File synchronization is one of the most important features of a cloud storage service. All cloud storage has file sync; without it, it’s just a cloud backup service (read our cloud storage vs backup article to learn the difference). However, when it comes to cloud features, some services have better file syncing than others.
Key Takeaways: File Syncing Services
- pCloud offers the best combination of file sync, privacy and security. Icedrive stands out with its file sync due to its virtual drive for Windows.
- Dropbox has some of the best sync software in the industry. However, privacy issues and a paltry 2GB of free storage hold it back.
- Sync.com and MEGA have excellent privacy and security, but a basic file sync experience.
How a cloud storage provider implements its file synchronization features and tools directly impacts the end user’s sync experience. A sync folder is a standard way cloud storage keeps exact copies of your files updated and available. Having your files synced between your account and your device is another common sync feature.
Many of the cloud storage providers in this article also appear on our list of the best cloud storage. However, keep reading to see why they also rank well for file synchronization, in particular.
Rearranged the list and added new entries, reformatted its structure and replaced the images.
01/25/2023 Facts checked
Rewrote this article; updated list order to reflect changes in cloud storage services.
For most services, cloud sync storage means storing data in a separate folder or even a virtual drive that acts like a hard drive. Freeing up disc space on your computer is a benefit of cloud storage.
Most cloud storage providers offer a free account of varying sizes. Specific to the providers in this article, Dropbox has the smallest free storage at 2GB, while MEGA offers a robust 20GB for free.
Sync.com offers 5GB on its free account plan. Using the refer-a-friend program gets you an additional 1GB for each referral.
Top Cloud Storage Apps With Sync
What Makes the Best Cloud Storage With Sync?
File synchronization keeps your files identical between your online account and your device. However, a few factors separate the best cloud storage services with sync. We’ve found that the following cloud storage providers offer the best cloud storage with sync.
- pCloud — Excellent combination of file sync, speed, privacy and security
- Icedrive — Great file sync with a virtual drive for Windows
- Dropbox — Selective sync and smart sync stand out as strong features
- Sync.com — Great overall cloud storage but basic file syncing
- MEGA — Good file sync for cloud data and desktop folders
Some cloud storage services offer advanced sync features, such as a virtual drive. A virtual drive functions like a hard drive, and allows the user to store files online and free up hard disk space.
File transfer speed plays a role as well, as a slow sync service could hamper otherwise excellent features. We also consider elements like ease of use, privacy and security — the last two being reasons Google Drive didn’t make our list, despite its ability to easily sync files (read our full Google Drive review for more details).
The 5 Best Cloud Storage Services With Sync Features
pCloud tops our list, combining excellent sync features that support block-level syncing with great transfer speeds, strong security and privacy. Although not as feature-rich as pCloud, Icedrive has a number of file syncing features, including a virtual drive for Windows computers.
Despite some privacy concerns, Dropbox’s file synchronization is a standout feature. Sync.com and MEGA do file sync well, although they can feel basic compared to the others.
More details about pCloud:
- Pricing: $4.17 per month (one-year plan) for 500GB
- Provider website: pcloud.com
- Robust file synchronization
- Block-level syncing
- Custom folder sync
- Paid encryption add-ons
pCloud stands out as our top choice for cloud storage provider with sync, as it lets you sync any file or folder you upload or create. You can add or remove folders and customize your account with ease. Additionally, pCloud supports block-level syncing, which — combined with fast upload and download speeds — lets you stay productive while working with larger files.
Downloading pCloud Drive to a computer or mobile device keeps your files instantly synced across your account. With pCloud Drive, you have access to selective sync, giving you the flexibility to choose which files or folders to sync.
Additionally, you can enable a virtual drive through the pCloud Drive desktop app. Creating a virtual drive lets you work on files as if they were on your computer without taking up additional hard disk space.
Strong Privacy and Security
Privacy and security are excellent with pCloud, as it uses 256-bit AES encryption for data in transit. Once your data is on pCloud’s servers, your data remains protected with TLS/SSL encryption.
This level of security is fine for most files. However, if you plan to store confidential or sensitive files, you’ll want to opt for greater encryption. You might also opt for the European data centers for GDPR protections.
