Started in 2011 by Thomas Savundra, Suhan Shan and Darius Antia, Sync.com became a reality in 2013 with the launch of its application-driven platform and cloud storage combination.
Today the business has 400k of registered users in more than 150 countries and shares 2 million of the 1.5 billion files secured on Sync.com every day.
If you’re in the market for a cloud storage provider, what has this one got to offer that is special?
Installing Sync is a relatively painless exercise, as the website identifies the platform you are using and provides the appropriate installer for you.
At this time that is either Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac OS based, but sadly there isn’t a Linux option.
Once installed a ‘Sync’ folder appears in the system, and any file or folder placed in there initiates a live synchronisation to cloud storage, and back to any other computers that you have installed the client application on.
You can’t tag arbitrary files or folders, network or external drives. The Sync folder remains the only means to get contents from the computer on to the cloud.
However, you can use the web interface to move files and folders to the cloud, and then watch them magically come back to the Sync folder.
Those that have a Pro subscription have an additional feature called ‘vault’ that allows you to copy files to cloud storage without them existing on your computer, useful for those wishing to archive contents that clogs up their workstation.
By default when files are updated their old versions are secured for 30 days, or longer if you specify, and Pro users can have the deletion of prior versions disabled indefinitely.
Generously, older versions of often updated files are all kept, but only the most current versions are included in the calculation of used space.
Files and folders can be shared using the web interface, and these links can be given an expiration date should the information be time sensitive.
Folders can be distributed for collaboration, though not individual files.
For this to work, the recipient must create a Sync account, although the installation of the client app isn’t mandatory.
Other than the Sync folder it creates, there is little indication of the client tool being in operation.
It uses icon overlays to tell you if a file or folder is pending transfer, although this didn’t work on our PC, for some curious reason. This wasn’t a big issue, because the taskbar component also gives information about Sync activity confirming the securing of files.
The web interface provides a means to see what files and folders are secure, access them remotely without an app, and share them with others.
It also details every file change and uploads for a complete history of the account, should you need to track when something altered.
The mobile apps do much what you’d expect, in that they give access to those files on the system. But they can also secure photos and videos recorded on mobile devices to the shared space, automatically syncing them to your computers.
Tools and security
If you like security, Sync.com is on your wavelength. All data, from or to, the Sync cloud storage is AES-256 bit encrypted and directed through secure TLS tunnels.
Also, the encryption keys are produced using 2048-bit RSA encryption, and use zero-knowledge security, for those confident enough in their abilities to leave it enabled.
In this mode Sync.com doesn’t hold the encryption keys at all, so should you forget the password then those files will never be accessible again.
For those concerned about that possibility zero-knowledge mode can be disabled, and instead, you could use two-factor authentication to provide a means to stop anyone who guesses the password.
Two-factor authentication can be handled with either email or the Google Authenticator for those with an Android phone or tablet.
For those wondering how Sync.com differs from Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive then part of the answer is that both those products have a published API that allows third-party apps to interface with them efficiently. Sync.com has taken the view that this represents a direction it would rather not go, probably for good security reasons.
The pricing of Sync is generally competitive, although with the likes of Google and Microsoft around it was never going to look like a bargain.
However, for those interested in exploring the product a Sync Starter option is available that gives you 5GB of free space and isn’t time limited.
For home users only one tier exists, called Personal Pro, that costs $49 (£37.87) for 500GB or $96 (£74.18) per year for 2TB.
Compared with the business tiers this has a cut-down feature set, although it does all the critical sync and share functions.
For business customers, the first tier is branded Business Solo and costs $8 (£6.18) per month, but you can only subscribe annually ($96 / £74). For that, you get 2TB of space and the ability to share and collaborate.
For those that have a friend or are in a business, Business Pro costs $5 (£3.86) per month, again billed annually, and you must have a minimum of two users making for a minimum of a $120 (£92.73) per year investment.
Under Business Pro each user gets 1TB, and can be administered using a special admin console, through which users can be easily controlled.
The top tier is Business Pro Advanced, which is identical in most respects to Business Pro except you can have up to 10TB per user, and in the event of problems a Live chat escalation channel is available to help sort out the snag. That costs $15 (£11.59) per user/month, and again you must pay annually.
The lack of monthly payment options negates this as a solution for a short-term deployment, which is unfortunate.
What’s good about all these tiers is that there aren’t any caps on data transfers or file sizes, and you get the full end-to-end encryption even on Business Solo.
Even with yearly billing, the economics of Sync is strong, but where it fails somewhat is in respect of the client applications.
Not being able to select any folder and sync that is annoying, because some applications are very specific about where files should live. Bending your entire system to use sub-structures of the Sync folder might not be practical for some users, and isn’t ideal for anyone.
If you can work with this model, then Sync is a good option, offering live capture of files in a fast and efficient way and excellent file versioning.
Should Sync.com ever launch client applications with a flexible folder and file tagging solution, then it could become a more serious contender.
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