Sync offers users an impressive double-whammy of rock-solid security and flexible folder sharing options. If you value privacy over productivity tools, then Sync might be a great option that delivers both peace of mind and pretty awesome value for money.
Sync.com Review: 8 Pros and 5 Cons of Using Sync Cloud Storage
January 23, 2020
Back in the nineties, we used to wonder how we’d ever fill up our 30MB computer harddrive. Add a few years, and RM410 for a 1GB flash drive seemed like a bargain.
And as file sizes have grown and grown, the more hungry we’ve become for GB. Heck, TB.
Today, most of us expect nothing less than a cheap, reliable and secure storage solution that lets us access our data at will. Enter the cloud storage provider.
Here’s one you might have heard of – it’s called Sync.com.
We use an exchange rate of 1 USD to 4.1 MYR for all prices listed.
Intro to Sync.com
First off – who and what is Sync.com?
The story goes as so: sprung out of Canada in 2011 by Thomas Savundia and team, Sync wanted to create a storage solution that put user privacy first. It took a few rounds of development to become the Sync its users know and love today. And that’s 750,000 users so far!
Sync aims to “make it easy for users to access and share their files from virtually any computer, phone or mobile device – without giving up their right to privacy”.
Anyone can sign up with Sync for free, but they also offer higher tiers for business and personal use, each with additional storage space and a certain amount of users per account. More on that in a bit.
We’ve heard a lot of good things about Sync and its security offerings. Never one to play by rumour, Bitcatcha is today taking a first-hand look at Sync’s pros and cons.
Setting up Sync – How easy is it?
So first things first, what’s installing Sync like?
Turns out – super simple. You can kick off the process here.
Signing up for your first 5GB requires seconds and some simple details.
Once registered, you’ll be shown a checklist of steps to fully set up Sync (completing the list also unlocks an extra 1GB storage space!)
The second prompt is to download the desktop app and corresponding Sync folder. What this basically does is it creates a space in which you can easily back up your files and start sharing them. Anything within the Sync folder is automatically backed-up.
The desktop app helps you access and search the Sync folder on your computer, as well as search the ‘Data Vault’ (more on this in a sec). You’ll also have access to version history, file activity, and deleted file recovery.
Adding files to your Sync folder is a simple matter of drag’n drop. You can treat it as any regular folder on your computer and work right out of it.
However, it wasn’t immediately obvious how one was meant to access Vault, as there wasn’t any sort of pop-up walkthrough after installation. Things are a little clearer on the web panel interface, where you’ll see some actual instructions:
8 things we like about Sync.com
Once it was installed, we went ahead and had a good play around with it.
So, what did we really think? First off, here’s everything we liked:
1. Sync really does respect your privacy
This point is best appreciated with a bit of context. Did you know that most cloud storage apps – including Google Drive and Dropbox – have terms that let their employees access, scan, and share any of your files stored on their server?
A sobering thought, right?
With Sync, they’ve set themselves up in a way that there’s no chance of that happening. This is probably the selling point they push the hardest. With good reason!
All files uploaded in Sync are protected with end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption. That means that it’s encrypted at source and only the account owner – you – controls the data key.
So, even though your files are online, they’re meaningless to others because they’d need the encryption key to understand it.
This is also known as zero-knowledge privacy. However, because Sync.com doesn’t hold the encryption keys at all, it does mean you’re in trouble if you forget your password because Sync can’t reset it.
More than that, Sync doesn’t allow for third-party access. Most cloud storage providers have a published API that allows third-party apps to interface with them, but not Sync. Which sure, might be a downer for some users. But it’s definitely a win for security.
You’ll also probably want to use two-factor authentication on top of a strong password – handled with email or Google Authenticator.
What’s all this mean? Basically, no sketchy marketing or legal data handovers, and no big data breaches. Cue sighs of relief all around.
2. Global data privacy compliance
Adding on to the earlier point, there are other reasons we have such faith in Sync’s privacy protection. It’s actually based in Canada, a region that is known for its stringent privacy laws.
As such, Sync is fully compliant to global data standards such as GDPR, PIPEDA and a bunch more. You can read more about this here.
3. It’s an integrated local drive with multiple points of access
Another thing we enjoyed about Sync is how well it works as an integrated local drive.
Easy automated backups mean you should rest easy knowing that your files are safe without you needing to take any proactive measures.
And Sync’s multiple points of access make it a drive that is great for on-the-go, and pretty much any lifestyle or working style.
- Mobile App
Available on both iOS and Android, the app is updated pretty frequently.
- Web Panel
Allows you to access your files from any web browser, no downloads necessary.
4. The Vault option lets you store data outside of your Sync folder
Another thing we really appreciate about Sync is its data vault functionality.
What is this mysterious Vault, you ask?
Well, It’s an ultra secure cloud-only storage location. So unlike what is put in the Sync folder, files inside the Vault do not automatically sync up. Instead, it’s a safe space that can be accessed through the web app or mobile app.
This makes it ideal for data backups for the sort of important files and folders that you can’t afford to lose, vs. the working files you may be updating regularly. And it’s great for freeing up space!
