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SugarSync vs Dropbox : The Alternative You Never Asked For

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A feature-by-feature Dropbox vs. SugarSync comparison with screenshots.

  • Free storage – SugarSync: 5 GB, Dropbox: 2 GB
  • Dropbox allows you to share files up to 1 GB via public links or email. SugarSync limits it to 25 MB.
  • SugarSync has native support for music playback on the web and for smartphones. Dropbox requires a third-party app, such as groovyBox.
  • Many users report that Dropbox has faster upload / sync speeds than SugarSync.
  • Dropbox has been featured in the news for a few security SNAFUs. SugarSync hasn’t gotten any heat, but likely suffers from the same vulnerabilities. Best security practice for both: encrypt your important documents using or .

I’m a Dropbox man—always have been, always will be. So, when an assignment to review SugarSync came across my desk (not really, MrGroove didn’t give me a desk…), I raised a skeptical eyebrow. At first blush, SugarSync struck me as the Dropbox alternative that I never asked for. I must not be the only one who feels this way, because right there on the front page of SugarSync’s website is a link to a comparison chart between SugarSync vs. Drobpox and the  other cloud storage/folder syncing heavyweights: MobileMe, Box.net, Carbonite and Mozy.

As expected, most of the checkmarks were grouped beneath the first two columns, with SugarSync winning out with a few key features, namely: backup to any folder, upload/sync via email, selectively sync any folder, simple editing of files through the web, send files of any size, stream music to web browser or smartphone, business plans and support for BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile. Granted, this chart is somewhat dated, as Dropbox has closed the gap on at least the business plans front with Dropbox for Teams. But it seems like SugarSync has a couple things to offer that Dropbox doesn’t. So, without any further ado, here’s an investigation of what those differences are, and if they add up to SugarSync being a Dropbox killer.

Update:It’s been quite some time since I originally posted this review, and commenters have done a groovy job of chiming in with some great feedback and testimonials. See the update for a summary of this review and a roundup of some of the good points raised in discussion. Also, check out our Dropbox vs. Box.net review.

Update[2]: In this review, I note Dropbox’s inability to stream music as a playlist as one of it’s drawbacks compared to SugarSync. Well, we waited and waited for Dropbox to catch up with SugarSync and add this feature, but it still hasn’t happened. So, we made an app that does it for us. if you want to use your Dropbox account as a cloud music player.

Getting Started

SugarSync Free Plans

There is a lot in common between Dropbox and Sugarsync, simply because both of these champs got a lot of things right. You’ll notice many of these similarities from the get go, from the pricing tiers and storage allotments for the free version (which is kind of buried for SugarSync) to the friendly Getting Started tutorial which promises free additional storage for completing the steps and referring friends.  The lowest standard tier for SugarSync is the “Starter Plan” which comes with 30 GB of storage for $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. If you sign up for the year subscription, you are basically getting three months for free, since you get a 30 day free trial and savings of about $10 for subscribing for the whole year. If you need more space, you can upgrade to the Power Users plan, which starts at $9.99 a month for 60 GB and ranges up to $49.99 for 500 GB. There is also a Business plan, which gives you 100 GB of storage for up to 3 users for $29.99 a month. You can add storage 100 GB at a time for $29.99 per month, or add users for $9.99 each.

The free version gives you just 2 GB 5 GB of storage space and a few limitations, such as smaller file sizes for sharing, syncing for two machines only and only two backed up versions of each file, instead of five. But unlike the 30-day free trials, the 5 GB SugarSync plan is free forever.

SugarSync Getting Started

If it were possible to be more user-friendly than Dropbox, SugarSync achieves it. Not that getting started with Dropbox was like passing the Bar—it’s just that SugarSync has a lot more hand-holding, even going as far as calling the mobile app walkthrough a “game.” There are ample pop-ups, helper texts and arrows pointing you in the right direction such that you’ll be able to tap SugarSync’s full potential in a little under 30 minutes.

The initial setup let’s you choose a cutesy little avatar for each computer and gives you the option of an Express Setup or an Advanced Setup. Both are pretty foolproof. The main difference is that the Express Setup chooses some typical folders to sync, such as your Desktop, My Documents, My Pictures and Music. Advanced Setup just plops you into the SugarSync Manage Folders window, which is pretty easy, too.

Setting Up SugarSync

Backup to Any Folder – Merging Folders, Magic Briefcase and Synchronized Folders

The main reason why anyone is going to switch from Dropbox to SugarSync is the ability to sync multiple folders. This is something that Dropbox doesn’t support natively (yet), though you can pull it off with symlinks (see: Make Dropbox Sync Any Folder On Your PC Using Symbolic Links). Windows Live Mesh lets you do this, but it doesn’t really hold a candle to Dropbox or SugarSync in any of the other departments. So, SugarSync is a pretty good best of both worlds mix.

There are a couple ways you can manage synced folders with SugarSync. First off, SugarSync automatically creates a Magic Briefcase in your My Documents folder when you install the client. This syncs automatically across the web and locally on each synced machine with SugarSync installed. In this way, the Magic Briefcase is pretty much exactly the same as your main Dropbox folder would be—except with a name I really can’t take seriously (pull a rabbit out of it, and I’ll be a believer).

Now, when you add a folder from your computer to SugarSync, by default, your Synced Folder is accessible from other computers and your personal website (located at yourusername.sugarsync.com), but it won’t automatically create local copies on each machine (like the Magic Briefcase does). If you want to download files from remote machines, you can do so through your personal website or the SugarSync File Manager on a as-you-go basis.