All accounts have a locked encrypted folder, available only when purchasing pCloud Crypto. With pCloud Crypto, accounts gain access to this folder which includes client-side and zero-knowledge encryption. pCloud Crypto does not extend to all your folders, and some paid plans still require the additional cost to unlock the encryption folder.
pCloud’s free plan includes 2GB of space, and you can get up to 10GB once you complete micro tasks such as downloading the desktop app or uploading a file. Paid plans with pCloud are competitive and affordable; the 2TB plan costs just $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. All paid pCloud plans have a 10-day money-back guarantee. Check out our pCloud review to learn more.
- Price per user (minimum 3)
- Price per user (minimum 3)
More details about Icedrive:
- Pricing: $4.17 per month (one-year plan) for 1TB
- Provider website: icedrive.net
- Pleasing UI & UX
- Virtual drive for Windows
- Visual file previews
- No block-level syncing
Icedrive is an excellent cloud storage provider offering syncing features. Each account has a main sync folder with the option to create custom folders or sync folders from your devices. Icedrive’s file synchronization works well, as the overall upload and download speeds are very good.
However, where Icedrive really shines is with its virtual drive, or mounted cloud software. Only available for Windows, the Icedrive virtual drive simulates a real hard disk on your computer by connecting with Icedrive’s servers and giving you access to your files without occupying additional disk space.
MacOS and Linux don’t support mounted cloud software. However, the Icedrive desktop app brings added functionality and customization to these platforms, making it easy to manage files and folders. The desktop app for Mac and Linux replicates the website experience, but allows users to customize concurrent uploads or downloads and change the download and edit folder paths.
Preview Your Files
Icedrive’s user interface (UI) is sleek and easy to use, as it gets out of the way and lets users simply interact with their data. A noticeable element of the UI is the file preview feature. Many cloud storage providers have some version of file previews, but Icedrive’s is a step above, particularly with media files.
Videos play directly from the web browser, and you can make the video preview full-screen. Other supported file types include JPG, PDF, DOC and XLSX. Supporting many file types for preview makes it easy to identify your files without having to download them first. File preview also works on the desktop app, including full-screen video playback.
Icedrive makes it easy to get started on its free plan by offering 10GB. Other options include monthly or annual plans, including 1TB for $49.99 per year. Icedrive also offers lifetime plans, allowing you to pay one price upfront instead of a recurring subscription. All paid plans come with a 14-day money-back guarantee. Check out our Icedrive review to learn more.
- Bandwidth limit: 3GB
- Bandwidth limit: 250GB
- Bandwidth limit: 2TB
- Bandwidth limit: 8TB
More details about Dropbox:
- Pricing: $9.99 per month (one-year plan) for 2TB
- Provider website: dropbox.com
- Great file sync tools
- 3rd-party app integrations
- Native apps
- Privacy concerns
- A bit pricey
Dropbox supports block-level syncing, which keeps edited documents up to date by processing only new edits for every change. Additionally, Dropbox has smart sync and selective sync. Selective sync gives the user the flexibility and control to decide which folders to sync and which to exclude. This, however, requires downloading the desktop application.
Smart sync works differently than selective sync, although the two often need clarifying. Dropbox’s smart sync lets users set files or folders to online-only access. By doing this, these items don’t take up space on a device’s hard drive. Smart sync folders and files appear in a Dropbox account, making them easily accessible. Check out our Dropbox smart sync article to learn more.
From a productivity and collaboration standpoint, Dropbox excels among its competitors due to its excellent file sharing. Of all the services on our list, its desktop sync works the best with the Dropbox folder.
Dropbox promotes productivity and collaboration through numerous third-party app integrations, including Google Workspace and Office 365. These popular productivity suites make it easy to keep projects and teams connected, and collaboration efforts moving forward.
It also supports communication with app integrations to Slack and Zoom. Other third-party connections to Dropbox include Canva for graphic design and Adobe for PDF files.
Dropbox has native apps such as Dropbox Paper, an integrated note-taking app. We cover more in our Dropbox Paper review. “Dropbox sign” lets you prepare and sign documents, while DocSend is an advanced document-sharing feature with real-time analytics.
Another Dropbox native app, Capture, allows you to record and share screen captures or recordings, a nice feature for creating video training or sending team messages.
The free plan with Dropbox only comes with 2GB of storage. That’s enough to try the service, but it falls far short of doing any meaningful work. Dropbox offers affordable plans, such as the 2TB Plus plan at $9.99 per month when billed annually ($11.99 per month, otherwise). For a deeper dive, check out our Dropbox review.
- 1 user
- 1 user
- 1 user
- 1 user
- 1 user Signature requests and eSignature templates
- 3 users minimum
- 3 users minimum
More details about Sync.com:
- Pricing: $8 per month (one-year plan) for 2TB
- Provider website: sync.com
- Great privacy & security
- Robust file sharing
- Zero-knowledge encryption
- Slow sync speeds
Sync.com tops many of our lists as the best cloud storage service. However, when it comes to file synchronization, Sync.com doesn’t offer quite as much as its competitors. You can upload folders from your device to sync across your account. Additionally, any custom-created folders stay synchronized.
It offers selective sync when using the desktop app. Like other cloud storage providers on this list, selective sync on Sync.com allows you to select or deselect folders to sync with your account. You can customize your selective sync settings through the app.
Recently, they introduced a beta version of Sync CloudFiles. The feature allows you to designate specific files and folders for exclusive file storage, while still maintaining visibility in the sync folder on your computer. This frees up some space on your local device.
Sync.com does not support block-level syncing due in part to its zero-knowledge encryption, meaning it does not have access to your files. This means that even small changes to a large file require the entire file to download and upload, potentially hampering efficiency. Additionally, the service’s speeds are on the slower side, which can impact productivity working with large files.
Professional File Sharing
Sync.com is an excellent service for any user; however, there are a number of business-focused features that make it great for the workplace.
The client file portal is one such example, and it makes professional file sharing easy and efficient. It allows businesses to include their branding on the portal, adding to the professional presentation when sending business documents such as proposals or briefings.
As a feature with most of Sync.com’s business plans, the client file portal allows you to send password-protected files securely to protect customer data. Additionally, the client file portal has real-time insight and email notifications that support time-sensitive documents. A built-in file preview is offered as well.
A free Sync.com account comes with only 5GB of storage, but Sync.com offers many affordable paid plan options. The 2TB Pro Solo Basic rings in at just $8 per month, billed annually. All paid plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Check out our comprehensive Sync.com review to learn more.
- Price per user
- Price per user
- Unlimited GB
More details about MEGA:
- Pricing: $9.06 per month (one-year plan) for 2TB
- Provider website: mega.io
- Excellent free storage
- Zero-knowledge encryption
- Encrypted file sharing options
- Expensive paid plans
MEGA does many things well, including file synchronization. All accounts have access to something called the main cloud drive folder. Within this folder you can create additional folders to customize your account folder and file structure. However, MEGA does not support block-level syncing.
Downloading the MEGA desktop app creates a MEGAsync folder on your computer. The MEGAsync folder is your dedicated space for syncing files and folders on your computer. The MEGA desktop app allows you to choose which folders to sync and create additional paths to local folders, meaning you can have multiple sync folders simultaneously.
The mobile app functions as a way to access your account on the go. Your MEGAsync folder is included, and the mobile app gives you the ability to upload photos, scan documents or add new folders.
One area where MEGA could improve is in third-party app integrations. To mitigate this, MEGA allows anyone to access folders or files you share with them without the need to have a MEGA account. You won’t have real-time collaboration or document editing, but you can use MEGA to work with others on projects.
Using the MEGAdrop folder, anyone can send folders or files to your account, even without a MEGA account of their own. Any folder on your MEGA account can become a MEGAdrop folder by selecting this option from the dropdown menu.
MEGA offers one of the most generous free account data allotments at 20GB (with the potential to add more free space by completing a few micro-tasks). However, MEGA’s cloud storage costs are expensive compared to its competition. The 2TB plan costs $10.86 per month or $108.69 annually. Read our MEGA review for more information on this cloud storage service.
Final Thoughts: Cloud Storage With Sync
Selecting the best cloud storage with file sync is difficult, as there are many great providers to choose from. pCloud is our top option, offering excellent speeds, decent cloud storage cost and file sync customization.
Icedrive’s virtual drive is a stand-out feature that compliments its fast upload and download speeds. Despite privacy concerns and a small free plan, Dropbox does file sync exceptionally well. Sync.com and MEGA round out our list, offering capable but basic file sync experiences.
How important is file sync to you? Do you use one of the cloud storage providers listed here? Which one is the best cloud storage service for syncing? Are there other cloud storage services that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below. As always, thanks for stopping by.