- Huge variety of feature
- Synchronization of multiple devices
- Fast and reliable
- Many features not needed
- Online help could be better
SugarSync is without a doubt a very powerful online backup service that also has a great and quick-syncing feature, more than other imaginable digital devices. If you are a tech-savvy user or if you’re looking for an alternative to Dropbox look no further – you’ll love SugarSync.
Update 02.02.2012: SugarSync got a new design, so don’t worry if it looks a little different from the videos and screenshots you see here. The process is still the same.
Who is SugarSync for?
I know many of you are quick readers and want to skip right to the meat. So I decided to get a little creative with my online backup review structure asking the question that really matters: who is SugarSync for? Certainly, SugarSync is nothing I’d recommend to my mother-in-law. Though very easy to use I think SugarSync is for the technologically savvy people who know exactly what they want and need. If you have multiple devices that you want to keep in synchronized, say a laptop, a home PC, a PC at work and also some mobile devices, then get SugarSync. It is not that fast and not as convenient as Dropbox, for example, but it’s way cheaper, especially if you are in need of lots of GB.
SugarSync Online Backup Review
OK, let me tell you one thing: SugarSync is great! It not only backs up your data but also syncs it over multiple devices. That is why I love Dropbox so much, and now another reputable provider offers this functionality. But let’s see how SugarSync will hold up against the market leader of all sync services. Again, in this online backup review we’re going to cover all the major aspects of the online backup service, as well as potential pitfalls a customer might encounter.
SugarSync, founded back in 2004 and formerly called Sharpcast, is attacking the market right now at a tremendous pace, and it is obviously a seductive product. You not only back up your data but you can also sync it, which makes it a direct competitor to other online backup services such as Mozy, Dropbox and Box.net. Another feature which other backup providers are missing is the ability to share your data with friends and family. As of July 2011 Mozy starts its beta for sync and share services but the only way you could share your data is by giving away your password (link to video) – which you should avoid at all costs!
Free 30-Day Trial for whatever plan!
If you know my reviews you know that I am a paying customer of all the services I review here. And obviously I wanted to pay for SugarSync as well, but they wouldn’t let me! I said “Here, take my money” but no! They offer all new members a FREE trial for 30 days. It doesn’t matter if you sign up for the 30GB or 250GB plan. This is obviously a nifty strategy to obtain and retain paying customers. Once you sign up for an online backup service it’s not that easy to draw back. That’s one of the reasons I created this site.
First impression and signing up
I like the way SugarSync settles you right into the mood of trying them out for free. You have a big orange button right there where you can start your free trial, and nowhere do they speak about “paying plans.” I think it’s just great to be able to test a product for 30 days and see if it could be the right choice for you.
After clicking the sign-up button you come to an overview where you can see the available plans and you can begin to think about what and how much you need. Plans range from 30GB ($4.99/month) to 500GB ($39.99/month). Obviously, the more GB you choose, the better the price performance ratio is, meaning more bang for the buck. You can subscribe to up to 500GB which costs $39.99/month. But this is only for the power users, like me.
First question I ask: where is the real free account, like Dropbox offers? After looking around a little bit, I see a tiny little sign-up link for the free account. I think they could have made it more prominent, but surely they want to sell their plans – nothing wrong with that.
You can pay with a credit card or PayPal. I just use PayPal because it is so convenient. I just have to enter my password and I am ready to go. I missed this with Mozy.
- Free 30-day trial for whatever plan
- Credit card and PayPal accepted
- Free account very hidden
- You need a credit card for the 30-day trial
How backing up your data with SugarSync works
SugarSync is as easy as it gets: you download the client which is compatible with Windows and Mac. There is also a third-party driver for Linux systems, but I can’t tell whether that works or not. However, I do think most of you should be covered. Before we dive into the backup process, there is a nice little detail when logging in for the first time in your web client:
SugarSync gives you an additional 125MB for free to your plan when you complete 5 easy steps: (1) Install the Desktop Manager, yes, we did that. (2) Share a file, no, not yet but at the end of this review I will have done it (meaning, read on if you want to know how that works). (3) Share a folder, wow, a whole folder, I could do this with my family album. (4) Upload a file by email, mmhm, good to know this works, too. So if I am away and only have access to my email I can send myself that file. (5) Share a referral link on Facebook, well, I already did on my Cloudbackuping Facebook page.