If you want, you can take your regular Synced Folders and keep it synced on other machines, so it acts just like the Magic Briefcase. Do so in the SugarSync Manage Sync Folders dialog.

The differences between the types of folders is best visualized here as well:

SugarSync Folder Manager

As you can see here, I’ve synchronized my Desktops on both computers. When you sync a folder from a remote computer, you can choose the destination for the local copy. For example, I could’ve had a separate folder on my Macwin7 called “EEEPC Desktop files.” But instead, I chose to merge them. That way, both of my computers have the exact same files on the desktop at all times. If you have duplicate filenames when you initially merge, SugarSync will detect whether or not they are identical. If they are, a single copy is synced. If not, then a conflicting version is saved with “(from REMOTEMACHINENAME)” appended to the filename. This is also how SugarSync treats conflicted copies, say, if you have the file open on two computers and a user attempts to save over a version with pending/conflicted changes.

So, to review, there are three kinds of folders with SugarSync:

  • Magic Briefcase – Acts like a Dropbox folder. Files are synced in the cloud and across all computers.
  • Synced Folders – Doesn’t sync across all computers, but can be accessed via the web interface or the SugarSync file manager and is backed up to the cloud.
  • Web Archive – Cloud backup only—isn’t synced locally, but can be accessed via the web interface or SugarSync file manger.

Web Uploads, Mobile Uploads, Upload by Email and WebSync

Aside from the normal SugarSync Manage Sync Folders dialog, you can get files and folders into your system via the web, your smartphone or email. To upload a file via the web, simply log on to your SugarSync Personal Website and click on the folder or computer you want to upload to. This is actually pretty neat—you can upload it to your Web Archive, where it exists only on the cloud, you can upload it to your Magic Briefcase, where it gets synced across all your machines, or you can upload it to a single synced folder on one of your machines. For example, if you were at a friend’s house, and you wanted to send yourself a file, you could upload it via your SugarSync personal website, even if your computer is offline. The file will hang out in the cloud until you get online back at home, at which time it’ll rain down to the appropriate folder like a gentle spring shower.

Uploading via the Web with SugarSync

From the SugarSync mobile app, you can upload photos or videos out of your camera roll or take photos or videos and have them save to your SugarSync Mobile Photos folder and synced down to your computer.

SugarSync Mobile iPhone appSugarSync Mobile iPhone app

The upload by email feature is well thought out and easy to use. First, you have to enable it under your account settings.

SugarSync upload by email

When you do so, you’ll get a unique email address. The nice thing about this unique email address is that you can reset it at any time, which is useful, say, if you accidentally forgot to censor your upload email address when posting screenshots for a review of SugarSync. Another nice little touch: you can have the info sent to your email, so you don’t have to painstakingly type it into your smartphone just to get it into your address book.

SugarSync Upload via Email

When you email an attachment to this address, it’ll automatically put it in your Mobile Uploads folder. This comes in handy if you’re managing emails on the go and someone sends you an attachment—you can simply forward the email to your SugarSync account and it’ll automatically sync to your computer.

SugarSync Mobile Email Uploads

There’s also another feature called WebSync, which I’m not crazy about. In the features breakdown, they tout WebSync as a Remote Online Access feature that lets you edit files from any computer via the web interface. When I read that, I first thought it was going to be something like Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live, where you could launch a doc editor right in the browser. That would be legitimately groovy. But in reality, WebSync is just a Java app that lets you download the file onto a machine without SugarSync installed, make some changes, and upload it again.  The changes will be reflected across your synced machines back at home,  while the file will be wiped clean from the machine you used to edit it.  I guess that’s handy in a pinch, but I can’t really envision a situation where I’d use this (Internet cafes?).

SugarSync WebSync

Streaming Music with SugarSync

SugarSync pushes its ability to stream your music collection as one of its main selling points, subtly poo-pooing Dropbox’s comparable ability to do this in the process. Both SugarSync and Dropbox can playback music and video files (file type compatibility depends on your platform) from the Web or a mobile device, but neither have particularly robust streaming players. SugarSync kicks it up a nominal notch by including an actual playlist, replete with shuffle and repeat, which you can use to play all the music files in a folder. It works the best via the personal website—I can see this as really handy, say, if you wanted to listen to your music at work without copying your library onto your work computer. The player pops out, letting you minimize it so it can play in the background. It’s definitely no iTunes killer, though. It wouldn’t be a Lala killer either, if Lala hadn’t already been killed by Apple (fist shake).

Stream Music with SugarSync

The mobile version is less snazzy. You just play a file and it automatically cycles through the rest of the songs in the folder. You’d better hope that your filenames have the track number in them, however, because your only option is to play them in alphabetical order or according to date.

SugarSync Mobile Music Streaming

In terms of playback, I noticed some hiccups and skips on my WiFi network. I think that’s my crappy router’s fault, though, since it seemed to playback smoothly over 3G. Again, I don’t see this as a viable alternative to the iPod app built-in to iOS 4. But I suppose if your iPhone was filled up with apps and movies, and you had a paid SugarSync account with 30 GB, it would make an excellent cloud-based multimedia library. I do see potential here, especially after reading grooveDexter’s —Tonido offers a similar service where you can stream your music from your computer to your mobile device. I think cloud-based multimedia libraries may be the future (albeit a distant one).

Folder Sharing, Public Photo Galleries and Public Links

One thing that cloud storage and folder synchronization services are really good for is sending large files. It saves you from attaching them to emails and filling up inboxes, plus, it lets you send out a large file to multiple people without giving your email server a heart attack. SugarSync let’s you get files from your computer out into the world in a couple of ways. The best way, in my opinion, is via Public Links. For any single file that is managed by SugarSync, you can right-click it and choose “Get Public Link.” This copies a unique link into your clipboard which you can tweet, email or scrawl on the inside of a Charleston Chew wrapper and distribute.

