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The Best Cloud Sync Storage Services

posted by on April 25, 2012 in Guides & Reviews :: 25 comments

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cloud storage conceptCloud sync services not only store copies of your important files online, they also keep your files synced across all of your computers and make them available to your mobile devices. There are a number of very good services already available to consumers, my favorites being DropBox and SugarSync. This week, two Internet giants introduced their own sync services: Google with its Google Drive and Microsoft with its revamped SkyDrive.

Apple's iCloud offers syncing, too, but with very limited functionality compared to the others. For instance it doesn't track versions of your files or let you share individual files or folders like the other services.

So how do these major services compare?

The Basics

When evaluating a cloud sync service, there are a few key features you really shouldn’t do without.

Encryption: All of the top services encrypt your data while en route from your computer to their servers (look for the "https" in the url) and some will store it encrypted on their servers.

Versioning: When you use a sync service, only the most recent copy of a file is visible on your computers. Services that have versioning let you open files at prior save points. Usually you can go back and access at least the five prior save point. Some services will only save copies for 30 days.

File/Folder Sharing: If you’re working on a group project or want to share a photo or an album of photos with friends and family, you’ll need file and folder sharing. Most services will let you designate whether a person can only read a file or folder or if they can change and upload files.

PC, Mac and Mobile Apps: You’ll want a service that covers all of the computers in your home and business, as well as those you collaborate with, if you’re going to share files. You’ll also want the ability to access your files from your mobile devices. Most services let you view, download and email your files from within their mobile apps.

The Extras

In addition to price, these are the features, or lack thereof, that will ultimately lead you to the best choice.

Selective Sync: You may not want to sync every file that resides on your cloud sync service with every computer. As its name suggests, Selective Sync lets you decide which folders and files you want to sync on a per machine basis.

Sync Outside Service Folder: Many services create a folder on your computer where you must place all of the files you want to sync. A few services let you designate folders outside of the main service folder to sync. If you want to sync files from a program that wants to save files in a particular location, this is particularly useful.

Media Streaming: A few services allow you to listen to music or watch videos streamed from their servers. That means you don’t have to save those large TV show and movie files to your mobile device if you have a high-speed data connection.

So which service is right for you? Google Drive and Microsoft’s SkyDrive offer lower prices on expanded storage than, DropBox and SugarSync, and most of their features, but not all. Check out the chart below to see which service meets your needs.

 Site Google Drive Microsoft SkyDrive SugarSync DropBox iCloud
Free Storage 5GB 7GB new users,
25GB existing users
 5GB  2GB 5GB
Cost per year for 100GB $60  $50  $150  $200 No 100GB option
50GB is $100
File transfer encryption  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes Yes
Versioning  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes No
Sync outside
service folder
 No  Yes  Yes  No No
Selective sync  Yes  No  Yes  Yes No
Share files and folders  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes No
Apps PC, Mac, Android,
(iOS coming)
PC, Mac, iOS,
Windows Phone
PC, Mac, Android,
BlackBerry, iOS
PC, Mac, Android,
iOS, BlackBerry
PC, Mac, iOS
Media Streaming  No  Yes  Yes  Yes Yes

Editor's Choice: SugarSync


Discussion loading


From Thomas Dorrkamp on April 25, 2012 :: 10:58 am

Sorry, but SugarSync has no App for Windows Phone. You should correct that. They only have an app for the old Windows Mobile System.


Thanks, Thomas. Corrected!

From Suzanne Kantra on April 25, 2012 :: 4:11 pm

Thanks, Thomas. Corrected!


Dropbox has no storage encryption!

From Ian on April 25, 2012 :: 12:56 pm

Files are stored “as-is” in Dropbox, they are not encrypted. Only the communication is encrypted! However, there are some 3rd-party tools, like BoxCryptor.


Dropbox states, "Dropbox uses modern

From Suzanne Kantra on April 25, 2012 :: 1:14 pm

Dropbox states, “Dropbox uses modern encryption methods to both transfer and store your data.”


Live Mesh

From Jeremy N on April 25, 2012 :: 4:08 pm

Why is Windows Live Mesh left out of the discussion?  It’s very much live sugarsync.  Hardly anyone ever mentions it as a competitor, and I’m curious why.


It's true, Live Mesh is

From Suzanne Kantra on April 26, 2012 :: 5:08 pm

It’s true, Live Mesh is not well known, and it hasn’t helped that Microsoft has changed its name numerous times. Live Mesh has some great features, including direct pc-to-pc sync and individual folder selection, which SkyDrive doesn’t offer. But Live Mesh has limited cloud storage capabilities. It’s also speculated that Microsoft will be stopping support of Live Mesh ad migrating users over to SkyDrive. But for those looking for a pc-to-pc sync solution, Live Mesh is a great (free) choice.


Sugarsync and SyncBlaze

From Terry on April 26, 2012 :: 2:04 am

I go with the Editor’s choice of Sugarsync as its great for personal purposes. The comparison chart looks neat but it would really be useful with the addition of Box. Getting out of consumerization, we would recommend Syncblaze for business users as it really adds value to business productivity.


are these also backup alternatives?

From Michael on April 26, 2012 :: 9:27 am

are some of these services redundant with an online backup service such as carbonite or mozy?

would one need both?


backup alternatives

From Steve on April 26, 2012 :: 10:45 am

I would also like a carbonite and mozy comparrison.


Duplication Bloat Creep

From Aron Lasky on April 27, 2012 :: 8:56 am

Is anyone else starting to see duplicate file bloat?
What I mean is, the problem with these cloud sync services that are based on you putting your files in there own sync folder…
Well, if you are like me and have a SkyDrive, DropBox, now Google Drive… each requiring you put the files you want synced into there individual sync folders…
Now I have THREE duplication’s on an already full C drive (yes, I am able to put SkyDrive and DropBox on D drive. But that’s not really my point).
Three duplication’s! Really? Why can’t these sync services do like SugarSync (and I only mention SugarSync because they don’t care where your files are, which is a GREAT model. I don’t particularly like SugarSync as a company) and let you select the folders you want to sync from anywhere on your local system. Obviously it is possible. Is there an issue with version control or some other head-butting that could happen between services? If so, it is because there have not been any standards established yet. There is no one protocol for working nicely together. We need a ‘third-party’ to establish some protocols!



From Thom on October 28, 2012 :: 9:33 am

I apologies for this as this response is late but your hit a few chords with me.  I have tried Sugarscync and spideroak.  Both failed for what i want to do.  Can i bother you to see if you know of something that might work for our office.

PS i can email but all other (tweet,facebook) is a little foreign to me.


Can i bother you to see if you know of something that might work for our office.

From Aron on October 28, 2012 :: 10:51 am

Thom, I would be happy to help out, if I can. I certainly have been around the block a few dozen times with various services.
What, exactly, are your office requirements?


We have a small office

From Thom on October 28, 2012 :: 10:57 am

We have a small office with a ton of data.  A few employees are trying to work remotely.  We can use a remote service but i thought it would be better to sync to the cloud easier.  This would also provide an offsite backup. We started with spideroak and I cannot remember why but it did not work for us.
We just canceled our sugarsync because it would sync okay but it does not handle quickbooks pro and other data bases.  Also if someone is in the file at the time of sync it will remove the file from our server.

We have not used drop box but what i have gathered is that it would have to have it’s own folder and i am not going to move my data to that.

Any advise on this would be greatly appreciated.


Can i bother you to see if you know of something that might work for our office.

From Aron on October 28, 2012 :: 11:13 am

The problem, in your case, is going to be the ‘live’ working environment (ie Quickbooks, etc.).
I would suggest a VPN (Virtual Personal Network) such as LogMeIn Pro. This will create a mapped (an actual drive letter based network connection) location for the remote user on their computer. It would act the same as if they were right there in your office on the network. Being a VPN, you have the security factor.
I would then use CrashPlan to run after-hours cloud-based backups, as well as traditional local back-ups. You can also use LMI (LogMeIn) to run traditional backups to, say, your home computer as an additional level of protection.
If you have project-related data (spreadsheets, PDF’s, etc) that you need to make available to clients or a sales team, you could use the paid version of DropBox, with the DB folder residing on a drive with lot’s of space.
Unfortunately, in my experience, I have not found any one service that can deal with all these issues safely or reliably.
I hope this helps some.

What about CrashPlan?

From Alisa on April 30, 2012 :: 11:32 am

What about CrashPlan?


What about CrashPlan?

From Aron Lasky on April 30, 2012 :: 11:45 am

I use CrashPlan, and it’s an excellent backup service. It is not, however, a cloud PC sync or project collaboration service (like Drive, Dropbox, SugarSync, SkyDrive, etc.).
But, I like CrashPlan. It serves well as a backup, especially when something fouls with a collaborative sync file, versioning issues, etc. I can restore from a year back with CrashPlan.



From Ralph Freshour on August 09, 2012 :: 10:43 am

Are you sure SkyDrive data is encrypted on their servers? I read that their data is not encrypted but perhaps I read something out of date?


You're correct. The encryption is

From Suzanne Kantra on August 18, 2012 :: 2:06 pm

You’re correct. The encryption is just between your computer and their servers. If you want your files stored encrypted, try BoxCryptor (it’s free for personal accounts). It works with SkyDrive and you can still access your files from your mobile devices with the BoxCryptor mobile app.


Dropbox selective sync

From Novak on September 12, 2012 :: 10:32 am

I think listing Dropbox as having selective sync capabilities should come with a warning.  Selectively syncing a folder doesn’t simply stop syncing it with the dropbox cloud, it also deletes the folder from your computer - without warning.  Although not entirely unuseful (reclaiming disk space) it is certainly an unintuitive feature.  I am not sure how this compares to the other cloud sync programs.


Dropbox selective sync, deleting non-synced folders

From Aron on October 28, 2012 :: 12:06 pm

Personally, I have not found this to be true. When I configure Selective Sync to stop syncing a particular folder, it does not delete the local folder or the cloud-based on either. It just stops syncing, at which point I can delete either the local copy without affecting the remote one, or vice-versa. If you delete either the local or remote copy prior to un-selecting it from Selective Sync, and allowing the DB app to update the configuration, then yes, it will delete them.



From Monica Svenmarck on January 11, 2013 :: 4:02 am

Just want to throw CloudMe into the mix as well. Ticks all the boxes for a quality syncing service. Since it’s based in Sweden, makes a great European alternative for those concerned about the Patriot Act.


Had Problems with Some of These Products

From RalphF on January 11, 2013 :: 6:30 pm

(1) I used to use Carbonite until I had to do a restore…what a night mare trying to figure that one out…way too confusing interface along with multiple backed copies of the files…just a night mare to restore one file so I closed my account.

(2) Sugarsync worked fine for about 2 weeks then stopped syncing…could not get it to sync again so closed that account.

(3) With Dropbox I had the same problem as Sugarsync after a week or so.

I’ve been using SkyDrive and encrypting using Boxcryptor and so far after about 6 months this combination has worked flawlessly.


Cool Cloud Syncing App

From Mark Brazeau on May 10, 2013 :: 12:50 pm

Hi Suzanne,

I read your storage syncing article and thought you might be interested in test-driving SkySync ( and sharing your thoughts. 

It syncs clouds as well as a bunch of other really cool and productive stuff.

Many Thanks- Mark


sugarsync is flawed

From chris on May 25, 2013 :: 12:51 am

You should note that sugarsync does not, and will not backup .PST files.  They spoke in 2010 about adding the support, but never did a thing about it.


Traditional Cloud File Sharing Problematic With QuickBooks

From Chris Wise on March 26, 2014 :: 1:55 pm

Traditional file share resources do not work well with QuickBooks. As an alternative, please visit the website for Qbox and read about an application that was designed to work specifically with QuickBooks. (in addition to a handful of other file types)

With Q Box, accountants and their client’s continue to use the same desktop version of QuickBooks. However, using Q Box, they have a locally hosted copy of the file that is continually synchronized with their remote client’s copy. In other words, no more sending QBW files back and forth, no more screen sharing, no expensive cloud hosting and no more downloading/uploading of QuickBook files.

With Qbox, there is also a locking technology that avoids the creation of conflicting copies. Additionally, if you ever do end up with corrupted file (unrelated to Qbox) Qbox keeps ten different versions (updates) of the file so you can easily restore a previous copy with just a few clicks.

Additionally, transmitted data is encrypted as is data at rest.


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