This is a neat trick to engage the new users with SugarSync and make them stay and LOVE their product. I am starting to like it as well.
SugarSync’s client interfaces
If you read my Mozy Online Backup Review you know I wasn’t a friend of its web client because it is too cluttered. With SugarSync it is almost the other way around. Though not cluttered the web client gives you a lot of options. SugarSync seems to be aware of the trend towards the cloud, so I have the feeling they want you to be online backing up your data.
Also, SugarSync gives you a little subdomain to make accessing your web client even easier. The subdomain consists of the first part before the @-sign in your email address, a number (if already taken) and [.sugarsync.com]. So mine would look like this: kontakt31.sugarsync.com. If you like to have a fancy subdomain you should register your account with an appropriate email address.
SugarSync’s online backup Wizard
After completing sign-up you can (and should) download the client. It is a lightweight file and installation is fast (as covered in my video). Right at the beginning of the backup wizard you get to choose a nice little icon for your PC that allows you to identify your machine quickly. I haven’t seen this idea so far and I think this might help.
The selection of folders to back up is flawless. I can select all the important data right away without having to enter into complicated windows. Without you having to do anything else it runs the initial backup. Remember: for all the online backup services I use a 1GB test folder to compare speed and reliability. So every time I back up the same data.
What I find rather confusing and kind of weird is that the online client and the desktop client look completely different. This doesn’t make sense at all. I don’t have time to learn new interfaces all the time. Though very intuitive on its own, I believe this could have been solved in a better way.
- Wizard easy to use
- Nice option to add an icon for you PC
- Different online/offline interfaces which is confusing
The Backup Process
As the name suggests, SugarSync understands itself more like a syncing service than just a mere backup provider. So it resembles the basic Dropbox in functionality. However, you can go beyond that. While Dropbox puts everything into into one folder SugarSync lets you specify a variety of folders to sync amongst several devices. So you can be more structured if you want. If you think this is too complicated just use the so called “Magic Briefcases” which gives you one basic folder that you can organize to your needs.
No LAN Sync?
Actually, at the beginning I was quite impressed by SugarSync. It seemed to be the right package with all the flexibility I wanted. However, I knew there must have been downsides as well. And while researching, there it was: SugarSync offers no LAN Sync, meaning that it should look at the Local Area Network (your homenetwork) first, bypassing the need to download the (changed) data from their servers if there is a newer version available somewhere in your network. Somebody at SugarSync needs to rethink that, because it makes the service almost unusable for me, since I frequently backup larger files. Dropbox does this perfectly, though.
As with all online backup services, the initial backup is tedious unless you have something like 1GB/s upstream. I don’t so I need to wait. I have a 1Mbit/s upstream, so, not that fast but not too slow either. SugarSync took 2:56h to upload my test folder and was therefore faster than for example Mozy (3:12h). But this could also be due to bandwidth fluctuations, and that’s hard to find out. If you want to know how long your backup is going to take, I recommend you watch my video where I use speedtest.net to check on my connection.
My backup ran flawlessly and I particularly liked that I could see my files being uploaded to the server. After one file has been uploaded it disappears from the list. You can review the list in the File Transfer Status Manager but I recommend using this in the background. One feature I haven’t seen before is that you can prioritize the files you want to upload, making your own little file backup queue.
After the initial backup has been performed the fun can really begin. The extensive syncing features are very useful. SugarSync backups your data incrementally, meaning whenever a file is changed it only needs to upload the changes to that file instead of re-uploading it all over again.
Since every change to your files is being uploaded instantly, SugarSync claims there is no need for scheduling. Mhhh, I don’t think so. When uploading (backuping) larger amounts of data, your computer might slow down. Let’s look at a possible scenario here: You wake up in the morning and prepare some data you want to share with your folders because you’ll need it at work. However, before leaving you need to do a resource-intensive task, say, converting a video, or working on some images. It would be tremendously useful to tell SugarSync to wait 2 hours with the syncing until you left home to head to work.