Folder sharing with SugarSync

This is a direct link, and when user’s click on it, the download will begin instantly—no portals or logins or anything like that. With the free version, you can get public links for files up to 5 MB. Paid SugarSync users can get public links for files up to 2 GB.

The Public Link stays active indefinitely, and any changes to the file you make on your local machine get reflected on the publically shared file. That way, your collaborators can always get the latest version. If you want remove a public link, simply pop into your SugarSync Personal Website and Click Public Files. Click the little chain link icon and choose Disable Link.

SugarSync Public Links

As a slight variation to Public Links, you can also send files via email. If the recipient doesn’t have a SugarSync account, they can just download it directly. If they are SugarSync users, they can sync the file to their account or download it. When you send files by email, the recipient has 21 days to download it before the link goes inactive.

SugarSync Share Files via Email

You can also share entire folders, giving users read-only or read/write access as you see fit. I don’t like this feature quite as much, since it requires recipients to sign up for a SugarSync account—even if the folder is read-only. All you get to see is a quick preview of the contents and an invitation to sign up to access the folder. Dropbox, on the other hand, allows you to share read-only folders without requiring recipients to sign up.

Shared SugarSync Folders

While you can’t share documents and files in a read-only folder with unregistered users, you can share photo albums publicly at username.sugarsync.com/albums. The fastest way is to right-click a folder full of pictures and choose Share as album. Here, your friends can download, share or publish your photos to Facebook. It’s a pretty groovy feature. Groovier than Facebook Photos or Picasa Web Albums? Overall, not really. But it does let make a local pictures folder on your hard drive instantly viewable via your public photo gallery. So, instead of uploading your photos, you can just plunk them in your shared photo gallery folder and they are live.

Public Photo Galleries with SugarSync

File Versioning

SugarSync handles file versioning differently from Dropbox in that it keeps track of a certain amount of instances, rather than unlimited previous versions dating back to a certain period of time. You can view previous or download previous versions from your SugarSync personal website or by right-clicking a file in Windows Explorer and choosing Show Versions… For the free account, you can access the last two previous versions. Paid accounts get five versions. Versioning is automatically applied to every synced file and folder, which is nice. But as someone who saves a file after every little change, this isn’t particularly useful, except in the case of a crash, since all of my previous versions will likely be spaced a few minutes part. I like Dropbox’s way of things better, since you can really go back in time to before you messed everything up.

File Versioning in SugarSync

Under the Hood

Like Dropbox, SugarSync allows you to throttle the upload speed. But it doesn’t have an option that lets you control the download bandwidth. I’m not sure what kind of throttling SugarSync does on its end—during the setup, it told me that it would take about a day for my initial sync of 1 GB to 2 GB of data via a normal high speed broadband connection. In reality, it didn’t—I think I was synced in just over an hour.  I’m wondering if they are including that statement as a CYA if they ever have to nerf the upload speeds in the future.

SugarSync Preferences

Again, SugarSync is in lockstep with Dropbox in terms of proxy support.  But other than that, the cupboard is relatively bare in the preferences pane—not that that’s a big deal. Aside from the download throttling option, the only material addition in Dropbox’s preferences tabs is LAN Sync, which bypasses the cloud and zaps files straight through your local area network if two machines are on the same router or LAN. SugarSync doesn’t appear to have this, or if it does, you can’t turn it off or on.

Proxy SugarSync

SugarSync for Business

SugarSync for Business

Whereas Dropbox is just now dabbling into enterprise solutions with , SugarSync has long offered SugarSync Business plans. As mentioned above, this gives you bulk storage starting at 100 GB to share between three users, with the ability to add storage and users incrementally. To manage your multiple users, you get administrative controls that let you add/remove users and set unique access and storage limits for each employee. So, let’s say if you want to give your design team 75 GB for their high quality proofs but want to limit your accountants to just 5 GB for their docs and spreadsheets, you can. SugarSync is a bit vague regarding their security, other than assuring you that they use SSL encryption during uploading and downloading and 128-bit AES encryption once it gets to the server. It doesn’t say so on their website, but I believe SugarSync uses Amazon’s S3 service as one of the two geo-redundant carrier-grade data centers it uses to backup your data.  If so, then security-wise, SugarSync is the exact same as Dropbox.

The other important perk you get with the SugarSync Business plan is unlimited phone support. With the other plans, you get free support via email and chat, but if  you want to talk to a real life human being, you’ll have to go Business.

Summary – Dropbox vs. SugarSync

If this were simply a review of SugarSync, the verdict would be easy. Is SugarSync an excellent cloud storage/folder synchronization/back up software? Definitely yes. But is it better than Dropbox? I can’t tell you that. I can tell you that I like Dropbox more, but all that tells you is that I am a devoted fan of Dropbox. It’s more my style—I don’t mind being confined to a single synced folder, which is arguably Dropbox’s biggest drawback, and I prefer Dropbox’s laidback integration into Windows Explorer (or Finder or Nautilus) over SugarSync’s various graphic user interfaces. I feel like I spent a lot more time on SugarSync’s personal website than I do logged into Dropbox.com, and I prefer it that way—the less windows I need to have open, the better, I always say. But that’s just the way my mind and workflow function—it’s more of a Pepsi vs. Coke judgment call than a Mac vs. PC call.

