SugarSync is one of the longest-running backup services around, but has it still got what it takes to compete against newer, more nimble competitors? It's a Dropbox-style service, letting you sync selected files and folders with the copies you've got up in the cloud.
Any changes you make on a computer are instantly fed back to the copies in the cloud. Get SugarSync installed on several devices, and it means the latest versions of all your files are ready and waiting for you, without any need for USB drives or file transfer services.
SugarSync offers most of the key functions and features that anyone in need of a cloud storage facility would want: the ability to back up any folder on multiple computers, support for file versioning, and no limits on file sizes. It has excellent platform coverage too, with apps across desktop and mobile platforms (even Amazon Fire tablets).
As we've said, changes you make to your files are instantly synced back to the cloud (and propagated to your other devices), without any delay or scheduling involved. Photos and videos can be backed up automatically from phones and tablets, if you don't want to use the tools that come with your gadgets. SugarSync works with NAS drives and external drives too, though only on Windows and only with a business account.
There is a web interface here, but there's not much to it besides allowing you to view your files, and to download or share them if needed. Rival services like OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox and iCloud offer more in this department. This portal is helpful if you need to get at your files on a computer where SugarSync isn't installed, however.
The desktop clients that come with SugarSync enable you to control the bandwidth they use, so your internet connection won't collapse under the weight of multiple uploads and downloads. You can pause the backup process at any time as well, if you've got some high bandwidth video streaming or video calling to do, for example.
The SugarSync software is very simple to use, and for most users, they’ll configure it once and probably never need to alter it afterwards. You can have everything in your designated SugarSync folder sync to and from the cloud, and with any other computers and mobile devices you've signed in on as well.
By default, stored files have five previous versions held from subsequent updates, but if needed you can mark a folder as protected and define a larger number of changes to be tracked in the future. This option is especially useful considering the rise of ransomware, allowing you to recover files before any nefarious encryption occurred, should that scenario arise.
We had no problems navigating around the SugarSync apps for desktop or mobile, though they are occasionally slow and clunky – a bit of a design refresh and some code optimizations probably wouldn't go amiss. We found that upload and download speeds were perfectly acceptable, even with our less-than-stellar home internet connection.
The web interface, where you can view your files and shares in a browser, is similar to the desktop clients: well-presented, easy to get around, occasionally slow. It doesn't have the kind of slickness that something like Dropbox or Google Drive has, and it occasionally feels like an interface from five years ago, but it does the job.
A concern for many customers of cloud storage these days is how secure their files are when they make it to the cloud, and with this in mind SugarSync uses AES-256 bit encryption to process all the files to and from its servers, which is good to see. There's no end-to-end encryption though, which means SugarSync itself could take a peek at your data – not that we're saying it would.
Not every cloud storage service offers end-to-end encryption – the benefit of not having it is that if you forget your password, SugarSync staff can get your files back for you. The disadvantage is that SugarSync staff could also hand your data over to, say, law enforcement, which wouldn't be possible with end-to-end encryption. SugarSync doesn't offer two-factor authentication for logging in either, which is a shame.
For personal plans, you can sign up to SugarSync for $7.49 (about £6) a month for 100GB of space, $9.99 (about £8) a month for 250GB of space, and $18.95 (about £15) a month for 500GB of space. Business customers can pay $55 (about £45) a month for 1TB of room. On all of these plans, there's a 30-day free trial so you can see what SugarSync is about before you pay, but you have to give payment information right away.
Considering the likes of Google, Dropbox and Apple serve up 2TB of cloud storage for about $10/£10 a month or even less, that makes SugarSync very, very expensive – and it just doesn't have the features or functionality to justify the extra cost. The service really needs to revise its pricing strategy to stay competitive.
Pricing aside, SugarSync is a relatively impressive cloud storage service, which does its job as advertised and has some neat features we like the look of. Syncing across multiple devices works well, as does sharing files and folders with other people, and with a couple of caveats the service does keep your data well protected and well secured.
It's hard to get past that pricing though – plenty of alternatives are cheaper and better designed, and look to be updated more often (the SugarSync Android app page still shows 2015 screenshots). We can only assume SugarSync has plenty of existing, legacy customers who are still happy to pay, as it's hard to see why anyone would sign up now considering the other options on the market.
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