The Best Cloud Sync Storage Services
Cloud 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?
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.
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
|Cost per year for 100GB||$60||$50||$150||$200||No 100GB option
50GB is $100
|File transfer encryption||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Share files and folders||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Apps||PC, Mac, Android,
|PC, Mac, iOS,
|PC, Mac, Android,
|PC, Mac, Android,
|PC, Mac, iOS|
✔ Editor's Choice: SugarSync