SugarSync vs Dropbox
Online file storage services are continually increasing in popularity. Gone are the days of frustration at not being able to share documents, photos and other files with work colleagues or friends who are sitting on the other side of the globe. Gone also are the old limitations once posed by file sizes being too large to send. File synchronization services simply make all of these issues things of the past.
Two leaders in the file synchronization and online backup industry are Dropbox and SugarSync. As competitors, there is always going to be a healthy rivalry prevailing between the two. I used trial versions of both, and found each of them to be excellent. This article provides an unbiased examination of the advantages and occasional disadvantages of each service. I’ll also explain the ultimate reasons behind my eventual decision to go with SugarSync.
|Price||$4.99 – $39.99||$9.99 – $49.99|
|Mobile Access (Compatible Website)|
|Mobile App||iPhone, iPad, Android||iPhone, iPad, Android|
|Customer Support||Email, phone, live chat||Only email|
|Security||128-bit encryption used||256-bit encryption used|
- Customer Support – In addition to email support, phone, live chat and a comprehensive FAQ, there is a huge amount of pop-ups and help texts to guide you within the actual program.
- Automatically Created Folder – Easy to use “Magic Briefcase” folder. Simply drag and drop the files you wish to sync.
- Support for Various Platforms – Works on Windows and OS X and has applications for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Symbian apps and Windows Mobile.
- Free Storage Allowance – 2 GB, available for unlimited time period (not just a trial offer).
- Security – 128-bit AES encryption.
- Customer Support – Email support and a comprehensive FAQ.
- Automatically Created Folder – Easy to use folder serves as a portal/connector for online file sharing.
- Support for Various Platforms – Apps are available for Android, iPhone and iPad, and the service will work on Windows, OS X and Linux.
- Free Storage Allowance – 5 GB.
- Security – 256-bit AES encryption.
Ease of Use
As file syncing services, SugarSync and Dropbox are similar in many regards. However, one area in which SugarSync has a slight edge over Dropbox is its ease of use. The main thing that struck me was the amount of guidance provided to me during my first experience with the service. With plenty of online help and tutorials, there are also a large number of pop-ups, help texts, arrows and markers that continually appear within the program itself. SugarSync even calls the walkthrough on its mobile app a ‘game’, which I found quite appealing!
This constant guidance from the pop-ups, etc, led me to a pretty clear understanding of the service within about in half an hour. To be honest, the whole thing seemed so intuitive that I would have been able to manage quite well, even without all of the prompts. My orientation experiences with Dropbox definitely took more time than this, coming in at around an hour.
How to Share Files
Upon installation, both SugarSync and Dropbox automatically create a folder that serves as an easy portal or connector for all file sharing. SugarSync have a catchy name for theirs: ‘The Magic Briefcase’. Once you or any of your synced clients place a document in this folder, it automatically becomes available for all other synced clients. This availability happens even if you are personally offline. When you go online, you can find the file in your Magic Briefcase folder until it is removed.
You can also add files and folders from your computer to SugarSync directly. The file will by default become available to all the synced accounts but you won’t have a copy of the same. When you drop it in the Magic Briefcase folder, however, you have a backup of it on your website as well (which is username.sugarsync.com).
SugarSync also has a very convenient ‘Get Public Link’ feature for sharing files online. First, you drag and drop a file either on your personal SugarSync web page or directly onto the SugarSync folder on your computer. Once done, right click on the file or folder you wish to share, and choose ‘Get Public Link’. This will copy a unique link into your clipboard that becomes the address of the file you wish to share.
Now, simply forward the link to whomever you wish to share your file with. This will grant them direct access to the file or folder. If you wish to make any changes to shared files, you can do so without needing to generate another public link. Alterations to the contents of publicly linked files are automatically updated. If you wish to remove the public link, simply right click on the file again and choose ‘Disable Link’.
Both Dropbox and SugarSync also enable you to share files using email. You can grant users read-only or read/write access. I prefer Dropbox here, because it doesn’t require your recipient to have their own Dropbox account if they are simply viewing a read-only file. With SugarSync, however, you need to be signed up to an account to get access to any sort of files at all, even those with a ‘public’ link. While this extra hassle may not appeal to many, I cannot deny the fact that this ensures security of the documents. You can also find a way around this if you are sharing photos. Just use the ‘Public Album’ feature in SugarSync, and anyone will be able to view your images.
As far as data backup is concerned, SugarSync also allows you to manage the specific existing folders on your computer that you would like copied, such as the Desktop, My Computer, My Documents, My Videos, My Music and My Photos. The ‘Express Setup’ option will sync all of these folders automatically, or you can choose ‘Advanced Setup’ which allows you to make your own custom settings.
Remote Access to Files
Both services allow you to upload and share files and folders by directly using the web (once you are logged in to your account), by email or even with a mobile phone application. This breadth of access is really very handy when you are away from your personal computer. Once you have uploaded a file, it remains on the designated folder on the web, even if you are offline. It’s a very convenient back up tool.
I find both services pretty straightforward, but the interface of SugarSync’s website feels slightly more user-friendly to me, which is important as I’m often away from my desk. Files are always backed up to my personal online page (username.sugarsync.com, as mentioned previously). There are various access options available too: you can put files in the Magic Briefcase to make them accessible to all the synced users, or just use your Web Archive to make them accessible only to those that are synced to the cloud. You can also have folders that only you can access, either from your main computer or one of your other devices. Personally, I like that a range of security options is available.