That’s why I say if you know you DO want to schedule your back ups, choose Mozy instead. They give you much more flexibility, BUT it is “only” a backup service.
- Sync, backups file instantly
- No scheduling available
Recovering or syncing your files with SugarSync
Yep, you can definitely notice that SugarSync is a syncing service because the workflow is simply beautiful. It is intuitive and easy and it works great with multiple cross-platform devices. Mac, Windows, Android, iOS. Doesn’t matter. But a video says more than a thousand words, so look at my video and how syncing / backuping your files with SugarSync works.
OK, for those of you who’d rather read, here is my work flow I tested successfully with SugarSync:
1. Installed SugarSync on my Virtual Machine with Windows 7
After installing it on my virtual Windows I ran several backups (movies, audio, photos, etc…) copying, moving, deleting files. In my testing everything was fine. But when I wanted to download my files to recover them it was quite slow, although I have a fast download connection. That bothered me a little.
2. Installed SugarSync on my main Mac machine
Mac installation worked great, no problems here. As you can see in the video above I watched the SugarSyncs File Manager because I wanted to test if my Mac appeared immediately after installing the SugarSync software. And it did!
3. Created a shared folder on my Mac
This is one of the best features SugarSync has to offer. You can create your own shared folders and name them accordingly. So I went ahead and created one and it also appeared almost instantly on my Windows machine.
4. Moved a couple of files around
Obviously I needed to move some files around to see if it really worked. Even with excessive file-tossing there were no detectable hiccups.
5. Taking it up a notch – Web Client
Obviously I needed to take it up a notch and test the syncing from within the web client. So I logged in and created a shared folder via the browser on my Mac. Again, no problems here. Mozy, for example, wouldn’t let me do that. Everything appeared instantly. The bad thing is the lacking support of LAN sync which would speed up the process even more.
6. Sharing files with your friends – Web Client
This is a great feature if you are, say, on vacation in Tanzania and want to share your latest safari pictures with your loved ones. You just head to an Internet café and load up your pictures in the web client. You’re not only synying the files with your PC at home but you can also can share the photos immediately with your friends by sending them an email. I sent myself a test email and it took a little while until it arrived. So this wasn’t instantaneous.
- Instant and hassle-free sharing files amongst all Operating Systems
- Full-fledged web client
- Pushbutton file sharing with friends via web client and email
- No LAN syncing
- Rather slow download speed
Ah, yeah, right there was something…how much is it? SugarSync offers a great service for a relatively low price. You can start for $4.99/month for 30GB and go as high as 500GB for $39.99/month if you choose the annual plan you can save 2 months, which is not bad. Unfortunately for the power users: there is no unlimited plan available as of today. But I think this is only a matter of time until competition gets too tough so I am sure soon they’ll include it in their offer.
Free 5GB account
SugarSync is cheaper than Dropbox although slightly inferior in terms of syncing capabilities. The free account has 5GB of storage (3GB more than Dropbox) and has all the features. But I’d recommend going for one of the paid plans because you can test them for 30 days for FREE as well and can see if the service suits your needs.
SugarSync online backup review summary
SugarSync is ideal for the experienced user with multiple devices that need to be constantly in sync. If you are are moving around larger video or audio files in your LAN, stick with Dropbox instead because it has LAN sync. If you are a traveler you’ll love the web client and the ability to send the pictures directly to your friends. SugarSync should, however, rethink their client’s interfaces. If they don’t match it’s difficult to find your way and that takes time.
Let’s see all the important specs in a general overview:
- Operating Systems
- Storage Space
- File Versioning
- Free trial
- Overall Rating
Like what you read?
If so, please join over 2,000 people who receive exclusive online backup and cloud storage tips & coupons. Also, get a FREE COPY of my eBook, Online Backup 101 (PDF, Kindle and MP3)! Just enter your name and email below: