app and this resets everything, makes your current Onedrive for business folder a .old and re-syncs everything from the cloud. Some of my users have 20GB of stuff in it so that could take a day or two meaning they cant work. Drives me nuts having to repair all the time. Its not a trusted platform and Microsoft has to get with it. Its 2015 for goodness sake. This has now forced me to look at an alternative like Dropbox for business at an additional cost and more work. How can you sell something that doesn’t work. If it wasn’t for Office apps and Exchange Online I would have turfed it a long time ago. Go google it and see what people say on the forums. There are many angry people out there.

  3. Pingback: “A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it”: How are files organized on your computer? | The Bruna Lab | UF

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