Moving things into Vault is a super simple matter of selecting the file, clicking ‘Move’, and checking the Vault box.
Files can easily be downloaded from the cloud back to your computer, anytime.
5. Easy file restoration
It’s always comforting to know that, not only is a file backed up, but you can also access its various forms from long ago.
Messed up? Not to worry – Sync lets you easily jump a file back to an earlier time and work from there. You can rollback any file to any previous date or time.
Simply select the ‘…’ to the right of your file, and click ‘Version History’ which brings the following screen up:
Same thing applies to deleted files:
- Free Sync customers can restore any file or folder deleted within the past 30 days.
- Sync Pro & Business customers can restore any file or folder deleted within a very impressive 365 days.
More good news – deleted files don’t count towards any of your allotted storage space!
6. Great options for corporations
Sync also serves up a range of functions that we think would be especially useful for businesses.
These include remote wiping of files, as well as stolen file audits for anything or anyone gone rogue.
Also, change tracking, detailed stats and file versioning are all very handy tools when it comes to dealing with files that multiple people are working on and to help you track who did what and when.
That level of control is a huge plus for many.
7. Easy file and folder sharing
Remember when we were talking earlier about the various functions of cloud storage?
Whilst keeping things safe is one thing, it’s also really important that a cloud storage platform enables easy sharing and transfer of these files to other people and devices.
Sync doesn’t disappoint. You’re able to:
- Share files of any size to non-Sync users.
- Do easy-link sharing to recipients, no account required (however, these files are read only).
- You can also configure sharing through Team shared folders.
- Set notifications for link activity to help track sharing.
- “Enhanced privacy” extends Sync.com’s zero-knowledge encryption to file shares.
And what we loved most is how customizable and granular you can go with the permissions. You’re able to deactivate a link, set a password, or set an expiry time and date, folder by folder.
The above screencap is taken from the free version (where you can just set password protection), but you get the idea!
All this make Sync an excellent file-sharing alternative to clunky email attachments.
8. Exponential free data
This is a quick one – remember how you get 5GB free data? Well, Sync actually offers a referral programme that lets you increase your storage space by 1GB for each referral you make.
With no limit! So if you’re not inclined to pay, you can definitely open up a bigger space for yourself if you manage to get a couple of referrals in.
With this in mind, we reckon Sync is definitely one of the best options out there for free cloud storage. We’d really recommend giving it a go.
What we didn’t like about Sync.com
That said, we definitely noticed a couple of downsides to the platform.
1. Yearly contracts only
Whilst many cloud storage hosts offer monthly plans, we were quick to notice that Sync doesn’t.
You’ll need to front up a minimum of RM200.90 (for their 500GB personal plan) for a year.
To be fair, it’s not utterly bank breaking and the prices are quite competitive, especially if you opt for the higher storage tiers and crunch the maths on what you’re paying each month.
But it’s not the absolute cheapest option on the market, and we totally get that their yearly plan might not be the best cashflow option for everyone.
2. No third-party app access
As we’ve mentioned, the security level that Sync demands doesn’t allow for third-party tools integration.
That does mean some annoying things. For example, you won’t be able to preview documents, music, movies or even photos from the browser. Nope – you’ll need to download the files first.
That could definitely be a dealbreaker for the way some people need to use their storage solution. Especially, say, if you’re dealing with hundreds of photos at a time with generic numeric file names.
3. Limited support
Whilst we read a lot of good things about the quality of support, the methods are a little limited.
All inquiries need to be submitted by email – not phone or 24/7 live chat, which may be an issue for urgent problems that require immediate responses.
4. Syncing can be slow
Given that end-to-end encryption needs to be done, we did read quite a few comments about slow upload and download speed of files. So it may not be great for users who very quickly need to move between files.
Their absolute maximum speed is 40 Mbps, not including encryption. Their site mentions that, whilst encryption delays is typically not noticeable on small files, it may add additional time when transferring very large files.
Though of course this does vary greatly with the speed of your internet connection. We personally were not bothered by the time it took to move files and folders around.
5. No Linux support
Currently, there is no Sync app that can be accessed on Linux. However, you would be able to access the Sync.com web panel on Linux using a supported web browser.
Sync’s Plans & Pricing
You can take your pick of both Sync’s Business and Personal plans:
* Price is based on a 12-month subscription basis.
* Price is based on a 12-month subscription basis.
Whilst some prices are broken down into monthly payments, as we’ve mentioned, each plan unfortunately only has the option of yearly billing.
Each of them come with a 30-day money back guarantee so you can try your plan out for size.
Payments can be made via credit card, PayPal and Bitcoin. Good news is we couldn’t spot any hidden fees and it does seem to allow the flexibility of change plans later on, if you decide you want to.
How does Sync.com compare to other competitors?
So we’ve touched on all the things we love and hate about Sync.
But, the cloud storage market is huge. There are a lot of big players out there, competing neck and neck on things like price, security and more.
Let’s take a quick look at two leading competitors to see how well Sync stands its ground.
