Google Drive, SugarSync, DropBox and Carbonite – The Battle to Backup and Share Data

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There are many products and services out there offering buzz words like backing up, and “syncing” to the omnipresent “cloud”. I thought I’d cut through some of the hype to compare the most popular offerings in the market today (and there are upwards of 50 of these). In today’s transitional environment from the traditional computers/laptops to mobile devices the key capabilities are:

  1. Backing up your data
  2. Accessing your data – whether from another machine or a mobile device
  3. Sharing certain data with colleagues or friends

People never worry about backups until it is too late and your laptop crashes and you lose precious data. For the last 2-3 years at work, we have been using Carbonite on critical laptops and servers to backup important data. Carbonite also offers a mobile app to access this data, albeit for one user login and therefore one machine. Carbonite however is like the “batch process” of olden days. It surveys your machine at certain time periods and then does a mass upload of files and documents that have changed or are new. It is not an instant sync like some of the offerings, but I do see it regularly run to sync all my changed or new documents. I did have a laptop fail on me once and thanks to Carbonite I was able to restore all my documents to my new netbook over the course of a weekend. At a little more than $50 per year per machine, Carbonite does a good job of securing your data at the price of a Starbucks latte each month. As for accessing it via my Android mobile app, it works but my only peeve is that I have to navigate the directory structure of my netbook on the phone to find a file. Once I find it, I can email it or share it.

The newly introduced Google Drive is very similar to Dropbox. They both offer a folder on your desktop called “Google Drive” or “Dropbox”. Any files or folders you drag and drop into this folder gets synced up to the “cloud”. You can now access it via a mobile device or a web browser on another machine. Google Docs are also now a part of Google Drive and any documents created or shared using Google Docs are a part of this offering. The Google Drive mobile app is slick and easy to use (no surprise) and you can retrieve a document from your Google Drive and email it as if it were resident on your mobile device which is pretty nice.  Dropbox on the other hand will email someone a link to your file and asks the recipient to become a Dropbox subscriber as well which is a pain (and also how I discovered Dropbox when someone shared a file with me). I do find it irritating that everything with Google Drive is tied to my Gmail when most of my uses for this capability would be tied to my work email address. It seems like Google each day becomes more like Microsoft.

SugarSync is very similar to both of these services above with a Carbonite like feature. I can select which folders or files on my computer I want to sync to the cloud. I don’t have to drag and drop anything into a separate folder. Like Dropbox when you share a file it dispatches a web link and not the actual document.

Once you go above the 5GB free, SugarSync and Dropbox do become expensive while Google Drive is a lot more affordable at least now when it is in its introductory period. At the end of the day none of them really cut it for me completely.

Ironically, the best app would be a combination of the best features of these otherwise awesome products. That killer app would allow me to

  • Associate the service with which ever email address I choose to use
  • Select which folders and files on my laptop to sync (like Carbonite and SugarSync) without having to drag and drop into a sharing folder OR be able to select files and documents from multiple devices (like SugarSync)
  • Have an easy and simple mobile app or web service to retrieve or view these files (like Google Drive or SugarSync)
  • Share or email a document as a document attachment to an email (like Google Drive) and not as a link (or give me an option to choose which way I want to do it)

Offer a cheap price irrespective of data size (like Carbonite) or modest pricing (like Google Drive)

I hope one or all of them do these. Till then I will use Carbonite for the backup, Google Drive for sharing, SugarSync for quick access to certain files and well, Dropbox is out there somewhere as well.

Added later: This article by Kevin Purdy is a good review of the major cloud share/backup providers based on cost/GB