Like a diva, Dropbox has a polarizing effect. Some people swear by it, others swear at it. Far from settling the debate, we thought we’d throw a little fuel on the fire with a no-holds-barred sync-off. The contender: privacy-focused niche player Sync.com.
Both Dropbox and Sync.com are frequently featured on our continually evolving list of the best cloud storage providers. That and the fact that they’ve earned our respect here at Cloudwards.net for very different reasons makes for what we thought would be a very compelling contrast.
We’re also suckers for an underdog story, so there’s that. After you’re done reading, don’t forget to check out our cloud storage reviews library, where you’ll find our both our full Sync.com review and Dropbox review.
A Battle for Best Cloud Storage: Sync.com vs Dropbox
Dropbox has long been one of the leaders of the cloud storage field. Founder Drew Houston invented the sync-folder model commonly used today, and Dropbox is one of the best cloud storage tools for collaboration and productivity. It’s partly for those reasons that Dropbox claims over 500 million users today.
Sync.com, meanwhile, at last report had 260,000 users, including businesses. While the number of Sync.com customers doubled in 2016, it’s clearly a far cry behind Dropbox in the popularity contest.
Total active users isn’t everything, though. While we won’t deny that Sync.com lags behind Dropbox in productivity features, much like Google Drive and OneDrive do, it remains an intriguing cloud storage option worth a serious look.
As we go along, you’ll quickly see why Cloudwards.net ranks Sync.com as one of the top Dropbox alternatives. We’ve laid out the comparison over four rounds: cost, file sync, file sharing and security. Let’s get started.
Cost of Storage
We’ll kick things off by comparing the cost of personal cloud storage for each service. While bottom line isn’t everything, it’s not nothing either.
Home users can use use Sync.com at no cost with 5GB of free storage. On top of that, you can suggest Sync.com to friends to earn 1GB of additional storage per referral. Your friends will get an additional 1GB, too.
You can post your referral link to your blog or Twitter to earn more, and there’s no limit to how many gratis gigabytes you can rake in. This generous referral policy has made Sync.com rank highly among our picks for best free cloud storage.
If you need more space than you can get for free, you can opt for one of two personal plans: 500GB or 2TB.
|Plan||Starter||Pro Personal (Option One)||Pro Personal (Option Two)||Business Solo||Business Pro||Business Pro Advanced|
$ 4 08monthly
$ 48 96yearly
$ 8 00monthly
$ 96 00yearly
$ 8 00monthly
$ 96 00yearly
$ 5 00monthly
$ 60 00yearly
$ 15 00monthly
$ 144 00yearly
|Storage||5 GB||500 GB||2000 GB||2000 GB||1000 GB||10000 GB|
Individual business plan
Both plans need to paid for annually and up front, but that’s really the only downside. 500GB of storage for $49 a month works out to a bit over $9 a month, while 2TB for $96 dollars a year works out to $8 a month. That’s a bargain either way, although the 2TB plan is certainly the better deal.
If you do end up with buyer’s remorse, you also have 30 days to request your money back, no questions asked. We haven’t heard of any complaints concerning Sync.com not honoring those terms.
Like Sync.com, Dropbox provides a free personal plan. However, it’s not quite so generous at just 2GB.
The same is true of the Dropbox referral program, which gets you 500MB of additional storage, for a max of 16GB on a free plan. Subscribe, though, and you get 1GB of storage per referral and the cap goes up to 32GB.
Dropbox has two personal plans to choose from, like Sync.com, but either only gets you 1TB of cloud storage. There’s no option for more or less.
|Plan||Dropbox Plus||Dropbox Professional||Dropbox Business|
$ 9 99monthly
$ 119 00yearly
$ 19 99monthly
$ 239 88yearly
$ 15 00monthly
$ 180 00yearly
|Storage||1000 GB||1000 GB||2048 GB|
Dropbox Plus is the plan most users go with, and costs $9.99 a month or $99.99 if you pay for a year up front. The annual option works out to $8.12 monthly, savings that don’t really seem to justify the commitment.
Dropbox Plus is actually missing some key features, including selective sync and advanced sharing features. We’ll touch on both when we cover sync in round two and sharing in round three.
The advantages of paying $19.99 for Dropbox Professional include 120-day file versioning, advanced sharing features, text search, image search and “smart sync,” a feature we’ll touch on in the next round.
These are nice features, but significantly less so when you factor in the fact that they double the cost.
Round One Thoughts
Sync.com gives you more free cloud storage than Dropbox. However, the bigger point in its favor is its 2TB plan. That’s one dollar less than Dropbox Plus for twice as much storage. Not only is Sync.com a better deal than Dropbox, it’s one of the best bargains in cloud storage.
