Dropbox vs. SugarSync : Two Cloud File Synchronizer Services Compared

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“I want to work on that spreadsheet but I’m stuck at home taking care of a sick kid.”

“I get so confused emailing drafts to myself all the time – which one is the latest version?”

“I flew to Chicago for this presentation and my laptop is dead – with all my files on it.”

We’ve all had similar experiences: Murphy’s Law has put us in the circumstance where we need a file and don’t have it. Nearly all knowledge workers are bound to a their Microsoft Word and Excel files, Adobe PDFs and a variety of other documents that are either inputs of outputs of their work. Salespeople invariably use images, slideshows, or multimedia files in their presentations. At the same time, telecommuting is becoming the new norm and salespeople have always been on the road, two trends only accelerated by the increasing popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Some businesses have moved some or all of their file storage to web-based mediums such as Microsoft SharePoint. Others have pushed much of their data “to the cloud” and are running online software such as Google Apps or the new Microsoft Office 365 packages. These brave firms are seeing cost savings by adopting these leading edge technologies, but many companies cannot make the investment in a migration or are not comfortable jumping into the still-evolving marketplace. Enter online file storage and synchronization! There are a number of services available in this space, focusing on backup (carbonite.com) or as a large scale provider (Amazon S3). Two services stand above the rest in their ease of use strong focus on desktop file syncing: Dropbox and SugarSync.

Introduction:

Both services function in a similar fashion. You simply creates an account, download their resident sync application, and decide what folder or folders you want to include. Both have free “starter” storage packages and allow for referral bonuses that increase that allocation. Both have clients that work on PC, Mac and mobile platforms, offer web-based access and sharing of your files, and allow for integration with other applications. So which one to choose? Although comparable, both services offer specific advantages that you may want to consider in your selection.

Site Experience and Client Download:

Dropbox is very straightforward (including having what I consider the very best “Call To Action” page EVER!) and just gets you into the action right away. SugarSync has a more traditional site that offers more information. Both had applications for mobile devices (including iPhone/iPad, Android, Blackberry and Symbian) as well as Windows and Macintosh, although only Dropbox supports Linux. With either service, just download and install the client software, create an account, and you’re off and running. Drop a file into a sync folder, and it will be synced to the website as well as any other computers that are affiliated with that account! Both services offer full-featured browser clients (optimized for mobile or desktop accessible), so you can view, edit, organize and share your files with any client at all.

File Management and Sharing:

SugarSync has a more distributed paradigm, allowing you to sync multiple folders from multiple computers, and not requiring that they all sync the same folders. They also offer a “web archive” that you can store things in that are not synced anywhere. SugarSync allows you to share individual documents, or entire folders. It also allows you to specify rights at a granular level with read-only or add/and edit (which allows the user to sync that folder to their computer as well). You can also set an access password on the folder. Dropbox does not allow you to sync multiple or various folders : it is more of an all-or-nothing operation. During configuration you select one, and only one, folder to synchronize. They have recently introduced Selective Sync which allows you to select which folders under the sync folder you want to include, but it is still stems from a single root location. Dropbox allows you to simply share a folder and send a link in email.

Integration with 3rd Party Apps and Unique Features:

SugarSync is integrated with most of the major (iOS) mobile applications, such as Documents to Go, GoodReader and Readdle. The integration is fast and reliable, but limited to only a few partnered applications. Dropbox on the other hand, integrates with nearly everything. Docs to Go, QuickOffice Connect, GoodReader, ReaddleDocs, as well as Notability, FlashCards Deluxe, iThoughts HD, Thinkbook, Nozbe ToDo, and Simplenote to name a few from the iOS platform. Dropbox has avidly engaged the developer community and you can see the plethora of applications available at https://www.dropbox.com/apps/list. This strategy has allowed Dropbox to overcome some of it’s weaknesses. Dropbox also offers a unique feature called “LAN Sync”. This option, toggle-able in the client, allows for multiple computers on the same network to sync directly with one another instead of going through the service provider site. By forming an ad-hoc sync network, the Dropbox machines are able to communicate at much faster speeds and avoid choking off a sites internet bandwidth. SugarSync offers a feature called Web Archive. This is a location that is not synced with any computers, but is accessible from the web client. This is a great place to put files that are not needed for day-to-day use but are still nice to have accessible from any networked location. SugarSync has also invested more heavily in their web client, allowing for slideshow presentations of images and enhanced viewing of documents in general.

Pricing and Referrals:

Sugar Sync

Drop Box
BASIC PRICING
  • 5GB free
  • 30GB @ $4.99 or $49.99/yr60GB @ $9.99 or $99.99/yr
  • 100GB @ $14.99 or $149.99/yr
  • 250GB @ $24.99 or $249.99/yr
  • 500GB @ $39.99 or $399.99/yr
  • 2GB free*
  • 50GB @ $9.99 or $99.00/yr100GB @ $19.99 or $199.00/yr

*users get an extra 250MB for completing “Dropbox Guru” training

BUSINESS PRICING
“SugarSync Business”

  • $29.99 or $299.99/yr for 100GB & 3 users
  • +100 GB @ $29.99 or $299.99/yr
  • + 1 user @ $9.99 or $99.99/yr
“Dropbox Team”

  • $795/yr for 5 users & 350GB
  • +100 GB @ $200/yr
  • +1 user @ $125/yr
REFERRALS
  • Sugarsync gives you and the referred customer each 500MB. If they sign up for a paid plan, each of you get an additional 10GB.
  • Dropbox gives you and the referred customer each 250MB (up to 8GB max)

If you examine this pricing, it is clear that SugarSync is offering a better deal for the new user (5GB vs. 2GB) and scales better. They also have a better “starter package” for smaller business users (under 5 people). Dropbox’s pricing is significantly more competitive for larger groups with large amounts (over 300GB) of data to sync.

Conclusion:

Both of these services offer considerable value and it is difficult to select a clear winner. Ultimately, as with many information technology investments, it depends on your specific needs and preferences. If you have Linux, are anticipating a large number of centrally-managed business users, or have specific business or personal applications with integration needs, Dropbox would be my recommendation. If you have a smaller number of users, want a more polished user interface (Dropbox just came out of beta in December 2010), or have a need for more granuar sharing, I would recommend SugarSync. They both offer free packages, so why don’t you give them both a try and decide for yourself which one you like more?

Sugar Sync

You can sign up for sugarsync here

Drop Box

You can sign up for dropbox here

Comments:

  • John

    Dropbox blew me away with their fast setup and the clean integration into both my iPad and Dell laptop. It has create a virtually seamless patch in the user interface while solving my need to work on the same documents from multiple locations.

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