Uploading photos to SugarSync or Dropbox via your phone is simple, as both services have mobile apps. You simply take a picture or shoot a video and then, once in the app, you are able to upload them for sharing. Syncing and sharing via email is equally easy- all you need to do is enable it under your account settings.
The platform support provided to the SugarSync users is quite extensive. It works on Windows and OS X and has applications for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Symbian apps and Windows Mobile. Dropbox also covers a variety of platforms, although the list is not as extensive as SugarSync’s: apps are available for Android, iPhone and iPad, and the service works on Windows, OS X and Linux.
Sharing Large Files and the Issue of Storage Space
I think the main advantage of both the SugarSync and Dropbox systems is that ultimately you can share far larger folders and files than you could ever send to somebody with a normal email account. Either one of these services is a must if you are looking to share music or videos with someone in another location. SugarSync’s free service pips Dropbox at the post, because it allows storage space of up to 5 GB, whereas Dropbox’s free allowance is only 2 GB. Also, there is no ‘trial period’ on offer with SugarSync. If you only need 5 GB of space, you’re entitled to that storage amount, free of charge, forever. That’s quite an enticement. Of course, any storage limits can be increased if you decide to become a paid member. Even though SugarSync offers more total storage space in its free service, it’s well worth noting, however, that Dropbox allows you to share individual files up to 1 GB in size, whereas SugarSync does have a size limit of 25 MB.
With Dropbox, you can also increase your space (initially 2 GB) by making use of the referral programme. Once you send an invitation to a friend asking him or her to join Dropbox, and actually have them join, you get 500 MB of space as a free reward. The Free Version of SugarSync also comes with the same facility. More friends get you more storage!
Another factor to consider is that, with the free version of SugarSync, you can only make two systems sync with the free version, but when you consider that you can keep your free account forever, this does not seem too bad. Should you wish to increase your options, their Starter Plan gets you a space of 30 GB at the rate of $4.99 a month. You save $10 if you choose to opt for SugarSync’s yearly service. That charges you $49.99 a year for 30 GB of space.
They also offer a ‘Power User’ plan, which is $9.99 month for a space of 60 GB. There are further options that will take you right up to 500 GB of space, which costs you $49.99 for a month. Added to this, there are several business plans, where you can share your space with other users as per the plan you choose.
On the other hand, Dropbox offers 50GB for $9.99/month or $99.00/year. Their plans goes up to 100GB for $19.99/month or $199.00/year.
The best recommendation I’ve heard regarding the security of anything shared online is simply to use caution about the people you share your data with in the first place. If anything is highly confidential, do not create public links as a way to share this data, as something as simple as a link can easily fall into the wrong hands. This seems like common sense, but it bears repeating.
When you consider this, no file synchronization service can guarantee foolproof security. Both SugarSync and Dropbox use a high level of encryption, however. In many cases, your files are safer from hackers when they are in the folders of SugarSync or Dropbox than they are on your own computer! SugarSync uses 128-bit encryption, which is the same level of security that a bank uses. Dropbox doubles this, with 256-bit encryption. With SugarSync, I’m quite convinced that if there were a breach of security on my files it would be because of something I did myself, and not the fault of SugarSync. However, Dropbox has had a security breache in the past, while no such incidents have been reported about SugarSync. Reminder: in June 2011, Dropbox had a security breach which lead to a disaster. Anyone could login to any account without a password. This breach continued for a few hours.
SugarSync also uses one additional strategy to keep your files safe. A non-SugarSync user is unable even to view read-only items in your account, even if they have the public link to the file.
The websites of both the SugarSync and Dropbox services have FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sections where you can look up the answers to your questions. If your questions do not match the queries put up there, you can mail your questions and they will be attended to promptly by customer service officers. SugarSync also offers phone support and live chat. In my opinion, there is not a lot of difference between SugarSync and DropBox in this regard. However, given how complete the inbuilt guidance is with SugarSync, I feel I’d be less likely to need help from customer service when using it!
Speed Throttling – Available with SugarSync but not Dropbox
One final point worth mentioning is that SugarSync boasts something called a ‘Speed Throttling System’, enabling you to increase or decrease the speed of uploading files as needed. This is not applicable to downloads, of course. The speed with which you can download the file(s) depends entirely on your broadband connection. Speed Throttling is located under the ‘Preferences’ option. SugarSync also gives you fantastic proxy support, with regard to this option.
After all of this discussion, if asked which service I’ve chosen for my own online storage and backup needs, my honest answer is SugarSync. Compared with Dropbox, it has a couple of extra features, as I’ve discussed. Also, the free package gives you larger storage space, and their proxy support is more detailed than what I found was the case with Dropbox. SugarSync allows you to back up any folder on the computer, and similarly, you can choose any file or folder from the computer to sync. The ‘Magic Briefcase’ feature feels very intuitive to use. Additionally, the ‘Get Public Link’ feature is great for sharing files online, and you can also upload and sync files and folders using email.
Of course, there are certain limitations with public sharing on SugarSync, but I think these seem fine when you consider the question of security. Overall, it’s extremely user friendly and very easy to manage. I feel that it is very much made for the common user, and I can even add files to it from my iPhone with no worries at all. Every step has a help text if needed, which leads you to a perfectly smooth journey with SugarSync.
I strongly advise you to check out SugarSync.com.
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