File synchronization, or just “sync” for short, lets you connect multiple devices to the cloud to share files between them. The goal is to have file edits made on one device automatically transfer to other devices so you don’t have the fiddle with USB drives.
In this round, we’re going to look at how both Sync.com and Dropbox approach sync, and how well they do it. We’ll include some speed results to help determine a winner.
These tests were performed over a WiFi network with internet speeds of 10 Mbps up and 22 Mbps down from a test location in SE Asia. Your own speeds will likely differ greatly based on where you’re located and your internet connection, but this should give you some idea of the relative performance.
Sync.com manages synchronization through a sync folder, like most cloud storage services. Install the desktop client, and this folder is added to your file system.
Drag files into the sync folder to send them to your cloud and other devices. There’s nothing special in the design, but that’s how it should be: simple.
What’s important is how quickly files are copied. Here are the results of our speed tests with Sync.com:
|First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:
|Upload time:||16 minutes, 32 seconds||14 minutes, 03 seconds||15 minutes, 29 seconds
|Download time:||6 minutes, 56 seconds||6 minutes, 42 seconds||6 minutes, 49 seconds|
Those speeds aren’t terrible when you consider that Sync.com’s data center is located in Canada, on the other side of the world. At the very least, they’re comparable with other services we’ve tested. Keep in mind, too, that usually you won’t be uploading and downloading 1GB files, unless you work with video.
Fast is usually best, but synchronization can slow down other activity if your computer is working with limited resources. By default, Sync.com adjusts bandwidth automatically so that it doesn’t interfere with other processes. However, you can also cap it manually.
Just go to the Sync.com taskbar icon, select “preferences” and head to the “network” tab of the window that opens.
There is no option for “unlimited” bandwidth, although based on our speed tests above, Sync.com seems to make efficient use of what’s available.
While sync is a useful feature, the ability to turn sync will be more important for some users. That’s because with sync on, you’re storing files both on your hard drive and in the cloud. If you want to use cloud storage to clear space on your hard drive, sync is counterproductive.
To meet this need, Sync.com provides what is known as selective sync. Access this feature from the Sync.com taskbar icon, by selecting “preferences” and opening the “advanced” tab.
Uncheck folders and they’ll no longer be stored on your hard drive.
One of the drawbacks of Sync.com’s integration of this feature is that you won’t be able to see non-synced folders in your file system any longer. You’ll have to use the Sync.com browser interface. Dropbox has a solution to that problem — if you’re willing to pay for it.
Like Sync.com, Dropbox also installs a sync folder on your file system when you install the client. As mentioned, this is actually a mechanism that Dropbox invented.
We performed the same synchronization speed tests with Dropbox that we did with Sync.com, over the same WiFi network. The table below shows the results.
| First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:|
|Upload Time:||16 minutes||16 minutes||16 minutes|
|Download Time:||6 minutes||6 minutes, 30 seconds||6 minutes, 15 seconds|
Dropbox seems to make much better use of available bandwidth than Sync.com. Dropbox has servers in the U.S. and Europe, although only business customers can use the European facilities. Still, multiple datacenters in the U.S. should help avoid bottlenecks.
Dropbox also lets you limit upload and download speeds by accessing the client settings through the taskbar desktop icon. (The Dropbox taskbar menu is actually much better designed than Sync.com’s, though we’re not factoring tastefulness into this article).
By default Dropbox, like Sync.com, automatically adjusts upload speeds so as not to interfere with other activity. Also like Sync.com, you can also manually cap speeds. Unlike Sync.com, Dropbox also has a “no limit” setting that will maximize bandwidth no matter what else you have going on.
Where Dropbox really outmaneuvers Sync.com, though, is in its use of block-level file copying. This method of copying means that when you edit a file, only the edited portion of the file is overwritten to the cloud, rather than recopying the entire file.
This approach greatly enhances sync speeds, which makes it somewhat surprising that more cloud storage solutions haven’t followed suit. Right now, the only others to offer block-level copying that we know of are Amazon Drive, OneDrive (for MS Office files) and Egnyte, our pick for best enterprise sync and share service.
Dropbox provides both standard select sync capabilities and, you’re willing to splurge on a Dropbox Professional account, the enhanced version, Smart Sync.
Selective sync is managed through the “sync” tab of the desktop client’s preferences tool.
With standard selective sync, any folders you selected for sync will no longer be shown in your Dropbox sync folder. Smart Sync lets you still see and access them, kind of like a network drive. It’s a great enhancement, but one we wish was included for free.
Round Two Thoughts
Dropbox not only invented the modern-day approach to sync that everyone uses today, the company continues to set the bar. It’s fast on initial file transfers and features like block-level sync and smart sync greatly enhance the user experience.
Sync.com, despite its name, doesn’t quite measure up. That’s not to say that it performs poorly, however. Moreover, at least according to what we’ve been told by Sync.com, the service’s zero-knowledge encryption protection, which we’ll talk about in round four, prevents it from implementing block-level sync.