Sync VS pCloud
It’s always a good idea to compare cloud storage providers within the same niche. And since Sync operates best on privacy, we thought it would only be fair to compare it to another excellent zero-knowledge encryption provider – pCloud.
So, how’s it compare?
The pricing of Cloud and Sync’s annual plans run very close. Both offer a 500GB option (SO great for those who just don’t need 2TB).
It costs RM196.31 on pCloud, and RM205.00 on Sync (annually). BUT pCloud has the option of monthly payments.
Sure, you’ll reap a 20% discount for fronting up the annual lump sum, but we can see why a lot of people would prefer the smaller payments.
What we love most about pCloud however, is its lifetime plan.
We’re still not sure if it’s a well-intentioned gift to humanity, or a clever way to get some marketing traction. All we know is we can save RM530.54 in 5 years if you pay for the Premium Plus 2TB lifetime plan.
What about the freebies? Well, pCloud gives you 10GB free storage to start with, compared to Sync’s 5GB. However, whilst Sync’s free space can grow exponentially with referrals, pCloud rewards your referrals in dollars instead. It’s up to you to decide which is better!
pCloud was, too, designed with privacy in mind. However!
pCloud charges extra for zero-knowledge encryption and extended versioning. Sync.com offers it as default.
The add-on is called pCloud Crytpo and costs RM20.46/mo. You CAN however, get a one-time, lifetime payment for RM512.50.
Both services use AES 256 for maximum protection. However, pCloud lacks two-factor authentication so there’s a bigger need to come up with strong passwords.
Here’s a fun fact, whilst Sync operates out of the Sync folder, pCloud gives you the option to define custom-sync relationships via its desktop control panel.
Basically, this lets you link chosen folders within your file system, to folders in your cloud. It’s quite an unusual option. And definitely handy!
pCloud and Sync are also well evolved for file and folder sharing. Both allow you to do things like set passwords and expiry dates. However, pCloud doesn’t allow download limits or activity notifications.
- File Previews
Here’s a pretty awesome advantage to pCloud – you have the option of previewing files.
Docs, photos… you can even resize images and make slideshows! Not to mention directly stream any music and video outside your Crypto folder, which is just out of the question in Sync.
- File Retention
Sync definitely seems to trump on file versioning and deleted file retention. With pCloud, file versions and deleted files are retained only for 15 days (free user) or 30 days (paid user). If you want to increase your history retention period to a year, you better cough up RM147.60 more.
Sync VS Dropbox
Dropbox is a household name and, unsurprisingly, a leader in cloud storage providers.
Sync still has miles to go in catching up with popularity, but how does it fare otherwise?
Dropbox also offer monthly payments instead of an annual lump sum (cough cough, Sync).
However, in general they seem to charge more for storage and have a lot more charged add-ons that, in our opinion… shouldn’t really be charged for. Free storage allowance is also 2GB instead of Sync’s 5GB.
- Syncing Speed
Here’s where Dropbox really starts to shine. They definitely set a gold standard to other cloud providers on how to swiftly and smoothly sync data across different devices.
This is in part because Dropbox offers block-level copying which helps ensure that sync speeds are always zippy.
It’s also endowed with a superior infrastructure of multiple data centers, something Sync just doesn’t have access to.
Dropbox offers a bunch of tools for daily life. Like Dropbox Paper, that lets you record thoughts and notes to the cloud.
Or just being able to preview files from your browser and edit Microsoft Office documents.
Not to mention, Dropbox taskbar menu is arguably more user-friendly.
In the face of Sync’s impressive security offerings, we definitely know which of these is our favourite in this area.
Dropbox doesn’t offer end to end encryption – data is decrypted before its put on the server.
It’s also stored in servers in the US – a region that’s a little infamous for past dealings of user privacy. Sync however, is stored in Canada where privacy is absolutely pivotal.
Dare we also mention that Dropbox is still recovering from its 2012 hacking where 68 million user passwords were stolen?
- Folder Sharing
Folder sharing on Dropbox does allow permissions options to edit content, whilst Sync is pretty much all read-only.
However, Sync’s ability to customize file and folder permissions really outdoes Dropbox’s basic offerings. Link and expiry settings are available, but only through the more expensive Dropbox Professional.
Verdict: Do we recommend Sync.com?
All things considered, we’re pretty dang impressed with everything Sync dishes up.
With end-to-end encryption and privacy built into the brand’s core, it’s surely one of the best options out there for fully secure cloud storage.
Sure, in terms of value, pCloud’s lifetime plan is also a great option. If you’re willing to fork out for pCloud Crypto, you’re getting a comparable level of best-in-market protection, plus the convenience of file previews.
And next to Dropbox? although Sync doesn’t have all its bells, whistles and productivity tools, we’re still team-Sync thanks to its superior security and folder sharing. We’d take absolute peace of mind anyday.
And we really appreciate that Sync lets you pay for only the amount of storage you need – whether its 500GB, or the full 10TB shebang.
Buy Sync now for incomparable security OR give their free 6GB storage a go for yourself today. What are you waiting for?