I recently had the pleasure of participating in SugarSync beta.  The beta is now finished and anyone can signup for a 45 day trial.  Today is the last day of my trial.  While testing SugarSync I can't help but compare it to my current online backup solution, Mozy.  Comparing SugarSync and Mozy really isn't fair.  SugarSync, as the name implies, is a syncing program.  Mozy, on the other hand, is an off-site backup solution.  However, because SugarSync copies your files to their website it also serves as a backup solution.  I suspect many people are using it this way.

What's the same?

With both Mozy and SugarSync you install an application on your desktop, select which folders you want to backup/sync, and let it go.  Both programs then monitor the folders you specified and uploads changes to the website.  With either application you can download the files either through the application or online.

What makes SugarSync better?

imageMozy offers unlimited backup for $4.95 a month.  For the same price on SugarSync you get 30 GB which for most people is plenty and practically speaking all I would every imagine uploading to Mozy in its current state.  The truth with Mozy is that once I got above a few GB it became painfully slow index and upload files.  Now your mileage may very.  The files I'm backing up to Mozy are actually periodically copied from my main drive to my backup drive before being scanned and uploaded (see Backup Strategy).  That means many files are changed all at once not one at a time over many days as Mozy expects.  It takes Mozy a long time to sort out what files have changed and several days to upload all these files.  SugarSync doesn't appear to have this problem at least during the limited beta when traffic was likely low.  Now I haven't done any intensive benchmarking so I can't say for sure but files appear to be sorted and uploaded to SugarSync rather quickly.  Even if the speed wasn't an issue the SugarSync application shows me what files have been uploaded and which are pending.  It really eases the mind to know which files are safe and which are not.

Understandably because Mozy's service is for unlimited space they restrict you to one computer.  That is not the case with SugarSync.  After all it's main purpose is Syncing.  With SugarSync you can install the application on multiple computers, they can all upload to the same account.  They can even be setup to keep certain directories in sync across computers (hence the name).

Probably one of the best things about SugarSync is its 'web 2.0' website.  On the website you can view, download, and update files in your file set  If you update the files online they are also updated on your computer next time that computer syncs.  This is really great if you need to work on a file while on the road.  With Mozy you can download the backup through their 'web 1.0' website but that is it.  In addition to the website SugarSync has a mobile windows client that can view images in your backup and sync your mobile photos.  You can also visit the mobile version or iphone version of the website to download other files.

Why I'm (reluctantly) sticking with Mozy.

image With all this great sweetness with SugarSync (pun intended) it has one serious flaw.  SugarSync lacks file versions.  Imagine that you have a very important word document.  One day you may open this word document and discover that all the images are replaced with big red 'X's.  This happened to me in the past with a few large word docs.  The file is corrupted, you need to restore it.  If you then restore this file from SugarSync you will discover that it has the same problem.  SugarSync has "backed up" your corrupted word document over your good version.  Unless you keep another backup somewhere else on your files system you are screwed.  But isn't that the point of a backup system, so you don't have to do it manually.  With Mozy you can restore one of the previous versions before the corruption took hold.  Ultimately, I think this makes SugarSync practically unusable as a backup system.  But, as I said before SugarSync is not really intended to be a backup solution.

What I'd like to see.

I really like SugarSync.  I'm tempted to use SugarSync and Mozy together as a Sync/Backup tag team but $25 a year for SugarSync and $50 a year for Mozy I can't justify it.  If SugarSync had a cheap (or free) low GB version I might continue to use it for essential files that I need to access on other computers.  Instead, for now, I will use Box.net for that and Mozy for backup.

Now with that said I think SugarSync has a lot of room to grow.  It feels to me that Mozy is basically use-as-is software for the foreseeable future while SugarSync is actively pursuing improvements.  If they added file versions I'd jump ship today.  I have a couple of other ideas that would make it the ultimate backup/syncing/mobile documents solution. 

When storing files "in the cloud" security is a serious concern.  SugarSync has robust security in place on their servers but what about on the users end?  If you need to access a file while on the road you may be logging in on a uncontrolled desktop in a cyber cafe or maybe an open wi-fi hotspot.  In this situation your password my be sniffed or key-logged.  With so much of your personal data online this can be disastrous.  I'd like to see a mechanism of protecting against this either with a security token or perhaps restricted throw-away logins that can only access files you have deemed accessible while on the road.  I don't see anyone doing this at this time but it is necessary if we are to feel comfortable keep private data online.

Since I don't want to use SugarSync "on the road" I use Box.net.  Box.net has what they call OpenBox services.  Files uploaded to your box.net account can be viewed and edited online using any number of online services including Zoho (office documents) and Picnik (image editing).  I'd like to see this type of services added to SugarSync.  If SugarSync is going to become my one stop shop for online file storage this is a must.  Or how about using the OpenBox platform to sync a SugarSync folder with box.net?  That would be cool.

Thank you, goodnight.

If someone from Sharpcast (makers of SugarSync) see this I want to thank you for allowing me to participate in your beta.  I look forward to seeing where you go from here.