On top of that, actual process of privately encrypting files probably slows things down, some. The biggest difference maker, though, is likely that Sync.com just doesn’t have the infrastructure of Dropbox, which as multiple data centers at its disposal.
Excuses aside, if you’re looking for fluid device synchronization, Dropbox is your best bet.
File sharing lets others view or download files in your cloud storage. Like sync, most companies follow the same basic approach to implementation, which is to generate links pointing to folders and files. Again, though, some companies do better than others.
Let’s see how Sync.com and Dropbox do.
You can share stored files with Sync.com both through the browser interface and the Sync.com mobile apps, available for Android and iOS.
Files can be shared in the browser by clicking their associated “share button.”
This generates a link pointing to that file, which you can copy to distribute manually or share via email.
One of the things that’s made Sync.com a Cloudwards.net favorite is that it doesn’t stop there. The service lets you attach both passwords and expiry dates to links, as long as you’re a paying customer.
Some services are starting to get on this bandwagon by offering the same features, though most don’t. Sync.com goes even further, though, by also letting you set download limits for links, receive notifications on link activity and check download stats.
Even better, Sync.com users can add “enhanced privacy” to links, which makes them zero knowledge. Again, we’ll talk more about zero knowledge in our security round, but basically its a means of ensuring nobody but you and those you share your files with can decrypt them.
With Sync.com, you can also share folder access which works much the same way as sharing individual files. When you share a folder, each file inside is given a separate link. Those with access the folder can either download them individually or download them all together as a .zip file.
You can also invite users to access folders based on their address, rather than generating a link. By doing so, you can give individuals permissions like view only, edit and invite. Links capable of letting others upload files to your cloud storage are another option.
Sharing options from your smartphone are similar, thanks to enhances made in September 2017. Previously, the mobile app was unable to share files.
Dropbox also lets you share files from both its browser interface and Android or iOS apps. Dropbox has the added advantage over Sync.com with sharing directly from your desktop sync folder, too.
Browser-based shared are performed by clicking the “share” button associated with any folder or file. This opens a window where you can enter email addresses or copy the link to share manually.
Folder sharing adds additional permissions options to edit content. You can also grant those with edit permissions the ability to manage folders.
Dropbox has both link and expiry settings but access to them requires Dropbox Professional, which seems a bit stingy on Dropbox’s part.
Dropbox doesn’t let you limit link downloads or receive activity notifications, but it does have a couple of useful, related views.
The first is a “sharing” view where you can get a quick overview of folders and files that you’re sharing, and links that have been created. The second is a “file request” view that lets you request files from others and upload them to your Dropbox account, even if they’re not customers themselves.
The Dropbox mobile app lets you share content, too, but doesn’t let you password protect or add expiry dates to links, even with Dropbox Professional. The app also doesn’t include the two views just mentioned (“sharing” and “file requests”).
Round Three Thoughts
File sharing with Dropbox is convenient, particularly with the ability to share files directly from your file system. However, there’s no question the approach taken isn’t as secure as that of Sync.com, and wouldn’t be even if link password and expiry dates were included with Dropbox Plus.
Sync.com just has a really solid approach to file sharing that no other cloud storage service — not just Dropbox — matches right now. Much like Dropbox sets trends with sync, Sync.com sets trends with file sharing.
It’s for that reason that we choose Sync.com as the best cloud storage for file sharing, beating out Dropbox. It probably goes without saying, that Sync.com also edges out Dropbox in round three.
Keeping your files in the cloud is convenient, but for some it’s an understandably frightening proposition, too. The blame for high profile hacks like the notorious “fappening” and others like it is often placed at the door of tech companies, while they are usually more the result of weak passwords rather than bad cloud security.
However, there’s still plenty a cloud storage service can do to make sure you’re not your own worst enemy, in addition to insuring that even if their services are somehow breached, your files will remain private. Check out the Cloudwards.net online privacy guide for more ways to stay safe.
Sync.com does what should be an expectation for any cloud storage service by encrypting your files both in transit and at rest.
Very few cloud storage companies still don’t encrypt users files stored on their servers, with Amazon Drive and OneDrive (for home users, anyway) being the two biggest names not to have gotten their act together yet.
The method of encryption used is 256-bit AES, which by most estimates would take even the world’s fastest supercomputers billions of years to decipher. Sync.com also protects data transmission using TLS/SSL and 2048-bit RSA to prevent successful online eavesdropping.
Again, most of this is standard fare these days. Where Sync.com separates itself from the pack is by letting users hang onto the keys to decrypting these files, rather than holding onto them itself.
Files are encrypted before they ever leave your machine and don’t get unencrypted until you retrieve them. The encryption password used is generated based on the password you set, which Sync.com never knows.