That being said, SugarSync is more flexible overall. You’ve got three kinds of synchronized folders—the Magic Briefcase, the Web Archive and regular Synced Folders, all of which are accessible from other machines, the Web or your smartphone. And then there are some extra features that SugarSync boasts loudly, but I feel are just gilding the lily—the public photo gallery, the streaming music player and the upload via email. All these features are nice (and absent from Dropbox), but I feel like the email upload  is the only one that brings real value.

In terms of pricing and storage allotments, as long as we are comparing the free versions, Dropbox and SugarSync are evenly matched. Both give you an initial 2 GB Dropbox gives you 2 GB of space, while SugarSync recently upped its free version to 5 GB–plus, both give you the opportunity to earn bonus storage by referring friends. Through December 31, 2010, you can get double referral bonuses, so both you and your friend get 500 MB of additional space when he or she signs up. Also, during the promotion period, there is an unlimited amount of bonus storage. By comparison, Dropbox offers bonus storage in 250 MB allotments that tops out at 10 GB. I’m not clear on what the limits for SugarSync’s bonus storage will be after December 31, but I think it’s somewhere around 105 GB. Plus, you get a juicy 10 GB bonus when you refer someone to a paid account.

As far as platform support goes, Dropbox takes the cup with its Linux, OS X and Windows support, but falls short with its limited mobile support, offering only iPhone/iPad and Android apps. SugarSync, on the other hand, works for OS X and Windows (no Linux) and has iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Symbian apps.  The only folks left out in the cold are webOS users, but even they can still access SugarSync via the mobile website.

For business users, it’s almost a toss up, though I can’t speak from experience. SugarSync Business plans start at a lower rate, just $299.99 a year for 3 users and 100 GB. Dropbox for Teams starts way higher at $795, but you get 5 users and 350 GB of space. Upgrading a SugarSync Business package to 5 users and 400 GB would cost you an additional $1,000 or so, making it more expensive than Dropbox for Teams with an apples to apples comparison.  But the big thing, I’d say, is Dropbox’s more robust backup and versioning support. With Dropbox Rewind, you get unlimited versioning going back to the dawn of time (or your account). SugarSync’s versioning gives you five previous versions period—so if someone updates a file five times in one afternoon, then you can kiss the version from last quarter goodbye. SugarSync, however, beats Dropbox in mobile support—the email uploads could be handy for business users, and the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile support could be a make-or-break feature.

Bottom-line: Both are excellent products. Which one is best for you will depend on your needs. If you’ve taken the time to read this 3,500+ word review, then you may as well give SugarSync a shot and make up your own mind—even the business plan is free for 30 days. And if you use my referral link, we’ll both get free storage right off the bat.  And if you want to go ahead and buy a 30GB or 60GB plan, although the first 30 days will be free, after that the price will increase to 4.99/mo or 9.99/mo.

Update

This has been one of our most popular groovyPosts, and has generated lots of great comments. It’s been quite a few months since we originally posted this review, so I figured it’ was high time for a quick update and summary of some of the good points that were raised by you groovyReaders.

First, let’s talk about security. Dropbox and SugarSync both encrypt your data in transit and at rest. However, for your convenience, Dropbox/SugarSync control your encryption keys (otherwise it’d be a huge hassle to get your files on the fly from mobile and web platforms) and certain high level staff can change your passwords/access your data. (A SugarSync staffer linked us this explanation in the comments). Dropbox, in particular, has been waging an ongoing PR battle to quell controversy over its claims of security. The bottom-line is that the cloud is what it is—nothing is 100% safe, and while the most recent authentication bug was a major fumble on Dropbox’s part, you really shouldn’t be trusting anyone implicitly with your personal data. Dropbox has been catching the most flak, I think, because it’s the major player. You shouldn’t assume that SugarSync is more secure for a single second. Protecting your data is ultimately your responsibility. Yes, seek the company that’s going to make the best good faith effort at protecting your privacy and data. But take action to save your own bacon when one or more layers of security get breached. Further reading: with TrueCrypt,

Some other highlights for the TL;DR crowd:

  • SugarSync offers 5 GB while Dropbox offers 2 GB for free
  • The free version of SugarSync has a 25 MB limit for public file sharing. Dropbox has no such thing. That’s a deal breaker if you’re going to be sharing large files (e.g. videos, source codes, design mockups).
  • Based on commenter testimonials, SugarSync appears to have much slower upload speeds. I’ve asked SugarSync if they throttle, and they say “No, it’s your ISP’s fault.” The actual transfer speeds of Dropbox and SugarSync seemed comparable when I tested them on my machine, yet it took me days to sync ~60 GB on SugarSync. I think it’s a queuing or infrastructure issue—speed may improve once SugarSync grows.
  • Dropbox has LAN sync, which makes syncing between computers on the same network much faster. It also uses less bandwidth for the initial sync, since it doesn’t have to go from your computer to the cloud and then back down again.
  • SugarSync lets you sync ANY folder while Dropbox restricts you to one folder and it’s subfolders.
  • SugarSync has a nifty music player that sort of rivals Amazon Cloud Player and Google Music (but much less full-featured).
  • Yes, we all know that you can get 500 MB of free data if you use a referral link (I’ve racked up 223 GB of free storage to date). But before you try spamming your own referral link into our comments. please make sure you have something worthwhile to share about your experience with SugarSync, Dropbox or a similar service 😉

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110 Responses to SugarSync vs Dropbox : The Alternative You Never Asked For

  1. Drew G November 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    Big news – SugarSync now offers free 5 GB plans! Check it out:
    https://www.sugarsync.com/free/

    • RSID December 25, 2011 at 8:34 am #

      Very comprehensive eval.

      DropBox has recently offered the Android Version 2 App. It disrupts some file associations and is limited in comparison to the Android App for SugarSync. This is an important factor for Android users who require this kind of seamless integration with other apps and makes little sense competitively.

  2. Jordan Austin November 10, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    Nice review, very thorough.

    However when I read:

    So, when an assignment to review SugarSync came across my desk (not really, MrGroove didn’t give me a desk…), I raised a skeptical eyebrow.

    I was about to say, you get a desk?!

  3. Simon November 11, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    Have been using the free versions of both for quite a while now. Only thing I would add to this very thorough review is that I find dropbox to be faster at uploading and a little more reliable with less server downtime. Have recently upgraded to a the paid-for version of sugarsync however – simply because the starter 30Gb pack is all I need and it comes cheaper than dropbox’s cheapest package. Both are excellent and generally relaible however.

    • MrGroove November 11, 2010 at 11:19 am #

      Good feedback. Here at groovyPost we swap around a lot of large files like 100 meg videos etc.. using Dropbox and I’m always amazed how fast the upload/download speed it. and I have to agree, the upload/download speed from Dropbox is really very very good. I personally have only a little experience with SugarSync but I’m playing with it now especially since they just upgraded free accounts from 2GB to 5GB. Dropbox Vs. Sugarsync just got more interesting. 😉

      • Scott B. August 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

        SugarSync offers adjustable upload speed so as to not clog up your broadband. Don’t know if SugarSync’s version of fast is faster or slower than DropBox but thought the adjustability element should be included.

    • Nate January 2, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      I’ve used both free versions for a while now, but always preferred dropbox because of its simplicity and my need to occasion share 100+MB archives for work. However, the recent deal breaker for me, which led me to pay for Sugarsync were two items: 1) the ability to sync folders without having to retain the files on all of my hard drives (my laptop hard drive got full, so I was able to move all of my family pics to one computer, yet I still have access to all photos on all computers via the sugarsync manager), and 2) when I went to look at the price of the 100GB upgrade in the sugarsync manager, they had a 50% off price deal, so I got 100GB for a year for only $75). Anyway, I’ll still keep my dropbox for a few things, but sugarsync is now my sugarmomma.

  4. Shockersh November 11, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    5 gig free…. Good bye mozy, dropbox..

  5. TomStirewalt November 13, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    Very nice review.

    I notice that the only place you mention security or encryption is in the Business plans secton.

    Do you know if the data for EVERYONE that is stored on their servers is encryped in such a way that the staff at SugarSync is unable to read your data? If not everyone, which services?

    I know Dropbox uses a secure connection and all data TRANSFERS are encrypted, But I am a bit unclear as to whether the data is encrypted on their servers so their staff cannot read the data itself.

    A service called I-Drive acts very similarly to DropBox and SugarSync, but it explicitly allowed the user to specify their own encryption key and their data is encrypted on the I-Drive servers and their staff cannot read the data (they can see the gibberish). If the user forgets their key, they cannot rely on I-Drive to un-encrypt the stored data, and the customer has a problem.

    This encryption issue for stored data is very important for businesses with confidentiality issues such as Doctors and Lawyers and medical institutions that have patient records. There are a lot of small business professionals that would like to have a service like DropBox or SugarSync that are HIPAA compliant. Not all businesses are big enough to want or need a Business or Enterprise plan.

    .

    • MrGroove November 13, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

      In regards to SugarSync, yes they do encrypt your data both in transit and at rest: http://gpo.st/sugersync-crypto

      For Dropbox, the same is true – http://gpo.st/dbox-infosec – They store the data 256AES on their servers.

      Now granted, being that the encryption key is your password to the service, they “could” just change your PW and get access to the data however that would not be very smart from their standpoint however by allowing you to access the data through a web client, that really is the only good option since using a cert would be to complex to enable acces through both a thick client and thin web client.

      So, in regards to HIPAA you should be fine with either Dropbox or SugarSync. The requirement is met since Hipaa only requires data encryption in transit. But, technically the data is also encrypted at rest so again, your good there for any other gov. or industry requirements as well.

      • Brandon Rinebold March 21, 2013 at 10:44 am #

        First, they don’t even have to change your password. If your password were really the encryption key, then changing it would make all your data inaccessible. What happens is that they store two copies of your key or if they’re particularly sloppy use one key for everyone’s data.

        It’s entirely possible to encrypt a user’s data on the server without .knowing the user’s password and other services have done it (not Dropbox). What Sugarsync (and practically all of these services) does is take two copies of the key used to encrypt your files is one of two methods.
        1) (more secure) They encrypt one copy with your password any encrypt one key to your files with your password and another with their password recovery system’s password/key. When you sign in, the app sends you the encrypted key and if you don’t have the correct password then you can’t read the key. if you can’t read the key, you can’t decrypt the files. When you do a password reset, The password recovery system decrypts the extra copy of your key with their key and then sends you a new copy of the key encrypted with your new password.
        2) (less secure) They encrypt everyone’s data on the server with one key and when their server verifies your password, It decrypts your file and then reencrypts it for transmission via TLS or SSL to your computer.

        The most secure method of doing this would be to encrypt the user’s data with a key specific to that user and keep no copies of the key that aren’t encrypted with your password. They provide the encrypted key file to you and if you have the correct password, you can decrypt that key and then use it to decrypt the files they’re sending to you. This means two things: 1) the company CANNOT possibly look at the files you’re storing and 2) the company CANNOT possibly provide usable files to anyone who does not have your password. These aren’t really important to your average individual but for people who do work that they are concerned about being subpoenaed or requested for trial (lawyers in particular are expected to keep this level of client privacy), this is a very important difference.

