Sunday, August 31, 2008

Software Review: SugarSync

SugarSync Review

Ever need a file and realize that you aren't on the right computer or device to access it? The file is on the desktop, but alas, you are on the laptop. What if you are at a public place and need the file? Do you want to open up your whole computer to the Internet, or just want to share a small portion of your files?

What SugarSync does is very similar to some of the functions of MobileMe. You specify folders on multiple computers you want synced and whenever something changes in those folders, the software pushes down the changes. Obviously this function only works for people who have MobileMe subscriptions and who have Macs configured with their MobileMe account. SugarSync opens this ability to both Macs and PCs that don't have MobileMe subscriptions.

SugarSync is file syncing "for the rest of us" as Steve would say. Installation is a breeze. Install the program and it expertly figures out how to get to the web without reconfiguring routers or firewalls (some Windows third party firewalls might need to give SugarSync permission to work). For $2.49 a month or $25 a year, you get 10 gigabytes of storage space in their "cloud". You can install the software on as many machines as you would like to sync with because pricing is based on file size. Upgrades to add additional space are allowed. Once installed, file updates are nearly instant. Within a few seconds of putting your files in a folder configured for sync, the file is on a secure website and it automatically synced to all the machines you specify.

The program is officially still in "beta development and testing" for the Mac, but I've had no problems using it. I heavily rely on the program to sync service orders which are scanned on my PC and then read on my Mac. In particular, I like the fact it allows other to access these files (with a password) without giving them any file sharing privileges on my Mac. Unlike file sharing or MobileMe, SugarSync keeps the last five versions of files, so if a collaborator makes a mistake, you can access the previous version. I have been using the program for six months without a hint of trouble. Even if you don't sync between two devices, simply using SugarSync to back up 10 gig of information from your computer to their website for off site backup is well worth the $25 a year.

There are a few minor bugs, such as the inability to delete a machine you are currently syncing with, but I found the support quick and responsive when I had programs. You get to specify icons for the computers you are syncing with, but are given a limited selection of icons for that. Custom icons would be great, but that is a feature request, not a bug.

Other programs do this type of syncing but not quite the way SugarSync does. SugarSync's closest competition is DropBox, which currently works under the same website synchronization concept, but is in development and only allows 2 gig of backup space on their website. DropBox is "by invitation only" so can't easily be reviewed at this point. FolderShare by Microsoft does syncing between computers, but doesn't have the robust version tracking and website backup that SugarSync has.

However, for me, the greatest features is the iPhone interface, which all its competitors lack. The SugarSync website is optimized for the iPhone browser, making it a breeze to read documents synced with them. In addition, they recently developed a full iPhone app for SugarSync, though I currently find the SugarSync website easier to use on the iPhone than their app (the app was release the last week in August).

Pros: Quick reliable backup and synchronization of files on Macs and/or PCs without paying for a MobileMe subscription
Cons: Minor customizations quirks that don't effect usability, could be knocked out of position once DropBox gets out of beta

Five out of Five Dogcows

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Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right