Called zero-knowledge encryption, this is the best approach to keeping your files safe. It means that nobody at Sync.com can read your files, whether for marketing or legal purposes, or as a result of a data center breach.
The downside is that, if you forget your password, Sync.com also can’t reset it for you, so you’ll have lost access to your files. If you decide on Sync.com, make sure you store your password somewhere safe, like a cloud password manager.
If you don’t trust yourself to remember, you can let Sync.com store your password, instead, or supply a password hint for the company to keep on file.
Even with zero-knowledge encryption in place and 256-bit AES, a weak password can be easily hacked. You’ll want to make sure you take steps to create a strong password, but may also want to take advantage of Sync.com’s two-factor authentication option.
Two-factor authentication means that even if someone steals or guesses your password, they won’t be able to login into your account from their own computer without also entering a special code.
When you login from an unfamiliar device, Sync.com will send you this code via email message so you can gain access. You can also use Google Authenticator.
Another advantage of using Sync.com is the company’s location in Toronto. That means its governed by Canada’s consumer-friendly privacy laws laid out in PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act).
Files are encrypted during transit and at rest with Dropbox, but that process isn’t end-to-end. Once arriving at the Dropbox datacenter, before being stored on the servier, they get decrypted and then re-encrypted.
The reason Dropbox takes this approach is to separate the content of your files from its metadata, which refers to elements like file names, types and sizes.
Dropbox pulls this information for indexing, which speeds up file access. While performance is the upside, it works not because Dropbox separates metadata out, but because it doesn’t encrypt it again like it does with your file content.
There’s quite a bit others can tell about you from your file metadata alone. The good news is that Dropbox at least stores metadata on a separate server from file content.
The level of encryption used by Dropbox to secure file content is 256-bit AES. In transit, it uses 128-bit AES along with TLS/SSL tunnels. 128-bit AES is weaker but also faster and, like 256-bit AES, would take an unpractical amount of time to brute force crack.
Dropbox also supports two-factor authentication to protect against password theft. When logging into your account on an unfamiliar machine, you can request Dropbox to verify your identity either via text message or a mobile authenticator app.
Dropbox headquartered in the U.S., which unfortunately doesn’t have the most sterling reputation with regard to user privacy. The NSA surveillance program PRISM, revealed to much public outcry in 2013, is still going on. In 2016, the FBI took Apple to court to try and force the company to develop an encryption backdoor allowing access to iPhone data.
The FBI lost the case, but both it and PRISM point to a willingness to invade private information stored electronically. That may be a reason for some to prefer storing their data outside of the U.S.
Round Four Thoughts
Not everyone is going to care about the NSA accessing their data, and for most people it won’t make a difference where their data is stored. Sync.com Canada location is a privacy advantage, but by far the bigger advantage it has over Dropbox is its use of zero-knowledge encryption.
You can fairly point out that Dropbox wouldn’t be the cloud storage service it is with private encryption. The fact that it holds onto your encryption keys lets its index files, which enhances performance. Fast file access is a huge part of why the service has 500,000 users.
However, there’s also little doubt that Sync.com is more secure. And we didn’t even bring up the fact that Dropbox had 68 million user passwords stolen in 2012.
Sync.com took three out of four rounds, but you’d be right to call foul. Afterall, we didn’t bring up one of Dropbox’s biggest advantages over Sync.com, which are its integrated productivity apps.
Dropbox has a capable notes app called Dropbox Paper that lets you record thoughts and meeting minutes and keep them in the cloud. It also lets you preview files from your browser and edit Microsoft Office documents thanks to an integration with Office Online.
Sync.com gives you none of these things, if only because it’s lockdown approach to encryption makes browser-based integrations difficult. However, in a vacuum, many users are going to choose Dropbox over Sync.com for its tools.
Lucky for us, we don’t live in a vacuum. Both Google Drive and OneDrive, for example, have more and better integrated productivity apps than Dropbox. The fact that Google Drive also gives you 15GB of free cloud storage space have helped it speed past Dropbox in total number of users with 800,000 at last count (read our Google Drive review).
The reason we’re bringing all that up in an article about Sync.com and Dropbox is that with its productivity tools and generous free storage, you could use both Google Drive and Sync.com to reap the benefits of both for less than a Dropbox subscription.
It feels so right, in fact, that we wrote an article about the potential partnership. Romantic, aren’t we?
When it comes down to it, the only truly compelling reason to use Dropbox over Sync.com or any other cloud storage is that it handles file sync so well. Beyond that, Sync.com offers much better value with 2TB of storage for $8 a month, and a much more secure approach to file sharing and encryption.
Final Winner: Sync.com
Sync.com is our pick, but we welcome a difference in opinion. Drop us some insight on the subject in the comments below. We also do questions.