SugarSync – For Backups, Archiving and Sharing.

Image representing SugarSync
Image via CrunchBase

I am continuously encouraging individuals and businesses to make backups of their systems. I am continually shocked by the number of individuals who take no steps to protect their data against a catastrophic failure and repeatedly see clients who ask, “So…can you get my documents off this computer?” Far too often I have to tell them that I cannot, that it might be possible to if the drives are sent to a data specialist – but the cost will be steep and even then the results not assured.

There is no reason for anyone to be without a backup of their sensitive and important data. In the past this was a time consuming and costly endeavor – now it is simple and inexpensive. One service (among many) that can assist in this area is SugarSync. SugarSync provides you with 2 GB of free storage – no strings attached. This is enough to cover your critical documents – but won’t be enough for those thousands of pictures you’ve taken with your digital camera. But for $5 a month you can get yourself 30 GB (this is what I have) – which should be enough for most enthusiasts – though probably not enough for those with large music collections (they have even larger subscriptions for you – still at reasonable prices).

Let me highlight just a few of the reasons I love SugarSync:

  • Versioning: SugarSync backs up your files – but what happens if you have a Word document and you make an edit to it and then save it? Does your old file get overwritten on SugarSync? No! SugarSync keeps the old version and the new version – and allows you to roll back to older versions. This is a huge feature – extremely useful.
  • Syncing: SugarSync allows you to install the client on multiple computers/devices that then synchronize files between the systems – in my case this includes my home laptop, home desktop, and work desktop. Now you can access your files from anywhere – make edits from anywhere – and know you are always using the latest copy of your file.
  • Simple Web-Based Editing: You can access your files via a web browser on any computer and SugarSync automatically handles syncing the changes back to SugarSync – no need to download the file, open the file, save the file, upload the file – now SugarSync compresses all of these steps into a smooth operation.
  • Sharing: You can share your files with others. This is a great feature – and can be done on a strictly controlled basis so only those you want to can access your files.
  • Platforms: SugarSync supports not only Windows but Mac and Linux. Further SugarSync provides extensive mobile device support including the iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry!

That said – I do have a complaint (and will add more as they arise):

  • I use SugarSync for my personal files but also for my church. Unfortunately, I cannot tell my SugarSync to sync files from my church account. I have to use the web-based interface. This is a significant nuisance and there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to download the church files as long as I authenticate. This has been a long-standing issue and SugarSync has done little to resolve it.

SugarSync – A Love/Hate Relationship.

Image representing SugarSync
Image via CrunchBase

[I no longer recommend SugarSync.]

You won’t find me dropping cash on every new tech site and gizmo. Growing up I was broke – all the time – and was constantly trying to make do with freeware because I couldn’t afford the big, bad tools I wanted. These days, I do drop money – but just don’t expect it to be frequently. So it says something pretty significant when I say I’ve been dropping $5/mo. on SugarSync since November 2009 and was using the free version of the service for months prior to that.

I love SugarSync. SugarSync is a just-works file backup, archiving, sharing, synchronization solution. Install SugarSync on multiple computers and it ensures your files stay in-sync.

One of the traditional concerns about this type of syncing is when the software accidentally writes over the latest copy of your document. Yeah, yeah, its not supposed to happen – but it does. SugarSync makes this old news by keeping versions of all your files. Accidentally delete a file? Overwrite it? No problem! SugarSync has it!

Pretty nifty. Add onto this 30 GB of space for just $5/mo., or 2 GB for free. Did I mention the web-interface is fairly slick? That there are apps out for most smartphones? And that it will run on most operating systems? Yeah – its sick.

I hate SugarSync. So much so that I’m again seriously considering dropping the service. Why? Because SugarSync lacks a single major feature – and they don’t seem to care. SugarSync lets you share files – but only through the web-based interface. Don’t expect to share a folder with a friend and have them automatically receive the latest updates – nope – they have to use the web interface. I said its grand – but its not automatic. You can see the requests for this feature going back to 4/2009 on SugarSyncs forums – and the basically dead silence from SugarSync’s end. Ummm…folks? Anybody out there? Everybody else has this feature – why can’t you guys do it?

This is my desperate public plea to SugarSync. Please, please add this feature…otherwise I might just have to drop you, and I really don’t want to do that!

SugarSync – Backups, Archiving, File Syncing and Sharing Galore!

Image representing SugarSync as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

[I no longer recommend SugarSync]

On Sept. 26th I wrote a provocatively titled post entitled, “SugarSync – A Love/Hate Relationship.” I’m happy to report that SugarSync has fully addressed the dilemma in our relationship and I’m now happier than I have ever been paying my $5/mo. to SugarSync.

As a sign of this renewed relationship I figured I should do something nice from my end…You know, that whole give-take concept in a relationship? So here I am, writing a fuller review of SugarSync and without the downer of last time.

Why YOU Must Get SugarSync NOW!