        What you lose with the most secure method is the ability to reset a user’s password without effectively nuking all their data and the provider’s ability to deduplicate files (store only one copy of the 4,000 identical MP3 files users uploaded).

    • Haynes January 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

      “A service called I-Drive acts very similarly to DropBox and SugarSync”. Actually, it does not. I-Drive is back-up software. DropBox and SugarSync are synchronization software. Explore the differences here:
      https://crashplan.zendesk.com/entries/81898-share-and-sync-files-feature
      – or here –
      https://crashplan.zendesk.com/entries/116042-ability-to-create-a-link-to-a-specific-file-in-cpc-in-order-to-share-with-others

      I potentially better product for back-up is CrashPlan, which offers Unlimited storage for about the same price as I-Drive, and encrypts using a user-selected key that is unknown to the service provider.

  6. TomStirewalt November 14, 2010 at 6:52 am #

    The next issue is confidentiality and subpoenas.

    I am not sure about medical, but in the legal world there are various types of “privilege” wherein things a client reveals to the lawyer (and the lawyer’s staff who may handle the file), and what is known as Attorney-Work-Product are jealously protected. Once revealed to a “third-party” they lose their privilage status.

    If the data at rest CAN BE accessed and READ (since the server/service staff has the encryption key), there is a very real possibility that it may be deemed to have been revealed. That is why I find I-Drive letting the customer choose their own encryption key so importantly attractive.

    The other issue is subpoenas. The data is almost always stored in some other jurisdiction than that of the customer. E-Discovery is becoming all the rage in the legal world now. It really complicates matters if different jurisdictions have different rules (and they usually do) about complying with subpoenas to turn over data and encryption keys that are directed at “third-parties”. IF the third party cannot read the data and has no way to encrypt the data there is no rational reason to try to grab the data via a supoena, and it becomes a lot cheaper for everyone.

    It is rare for a relative small fry customer to be able to get every employee of the data storage service to sign a non-disclosure agreement. It is also very expensive for the small fry to litigate motions to quash subpoena(s) in a geographic location far away (e.g. local lawyer, travel expenses, co-ordination with the lawyer back at home, additional set of court costs, etc.).

    I am sure there are some “reveal” issues with “trade secrets” that may be stored on service servers, and industrial espionage. People with access are easier to deal with than trying to crack some good encryption when the key is unknown to the service.

    Do either SugarSync or DropBox have some solution or work-around? I guess I am asking if they allow the customer to have the only keys to the kingdom.

    Thanks.

    .

  7. Panupang November 16, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    great minds think alike? more like, great minds are always copied. having started with sugarsync and then switching over to dropbox, it’s unreal how quick sugarsync is to literally copy-paste (sometimes pixel for pixel) every feature and page that dropbox releases. absolutely unbelievable. how do you expect to beat out the competition when you’re a defective clone of the original?

    • MrGroove November 18, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

      I signed up for a sugarsync account a few weeks back and was suprised how much it looked exactly like dropbox. An example is the process Dropbox has you go through (5 or 6 step process) to get extra space. Sugarsync did the same thing which was a blatent copy of the dropbox process. It was a bit annoying they didn’t come up with something more original.

      I was even more surprised when they called their SYNC folder a “Magic Briefcase”… Sounds a lot like the dropbox “Magic Pocket”.

      So yeah.. I agree.

      Now that being said, I’m all about 1: Great products and services, 2: Great Prices so my tip to SugarSync would be – ” Come up with some original, creative ideas, at least from your marketing team and get off the Dropbox Teet plz… It’s getting embarrassing”.

      • TrueShooter July 16, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

        Ahem, I believe SugarSync has been around and available far longer than Dropbox, so who is copying who?

  8. Doug November 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    Sugarsync is much cheaper if you need 100GB of storage. Dropbox does not offer more than 100GB of storage . Assuming you want to backup photos and music 100 GB of space is not very much.

    The ability to specify backup locations is a must. Having a single backup location is ok for a few files but in the real world most people have files in multiple locations that they would want to backup.

    Dropbox is fine if you are using it to sync a small number of files but if you also want to backup large amounts of data it is not an option.

  9. Simon November 26, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    Just to add a further comment to my earlier one. Havng opted for sugarsync over dropbox for a paid account I am regretting it. Whether it’s due to increased demand following the 5gb free upgrade I am not sure, but it has been unusable for the last couple of weeks. Slow to non-existent up/down/sync speeds, web-access takes forever(after 2 weeks it had still not completed the inital upload of about 4gb and I have given up hope of adding the rest of my files). The problem is apparently mainly with European users. In fairness, the company acknowledges that there is a problem and say they are working on it but I have put my account on hold for now. I’d suggest anyone thinking of checking it out (in Europe at least) leave it for a while until, hopefully normal service is resumed. Oh, and they recently released an update which seems to be slowing down Windows when you try to access the right-click context menu too!

    • MrGroove November 26, 2010 at 11:23 am #

      @Simon – ouch… I wonder if when they went to 5gigs from 2 gigs if they got a flood of users and they didn’t have the capacity…. Sounds logical if the times line up..?

      • Simon November 30, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

        Think you are probably right MrG – the dates did coincide with the 5gb upgrade….good news is that everything started working again a couple of days ago.

        • Greg July 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

          Well, I can tell you it isn’t just Europe. I’m in the States and I can hardly get SugarSync to do anything. I initiated a subscription last year when I was afraid my laptop was near its end. It worked well then, even w the old laptop. Now, with my new laptop, it’s slow as Christmas. I can’t even get into certain folders before it just gives up and times out. I need to download all my files to my new computer, and this may take until next year. WTF????? Sometimes it just stops in the middle of a download and I have to start over — that’s just working with one little folder of files….

