The ability to keep one or more folders of files synchronised across multiple computers and mobile devices has become a staple facility for small business users. Dropbox is probably the best-known service of its type, but there are several to choose from. Here is BIT's summary of the major players.
Examine the table below!
UPDATE: We mistakenly uploaded a draft version of the table earlier. Here's the correct version. Was it a problem with cloud file-sync? No... no it wasn't. It was just human error.
|Box Personal||Free||10GB||250GB maximum file size. Upgrade to 100GB of storage and 5GB maximum file size for $US10/month|
|Box Starter||$US6/user||100GB||2GB maximum file size, 25 previous versions of files, access controls||3-10 users|
|Box Business||$US17/user||Unlimited (see notes)||5GB maximum file size, 50 previous versions of files, mobile security controls, one Active Directory/SSO integration||3 users minimum. Price depends on storage required|
|Box Enterprise||POA||Unlimited (see notes)||100 previous versions of files, unlimited Active Directory/SSO integrations, integration with third-party SaaS applications|
|Copy Basic||Free||15GB||30 day file revision history and file recovery|
|Copy Pro||$US4.99||250GB||180 day file revision history and recovery||1TB available at extra cost|
|Copy Companies||See notes||See notes||Unlimited file revision history and recovery, group management, multiple admin accounts, separate personal and work data, support for Copy Site Server (hardware appliance for storing a local cache of your Copy data)||Copy for Companies has a different pricing structure to most services in this category. You can subscribe for a certain amount of cloud storage (starting at 100GB for $US399 per year) or for a certain number of users (starting at $US74.90 per month or $US900 per year for unlimited storage for 10 users)|
|Cubby Basic||Free||5GB||Includes unlimited versioning|
|Cubby Pro||$US3.99||100GB||Remote wipe, DirectSync option (no data stored on Cubby's servers, just your devices), password protection on individual Cubbies (folders) with customer-controlled encryption||Introductory price, usually $US6.99. Additional storage available at extra cost|
|Cubby Enterprise||$US39.99||1TB||Centralised control and deployment, real-time logging, Active Directory support||Price for five users sharing 1TB. Price and quota increases proportionately with the number of users|
|Basic||Free||2GB||Files shared between users count against both quotas|
|Pro||$10.99||1TB||More control over sharing, remote wipe||Deleted files and previous versions stored for 30 days. Extended Version History option ($49/year) provides one year retention.|
|Business||$17/user||1TB||Unlimited file recovery, priority support||Minimum 5 users. Additional storage at extra cost|
|Google Drive Basic||Free||15GB|
|Google Drive Work||$US10/user||Unlimited (see notes)||Includes Google Apps for Work, automatic OCR and image recognition to simplify search, sharing of up to 5TB with users without Google accounts, administration controls,||Storage limited to 1TB for accounts with fewer than 5 users.|
|Basic||Free||15GB||Includes Office Online|
|1TB||$9||1TB||Includes Office 365|
|Business||$5.10/user||1TB||Office integration, version control|
|ShareFile Personal||$US16||100GB||10GB maximum file size|
|ShareFile Team||$US60 for 5 users||1TB||E-signature integration, mobile editing, Outlook and Gmail plugins, third-party integrations,||$US10 per additional user|
|ShareFile Business||$100 for 5 users||Unlimited||100GB maximum file size, email encryption, device security, user management, full text search, file check in/out, archiving and more|
|SpiderOak Free||Free||2GB||Emphasis on privacy - the company never knows your decryption key|
|SpiderOak Personal||$US7||30GB||1TB ($US12/month) and 5TB ($25/month) also available|
|SpiderOak Professional||$US12||1TB||Unlimited devices andhistorical versions, no file size limit|
|SpiderOak Blue SMB||$US6/user||Unlimited||Minimum 10 users|
|SpiderOak Blue Enterprise (hosted)||$US6/user||Unlimited||LDAP/Active Directory integration||Minimum 100 users|
|SpiderOak Blue Enterprise (private cloud)||$US6/user||Unlimited||Minimum 500 users. Runs in private cloud.|
|SugarSync Individual||$US7.49||100GB||Additional storage starts at $US9.99 for 250GB total.|
|SugarSync Business||$US55 for 3 users||1TB||Admin controls, remote wipe||Additional users from $13/month. Custom plans for 10+ users.|
|SyncPlicity Personal||Free||10GB||100GB for $US60/year|
|SyncPlicity Business||$US60/user/year||300GB plus 5GB/user||Admin controls and reporting, Active Directory/SSO integration||Minimum 3 users. Additional storage available|
|SyncPlicity Department||$US60/user/year||1TB||Minimum 25 users. Additional storage available|
|SyncPlicity Enterprise||$US150/user/year||Unlimited||Can also use on-premises storage. Integration with Documentum, mobile access to SharePoint and network shares|
|Wuala Personal||€ 0.99||5GB||Additional storage starts at €2.99/month for 20GB|
|Wuala Business||€389/year||100GB||5 groups of 5 users||Additional storage starts at €249 for 100GB, additional users and groups start at €99 for 5 of each|
NB: This information has been compiled from the companies’ web sites. The Extras column relates to the various pricing tiers, and should not be used to compare services.
So which is best? As usual, there’s no simple answer to that question.
If you’re concerned about the size and stability of the providers, then Google (Google Drive) and Microsoft (OneDrive) are about as big as they get. While some of the other names may be unfamiliar, they are brands or subsidiaries of significant players in the IT industry: Barracuda Networks (Copy), LogMeIn (Cubby), Citrix (ShareFile), EMC (Syncplicity) and Seagate (Wuala, via LaCie).
Box was founded 10 years ago, and claims to be used by 34 million people – and 45,000 companies. Dropbox has been around since 2007, and claims more than 300 million users, including some in 97 percent of Fortune 500 companies. SugarSync is slightly younger having launched in 2008. While it only claims “millions of users,” it has partnered with companies including Lenovo, SanDisk and Korea Telecom to provide cloud services to their customers. SpiderOak is of similar vintage, having been formed in 2007, and has received plaudits for its focus on privacy. As SpiderOak puts it, “'Zero-Knowledge' privacy means the server NEVER knows the plaintext contents of the data being stored. Never. Your data is never at risk of being compromised or abused by internal threats or external hackers. Never.”
Other issues to consider include the obvious one of how much storage you get for your money (but before you get too excited by the idea of a terabyte in the cloud, think about the data transfer costs), whether the service works with your favoured operating systems and devices (eg, the choices are limited if you’re a BlackBerry user), and the recoverability of files that have been deleted or modified. And if access to existing systems is built around Active Directory, using a file-sync service that supports AD will reduce the administrative load.
And if you’re cloud-phobic — or just suspicious — it is possible to achieve similar functionality without your data residing on someone else’s servers. Cubby’s DirectSync capability is one example, BitTorrent Sync is another. Furthermore, and some NAS devices provide synchronisation software (eg the Netgear ReadyNAS 314 with support for Windows, Android and iOS).