File synchronization, like slow backup speeds, is a big deal to our readers here at Cloudwards.net. Some of the more consistent gripes that appear in the comments of our cloud storage reviews have to do with slow syncs or, worse yet, bugs that lead to stalled uploads and occasionally even disappearing files.
Finding the best cloud storage for sync takes testing, and therefore time. If you’re trying to run a business, earn a degree or pursue some other objective that requires frequent work with documents, spending time finding a cloud storage service that faithfully gets your files where they need to go is probably not what you want to be doing.
To help, we’ve put together a list of the best cloud storage services when it comes to file synchronization. You’ll find both familiar names like Dropbox and Google Drive, along with equally viable, and much more secure, niche options like Sync.com and pCloud.
We also included Egnyte Connect, our favorite cloud storage for business users.
Best Cloud Storage with Sync 2018
What Makes the Best Cloud Storage With Sync?
When it comes to sync, it’s rare to find a cloud storage service today that doesn’t follow the sync model developed by Dropbox founder Drew Houston back in 2007.
The Dropbox sync model itself goes something like this:
- A special folder called a sync folder gets installed in your file system
- Any files put in the folder get stored on both your hard drive and in the cloud
From the perspective of user experience, it’s about as simple a system as could be to automate file syncing. With sync folders connected to your cloud storage space on multiple computers, file changes get transferred automatically between them, updating each as you make file edits on one.
While the method might look similar from the cloud storage service to the next, the execution can vary wildly. That, in turn, influences the speed at which syncs are made, which was one of the key aspects of sync we considered when putting together this list.
Of course, reliability is important, too. Nobody wants to have to pay too much attention to whether or not all of their files are getting synced properly. Houston’s goal in creating sync was to get away from a manual process of moving files using media like thumb drives. It was about ease of use, and having to micromanage your file syncs would defeat that purpose.
We looked at user experience in addition to sync speed. While sync folders should look the same from one cloud storage service to the next, generally each has a more variable desktop interface, too, available through a taskbar icon. Some are easy to use, others are aren’t.
Besides sync, we considered security, too, since file transfers over public WiFi networks can be dangerous. In fact, if you work in the wild (Starbucks) rather than the office or at home, you might want to look at our best VPN for cloud storage picks.
With the groundwork laid, let’s jump into our picks.
Best Cloud Storage with Sync: Dropbox
Dropbox invented the sync-folder model in 2007, and continues to set the trend today. We do a lot of head-to-head analysis here at Cloudwards.net. When Dropbox is involved, like in our Dropbox vs Google Drive article, it usually takes the prize for sync.
As you can read in our Dropbox review, files get transferred reliably and in near real-time with Dropbox, which is the goal. Behind that success is, in part, is a feature called block-level file copying that’s commonly used by the best online backup services, but all too rarely by cloud storage services.
We wrote about block-level file copying in depth, but the short version is that it means only the parts of files that changed get copied over to the cloud in the case of an edit, rather than copying the entire file all over again.
The speed advantage of this approach is enormous. Initial file uploads are among the fastest we’ve tested, anyway, but with block-level copying, subsequent syncs of edited files should happen in the blink of an eye.
Additionally, the Dropbox desktop client defaults to automatic throttling, which adjusts speeds based on other internet activity you have going on. If you really want to keep files moving, you can turn off automatic throttling and let Dropbox max out sync speeds, which is something many cloud storage services, like Sync.com, don’t let you do.
Our favorite thing about sync with Dropbox is the desktop client, itself. The Dropbox taskbar tool dutifully keeps you informed of sync activity, including changes made to files by other people. The interface and settings menus are very nicely done, being well organized, full of features and easy to read.
One setting available of note through that client is “selective sync.”
The idea behind selective sync is that you can turn sync off for specific folders so that they’re only stored in the cloud and not on your hard drive. The advantage is that you can free up space on your computer without having to pick and choose what files to keep.
Other Reasons We Like Dropbox:
Here’s a problem: besides sync, Dropbox doesn’t really do anything that’s convincingly better than other cloud storage options. We like the Dropbox web GUI design for being easy to use, but the pCloud interface is better.
We like some of the Dropbox file-sharing features, but Sync.com has more, including download limits and zero-knowledge file sharing. We like Dropbox Paper and the Office Online integration, but Google Drive is better than Paper for collaboration, thanks to Google Docs.
Overall, Dropbox is a good but no longer great cloud storage service. It’s not even our top choice for best enterprise sync and share service, an honor that falls to our second place finisher for this article, Egnyte Connect.
- Fast sync
- MS Office integration
- Nice interface
- Only up to 1TB
- No private encryption
We mentioned that block-level file copying was very rare among cloud storage services. Those services that use it include Dropbox, Amazon Drive, OneDrive (only for MS Office files, though) and Egnyte Connect.
Of all of those services, Egnyte Connect comes closest to matching Dropbox when it comes to sync speed and sync reliability. You can read up on the results of our speed tests in our Egnyte Connect review, which were impressive after initial file uploads.
For business users, it gets better, because Egnyte Connect also supports hybrid sync. With this feature, two copies of your files are synced, one to an on-premise server and the other to cloud storage. The on-premise copy lets employees more quickly access and sync files when in the office.
Either way, synced files are encrypted end to end, though Egnyte holds onto your encryption password. Egnyte Connect does integrate with Boxcryptor, but using that service will slow down your sync some and prevent block-level sync from occurring.
Egnyte, like Dropbox, has both selective sync and sync throttling features, which are available through the Egnyte Connect taskbar tool. While ultimately user friendly, Egnyte Connect can take a bit more time getting up to speed with than Dropbox, which is why we put together a thorough Egnyte Connect guide.
The real problem with Egnyte, though, is that it’s very much a business solution. There are no solo plans available and you have to buy at least five licenses. For business looking for a sync tool though, it ultimately works out to a very good deal, at around $8 per user for 5TB of storage.
Other Reasons We Like Egnyte Connect:Egnyte Connect is great for collaboration. That’s in part because of fast sync speeds, but also because of its strong file sharing features and integrated software options. Those software options include both Google Docs and Office Online, making Egnyte Connect one a few cloud storage services to offer both.
To help manage your workforce, Egnyte Connect also has excellent user management features, including a native task management app. If you prefer Trello for tasks, Egnyte Connect integrates with that tool, and is one of the best cloud storage for Slack options.
- Fast sync
- Google Docs & Office Online
- Requires at least five users
- No Linux support
To be clear, Sync.com isn’t as fast as Dropbox or Egnyte Connect when it comes to file sync, and doesn’t quite measure up to our fourth and fifth picks on this list, either. It doesn’t incorporate block-level sync and doesn’t have lots of collaboration tools to supplement sync.
However, there’s a good reason for that, which is that Sync.com is a zero-knowledge cloud storage service. That means that you, not Sync.com, hold onto your encryption keys. Because the company can’t decrypt your files, it can’t pull file metadata for indexing or read file blocks.
The approach also makes it much harder for online eavesdroppers to read files caught while in transit, though we’d still recommend using a VPN in a public place, with ExpressVPN being the best choice for that (read our ExpressVPN review).
The choice you make in using Sync.com for file sync is sync security over sync speed. Don’t think, though, that just because Sync.com is more secure, it’s also impossibly slow. We included it on this list because despite being so locked down, it’s still really fast.
Full file uploads and downloads run at speeds close to Dropbox and faster than Egnyte Connect, in our tests. Recent updates made by the dev team at Sync.com have made sync much faster for small files and made offline access to files available for the Android and iOS mobile apps. Have a look at our Sync.com review for a complete account.
Our main quibble with Sync.com and its sync feature is that the taskbar client could use some work. For example, the selective sync settings are hard to read.
Also, while you can throttle sync, Sync.com defaults to automatic throttling and there’s no option to use maximum bandwidth.
Other Reasons We Like Sync.com:
There are two things above all that Sync.com does really well, and that’s security and sharing. When it comes to both, we can’t think of a better cloud storage service. What might interest some readers more, though, is that Sync.com also provides some of the best value.
You can get 2TB of cloud storage with Sync.com for only $8 a month. That’s twice as much space as you get with Dropbox for less money. If you don’t need that much, Sync.com also has a 500GB plan for half the cost. We also rank it among the best free cloud storage choices.
If you’re thinking of Sync.com as a Dropbox replacement, have a look at our Sync.com vs Dropbox review. It’s a smart move if you can sacrifice some sync speed.
- Most secure service
- 2TB for $8 a month
- Great for file sharing
- No block-level sync
- No Linux client
- No file previews
Like Sync.com, pCloud is a compelling Dropbox alternative, even if it doesn’t sync files quite as fast as either service. It should be especially compelling for Linux users, since pCloud is, in our opinion, the best cloud storage for Linux and one of the few services to even offer sync for that OS.
Sync speeds with pCloud are respectable even without block-level copying. You can throttle speeds from the taskbar client, and the client itself holds up nicely to that of Dropbox in terms of design. That makes selective sync easy to manage with pCloud.
While pCloud doesn’t have a feature completely equivalent to that of Dropbox’s smart sync, it does at least have a network drive option called pCloud Drive, which provides similar advantages. Check our our pCloud review for more details on that feature.
Other Reasons We Like pCloud:
The pCloud web GUI provides one the top user experiences of any cloud storage service. You can preview files, including photos, which makes pCloud a Cloudwards.net pick for best online photo storage. Media streaming for both audio and video is another feature.
pCloud is also one of the best zero knowledge cloud storage services. Unlike Sync.com, though, you have to pay extra for that feature, which is available through an add-on called Crypto. Aside from having to pay for zero knowledge, pCloud is great deal, offering 2TB of storage for $8 a month on an annual subscription, with a slightly more expensive month-to-month option.
- 2TB storage for $8 a month
- Zero-knowledge option
- Media streaming
- No two-factor authentication
- Zero-knowledge isn’t free
Google Drive is probably the cloud storage platform that people are most familiar with, especially since Android now accounts for 85 percent of smartphone sales. Google Drive is also one of the best cloud storage tools for collaboration.
That’s in part thanks to great tools like Google Docs, but also because Google Drive is just very good at sync. While it doesn’t perform block-level sync like fellow business favorites Dropbox and Egnyte Connect, full file copies still run smoothly, so unless you work with really large files, it shouldn’t be an issue.
The desktop client makes managing selective sync easy, along with tweaking other settings like sync bandwidth. The client itself was rebuilt in late 2017 and renamed Backup and Sync.
One complaint with Google Drive, part of the reason we ranked it fifth, is that it doesn’t have a setting for automatically throttling sync to divert bandwidth to other processes. You can only leave it “unlimited” or set a cap. The result is that Google Drive can be a bit of a data hog, which could be a problem if you’re working on a slower WiFi network or mobile hotspot.
Other Reasons We Like Google Drive:
We mentioned Google Docs, which is probably the best overall reason to love Google Drive. You can read more about that software, along with other integrations, in our full Google Drive review.
Google Drive also now supports continuous backup. This feature can be used to backup any folder without also syncing it to other devices. It’s useful if you want to save money, but the absence of block-level copying and some other features results in it being a substantially less effective tool than a dedicated online backup tool like Backblaze (read our Backblaze review).
Another reason to like Google Drive is its 15GB of free storage, which is much more than rivals Dropbox and OneDrive. For more comparisons on that front, give our Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive article a read.
- Google Docs
- Third-party app library
- 15GB of free storage
- Weak file-sharing security
- No private encryption
- No block-level sync
Finding a cloud storage tool that syncs files is easy. Most of the services in our cloud storage review library includes file sync. In fact, there are a few online backup tools, like SpiderOak ONE (read our SpiderOak ONE review), that can sync files, too.
Much harder is finding a cloud storage tool that syncs files seamlessly. Many seemingly attractive options are slow and buggy, especially when handling large files. Check out our MEGA review for an example.
Hopefully this review helped you hone in on some more reliable options. While Dropbox is the best for sync in our opinion, the other services mentioned are great, too, and mostly offer enough advantages to make them better cloud storage services than Dropbox overall, as detailed in our best cloud storage guide.
While much of our analysis hinges on testing completed by our team over the years, we also rely on the broader experience of our readers to assess sync reliability. Because of that, we always welcome different opinions on the the subject. You can leave yours in the comments below. Thanks for reading.