I work in the Technology Services Department at Philadelphia Biblical University. On occasion individuals walk into my office and ask, “Can you help me get my files back? I have all the pictures I ever took in my life on this hard drive…and it isn’t booting.” Yes, there is variation to what is lost and how it is lost – but the point is, I hear quite regularly – at work, at home, everywhere – that people are losing data. Sometimes the data is relatively unimportant – sometimes it is heartbreakingly important. That masters thesis you were 3/4th’s done with? Gone. Those emails from your beloved, now-deceased family member? Obliterated. Those copies of legal documents you need for an upcoming court case? No longer available.

Back in the day it was a hassle to ensure your files were backed up – that is no longer the case. No one has any excuse for not having a backup of their critical files – and SugarSync eliminates this excuse. As a teenager, in spite of knowing better, I twice lost significant numbers of files to a systems crash – applications I had developed, documents I had written, emails I really wanted to save. Back in those days it was a bear to save things. You were using dialup internet and floppy disks were all the rage. Today, those excuses no longer exist – thanks to SugarSync.

Other Options?

There are other options. When it comes to backups the options are multitudinous – for example Mozy and Carbonite. Unfortunately, while I once was a Mozy fanatic (I was with them from the early beta days when Josh(?) sent us very random emails masquerading as newsletters) they refused to make their pricing competitive – continuing to charge for software licenses (almost nobody else does) and exceeding the going rates for data storage (I’d say Amazon S3 defines this) by 2x-3x! Carbonite’s user interface has never particularly impressed me.

Now SugarSync extends far beyond backups – though backups are the must-have feature everyone needs – and there are numerous competitors on this front as well. Probably the best known is Dropbox. At the time I was considering Dropbox you were forced to place all your files in one directory – I’m not sure whether they removed this limitation or not – but this was unacceptable to me, and I generally liked SugarSync’s clients and interoperability better anyways. Now I’m a bit of a SugarSync fan-boy but for good reason. I’m open to alternatives – if you believe you know of a better one let me know – but it will take more than feature parity to make me switch (and I’ll ask SugarSync if they have intentions for the feature first…and it’d have to be a pretty killer feature).

How Much Does it Cost?

For most people it is free. If you just want to ensure your critical files are protected you can use the free 2 GB account SugarSync offers and will likely never need anything more. If you want not only your critical files but your music files, saved games, pictures, and so on – then you’ll need to pay, but still – it is really reasonable. I pay $5/mo. for 30 GB and I utilize around 8 GB. If 30 GB isn’t enough you can get 60 GB for $10/mo. and so on. It is really reasonable1If you have a huge collection of photos you may want to consider sending those over to Google’s Picasa Web Albums as their pricing is ridiculously inexpensive.

What Else Can it Do?

The absolute, must-have feature is backups. If you don’t use SugarSync for anything else you should utilize it for backups of your files. That said, SugarSync offers a wide variety of sheer awesome features, let me outline a few of my favorites below:

  • Security – Worried about your files being in the cloud? How about knowing they are protected by 128-bit AES encryption and that all communication to/from the servers occurs over a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) connection?
  • Infinity Device Sync – I have a home laptop, a home desktop, a work laptop, a work desktop, a Verizon Droid, and an Apple iPhone 3G…If I want to have my files synced to all of these computers – I can. I can also define specific subsets to go to specific computers. For example, don’t want those work files going home? Exclude them.
  • File Versioning – What happens if you accidentally overwrite an important file? Delete the file? What happens if you need to look five revisions back? SugarSync offers seamless and intuitive file versioning – and any file that is deleted gets dropped into their deleted files bin – waiting to be permanently deleted, so if your little kid deletes a critical file – no worries, SugarSync still has it ready to go.
  • Cross Platform – SugarSync has clients for Windows, Mac OS X, iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian. Pretty nifty aye?
  • Sharing – Want to share files with someone else? With the whole world? No problem! Its easy and intuitive and with the latest revision you can have those files you shared or others shared with you sync to your computers just like any other files you personally own.
  • Archiving – Have files you want to keep around but never use? Put them in the Archive folder and they won’t be kept on your local machines but will be kept on SugarSync’s central servers.

What Would You Still Like to See?

So, I know I said I’d be happy if I saw just this one additional feature – and I am…but I suppose the grass does always look greener on the other side…So, here are a few dream wishes:

  • SugarSync has upgraded their customer support portal and forums, I hope this indicates a new era of responsiveness to consumer feature requests, even if it is only to say, “Hey guys…we really don’t have enough demand for this feature right now” or “Yeah, we are working on it…We’ll keep you updated on how it goes.” Transparency is a huge feature to me.
  • While I was raving about the cross-platform support I noticed SugarSync doesn’t support Linux…wait a second? I swore they did once? Anyways, no matter – point is, SugarSync should support Linux…and, yeah, I mainly say this b/c I’m an open source lover – not b/c its necessarily a sensible business proposition.
  • As soon as I heard about the new sharing feature I opened SugarSync to check for updates…but wait, there is no check for new versions? Boo. 🙁 Please add one, I don’t want to have to navigate to a website to grab the latest client. Give me an option to force a check for updates. Again, just a small issue.

Conclusion

You better be on your way to get SugarSync right now…or when you complain about losing your files I might just have to…okay, I’ll try to help you anyways, but you should get SugarSync and save yourself a lot of time and headache.