  10. Larry Vega November 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    I’ve been using SugarSync for about a year now and I’m really satisfied. Very little system load compared to other similar products I’ve tried and has never once crashed.

    Pros:
    Many features, very stable, easy on system resources

    Cons:
    Sometimes if you choose manually to move the files to all synchronizing computers (instead of just moving them to the shared folder of ONE computer and then letting SugarSync sync the others via the internet) Sugarsync creates duplicates even though we’re dealing with completely identical files (same checksums). Sugarsync renames the duplicates according to where they we’re found again so you’ll get to versions of the same file (but with different names) on your computers.
    Sometimes you can circumvent this by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-R thereby ordering SugarSync to do a clean restart. But how it really works I don’t know….

    • MrGroove November 29, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

      Good info Larry – thnx for the review.

  11. kishor December 9, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Hi

    I am also a fan of dropbox. It is simple and easy. No any confusion. Sugarsync also looks like dropbox. Just last week I knew the new cloud. I have installed.
    Now I am using both.

    but for large files, and music I am using sugarsync.

    and for day to day word documents, and excell files, or say office document, i am using dropbox.

    Both plans are free. i am not using any paid version.
    With these systems, I am free from external hard drive, pen drive, CDs and more,…..

  12. Flex December 26, 2010 at 3:19 am #

    I have been using dropbox for a year but don’t like the pricing or the lack of response in email support questions. I am thinking to switch to Sugar and have been testing it, but it does seem that Sugar is slower updating.
    It may be difficult to switch if I don’t see them update a word doc faster from one machine to another.
    Also found if you use the Apple mobileme service there is now an option in Preferences to cache your idisk information locally. That seems to be okay, but we all know how slow idisk is.
    We’ll see how it goes. I hope sugarsync works out.

    • MrGroove December 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

      @Flex – Good feedback. Keep us updated on your progress of checking out SugarSync. The only negative i’ve heard so far is instability of the network (only read 1 blog post on that) and upload speed.. That being said, I’m sure it’s at least as good as dropbox over the long-haul.

  13. Nate January 7, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Great review – very detailed, in depth, an transparent on any potential bias. I have two questions:

    1) Are you sure Sugarsync can playback videos via the web? I’ve been a SS for awhile and I don’t believe this function exists.

    2) I’m looking at trying out Dropbox, but I can’t really see (besides versioning and Lan Sync) what Dropbox has over Sugarsync in terms of overall functionality… should I even mess with changing??

    Again, great article…

    • Flex January 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

      From a guy who spent the last two weeks testing the two, I wouldn’t bother changing to dropbox if you are a paying customerof sugar and happy with them. You’ll pay more. Service is about the same.

      For me I decided to stick with dropbox because Sugar takes some 30 seconds more to sync than DB (from tests on a 3.3mb word file I was working on).

    • groovinJackman January 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

      Hi Nate – Sorry for the belated reply, but you’re right–you can’t playback all video files via SugarSync. e.g. tried doing a WMV file and it didn’t work. But I could using a .MOV I shot on my iPhone. I’m sure it’s an iOS compatibility thing.

  14. MDinDC January 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    My company has been using SugarSync for over 6 months and things were working fine. We work off of a large shared folder and sync up 4 other machines with about 13gb of total data on the cloud, using the 100gb limit plan. Everything was going pretty smoothly until this week when 3 of the 5 machines were having downloading/uploading issues. Although it’s been frustrating, the great thing is that the customer service for the business account is wonderful – patient and responsive. I hope they can find the problem and fix it soon – we lover SugarSync and can’t work without it… literally.

    • MrGroove January 13, 2011 at 1:41 am #

      Hi and thanks for the feedback. It’s good to know SugarSync has good customer service thanks for that. Hopefully they can find out what your issue is and once they do, it would be great if you can post some info back here with how it all went!

      Thanks again!

  15. Nate January 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    Interesting – I decided to go ahead and give Dropbox a go. It definitely uploads/downloads faster than Sugarsync, and I like the “packrat” option, as well as the “Lan Sync” option. But the obsessive side of me can’t let go of the fact that everything has to be moved into the Dropbox… that I have to mess with the integrity of the Windows file system I’m so used to!

    • MrGroove January 13, 2011 at 1:34 am #

      Hi Nate,

      Yeah I know… It drives me crazy that you need to move stuff around by default if you want it to sync… very annoying. That’s why I wrote this other How-To – https://www.groovypost.com/howto/microsoft/make-dropbox-sync-any-folder-on-your-pc-using-symbolic-links/

      That article explains how to sync stuff that might not be in your dropbox folder. It’s a hack but it works.

      • Nate January 13, 2011 at 7:48 am #

        Yes I used symlinks, and it worked pretty well. All 4 of my machines are Windows 7, so I ended up using the “change location” feature built into to any of the main folders in Win7 – where you can make the “pictures” folder point to dropbox/photos by default, for example. It might be doing the same thing as a symlink, conceptually, but it seemed to run cleaner like this – again, since I have all Win7 machines – and the people on the Dropbox forums seemed to agree this might be a better way than symlinks.

        What’s funny about all of this is that I keep ending up back on Windows Live Mesh 2011… I’ve never had a problem with it duplicating anything (vs. Sugarsync). It watches any folder (vs. Dropbox, workarounds aside). It doesn’t have true cloud access as it’s all peer to peer, but it allows remote access via the program or IE and file transfers over that remote access as well. It’s supported on Mac’s. It has folder sharing with permission controls. And it’s free… then I just throw a $5 Mozy unlimited plan on my main server for offsite backup. There are some features I miss with it, like sending links to files, historical versions (though I believe Mozy has that to some extent), solid customer service (I believe there is none besides their help forums, which are sometimes really slow). But for basic sync/backup, it’s worked the most seamless for me so far… and I have about 60gb of data I’m syncing/backing up regulary. Just thought I’d throw it out there!

