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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Experiences with SugarSync and Dropbox

One of the traditional difficulties of business travel has been not having access to files when you need them. You can take key files with you on a USB stick, but reviewing a proposal or making changes to a document, for example, can result in confusion about the latest version of a file, making changes to an old document, etc. One of the ways around this is the use of online productivity applications, such as Google Docs, that permit access to the latest versions of every file because they are on the Web and not on a desktop machine or in some other location that might be inaccessible. However, for those that still rely heavily on traditional, desktop applications, there are several Web-based file synchronization tools that allow your content to be automatically available on every platform you use.

I have used two such solutions, SugarSync (http://www.sugarsync.com) and Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com), and have generally favorable impressions of both:
  • Both tools provide very easy setup: you install a small footprint application on your “home” computer and define the files and/or folders that you want to synchronize across your other computers. You can then set up as many other platforms as you’d like, such as your notebook or home computer, installing the same application on each.
  • SugarSync is a bit more flexible in defining content to synchronize, since you can specify any file or folder on your computer; Dropbox requires a specific folder into which you move the content you want to synchronize (although the SugarSync capability is a planned feature in Dropbox).
  • After the initial synchronization takes place (which can take a few days depending on the amount of data you’re copying and the speed of your connection), all of your files are available in the cloud. When you connect with your remote platform, all of the files that you’ve identified on your home computer are downloaded.
  • From that point, synchronization is automatic – update and save a file on any platform and the file is copied to the cloud. The next time you connect with any other platform in your network, any changed files are automatically downloaded. All of your files are also available in the cloud, accessible via any Web browser.
  • One of the nice features of both SugarSync and Dropbox is that they work with both Windows and Mac platforms (which I really appreciate because I use both platforms), although Dropbox for the Mac is still in beta mode as of this writing. Dropbox also has a Linux version and supports the iPhone; SugarSync does not support Linux, but supports the iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Android platforms.
As noted, I have used both tools and generally have had good experiences with both. That said, I have had some problems with SugarSync, such as its automatically appending more than 2,000 files on my Mac with “(from [computer name])” – an annoying, but relatively harmless problem. Dropbox has caused a few problems, as well, such as creating multiple copies of a file because it perceives a conflict between file versions. On one occasion, this led me to send the wrong draft of a white paper to a client, which was a bit embarrassing – I attribute the versioning problem to the fact that Dropbox for the Mac is still version 0.7+.

Bottom line: I would recommend either tool, but lean slightly toward SugarSync because a) it is out of beta on the Mac, and b) it provides greater flexibility in terms of the content that you want to synchronize.


OpenID Syncables said...

Hey there, I'm Spencer. I work for a company named Syncables, and after reading through this, I think you might want to check us out. We make a localized syncing software that I've found makes a great compliment to dropbox and sugarsync. Our client is cross-platform, and it lets you keep your files, contacts and email synced between your computers over your home or office network, which is great for when you can't get an internet connection but still need to transfer things between your machines. Additionally, Syncables includes a media component, which allows you to upload your media to any phone or usb drive.

Anyway, come check us out sometime at www.syncables.com!

February 18, 2010 4:24 PM


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