  16. Richard January 15, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Awesome review. Thanks so much and am setting up my SugarSync account as I type this. And thanks also for the referral link. =D

    • MrGroove January 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      My pleasure. And be sure to pop back over here once your up and running with some thoughts about how the service has been working for you! Would love to have more data here on actual usage.

      Thanks Richard!

  17. Nate January 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    I never used to have this problem, but all of a sudden, these past couple of weeks, I cannot seem to get past some serious duplication issues with SugarSync on the initial setup – like thousands of files and gigs of data. It’s weird… Dropbox (using the exact same set of data) does not duplicate it.

    • MrGroove January 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

      Wish I had more insight…. I used Sugarsync only for some testing on the initial 2Gig and not more than that. Dropbox…. I’ve never had any issues with multigig and thousands of files.

  18. karen February 4, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Are you the same as chris elbert? He has an identical article!

    • MrGroove February 5, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

      No I’m not. And after a good search, it looks like he reposted my article 100%… Take a look at the watermarks on all the screenshots. 😉

  19. Rossen February 19, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Hey,
    Thanks for the great, unbiased review! Most of reviews of similar services are heavily biased indicating that they might have been commissioned by one of the parties. Personally I use dropbox becauese:
    1. Very simple – I have so many stuff going through my mind (work wise mostly) and I really need some simplicity in my life
    2. Very fast (up/down speeds)
    3. Everybody recommend it and I didn’t know of Sugar Sync when I signed up.
    4. The versioning is superb! Although (like most people) I’ve never had to use it, I kinda like to know it;s there. Sugar Sync’s 2 version thing is crazy. I press save like a hundred times per hour of work.

    Now I am seriously considering switching to SugarSync , though I’m just lazy to do so – wasn’t there a term for that?
    1. The 3 more free gigs sound tempting
    2. It supports Symbian natively. My phone is n97 mini (symbian) and I love it, but on it I can only use the mobile version of dropbox, which can only download files I think. Sugar Sync’s native Symbian app makes my phone work like another PC.

    Seeing how SS copies dropbox I wouldn’t be surprised if they copied the versioning soon. That will be day I’ll swicth. Or buy an android phone and stick with dropbox 🙂

    P.S. I was wondering, with that referral link up there, your free SS acount must be at least a hundred gigs by now 🙂

  20. Peter March 3, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    I’ve used the free version of Dropbox on my MacbookPro for about a year and have been very satisfied. Then I got a new computer and decided to get more storage. So I’m trying out Sugarsync with the 30GB plan. So far, it’s been very frustrating. I’ve been plugged into a high speed connection for about 5 days and it’s nowhere near finishing my initial 10GB upload. But it’s not just a slow upload problem- it was almost done yesterday. I put my computer in sleep mode last night and turned it back on this morning- SugarSync didn’t automatically restart the upload where it left off (like they claim it should). Instead, I had to quit and restart sugarsync to get it going again. Then it seems to have lost it’s place in the upload, so now it thinks there’s still 1200 files to upload! I’d love to see if it works well enough after the initial upload, but I can’t even get it to do that much. I think I’ll just pay the extra money for speed and stability at dropbox.

  21. Christoph March 5, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    I think this is the best tech-review I’ve ever read! I also like your humorous style.
    Anyway, I was wondering about that “syncing for two machines only” thing you mention for the free version of sugarsync: Does this mean you can sync e.g. your home and work computer but as soon as you want to add a third one, say your laptop, you have to go for a paid plan? If this is so, I think this is a serious drawback that deserves more attention.

  22. Paul Mindolovich March 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    @ Christoph, just noticed this at SugarSync’s 5GB Free sign-up website…: (http://www.sugarsync.com/free/)

    “…Sync 5 GB of data across an unlimited number of devices…”.

    Check it out.

  23. Eran April 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    For me, the biggest problem with the free sugarsync account is the 25MB limit size on file sharing. In dropbox, no such thing exist!
    This is why I will stay with dropbox probably forever.

  24. Ari April 21, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Excellent Review. Both the review and the comments help me understand sugarsync vs dropbox. In the end, I think I will leave important files on dropbox for my day to day business, but sugarsync for media streaming and stuff I am willing to lose – (read podcasts, etc.)
    I think dropbox needs to consider their free storage upgrades for today’s market and I believe they should structure their pricing to compete with carbonite flat rate.

    Security
    @TomStirewalt Good point, but you should seriously consider jungledisk or mozy pro for allowing you to use your own keys as an alternative to their keys. Use their keys for any transmission worries. Use your own keys for concerns about subpoenas – that way no one on staff can give up your data and key. Internally, remember, if they have the press that they give the keys up to authorities, they could fold. So there may be some internal unspoken rules to simply not make it possible to actually get those predefined encryption keys. The BIGGEST thing that should be understood for any of this is complex passwords are very important.
    Storing these passwords in an encrypted application password safe on your computers, as well as having a means to wipe your mobile device are both important rules when you discuss confidentiality.
    Then there is an entirely different issue of cookie tracking, operating system infections and how each desktop is protecting itself from bleeding data off unintentionally. These are all issues that lawyers need to consider.

  25. Ben May 6, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    Awesome in-depth review, thanks very much!! I personally have been using Sugarsync for a long time now and am more than happy. Not only are they cheaper than most of its competitors, they also offer by far the best product in the market today.

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