Recently I was speaking to an awesome group of real estate professionals from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. I was telling them about one of my “rainbow unicorns” that I’ve been chasing for years – a Canadian Dropbox alternative. I think I may have found it with Sync.com.
How Sync.com Works
If you’ve used other file synchronization services, using Sync.com will be familiar.
You download the Mac or Windows client, and a folder is created on your computer called Sync. Anything you save in that folder is automatically copied up to the Sync server, and if you have the Sync.com application loaded on another computer, your files will automatically appear on that other device.
You can also log in via a web browser, and everything will be accessible there.
So far, other than the fact that they give you 5GB free instead of 2, this all seems pretty similar to Dropbox. What’s the difference?
Sync.com is promoting their security and positioning themselves as a “zero knowledge” service. What does this mean? In their words:
Most cloud storage providers differ from Sync.com in one key way — they know exactly what you’re storing on their server, including the contents of your files. Sync.com guarantees that your data is completely private. Your files are encrypted before they leave your computer using a key we can never see.
They talk about this more on their privacy page.
It’s Aboot Time There Is A Canadian Sync Service
I have been searching for a solid Canadian Dropbox alternative for ages.
No offence intended to my wonderful friends south of the 49th, but many people up here prefer to have their data remain in Canada as much as possible. This particularly applies to those who work with client data such as those in the legal and financial industries.
Sync.com’s data center is in Toronto, though you’ll have to try not to hold that against them these days.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be Canadian to use the service, but for those that are concerned about that sort of thing, it’s good to know.
It Would Be Nice If…
There are some things that would be nice if they were to ask me (which they wisely haven’t).
The biggest hole is that so far there are no mobile apps. You can interact with your files via the web interface on your phone or tablet, but a service like this screams for a native iOS and Android app. Their site says that it is coming soon, so hopefully that is the case.
This is just personal opinion, but I find the sharing functionality limited. You can share a folder with someone, but you can’t create public links to individual files the way you can with Dropbox or Evernote.
If you do share the folder with an individual, they need to sign up for a Sync.com account and install the software in order to get to it. That’s fine if you are working collaboratively with someone, but not the greatest experience if you just want to share a one-off file.
Update 12/11/2013: Sync.com now supports secure single-file syncing. See how that works here.
Finally, this is a minor edge case, but I find that the Mac client doesn’t synchronize at all when I am tethering via my mobile phone. Perhaps there is a minimum bandwidth it needs. The first time I went to test Sync.com, I thought it wasn’t working because my files weren’t uploading and there was no indication that something was wrong. Eventually I realized it was because I was using my phone’s Personal Hotspot at Starbucks. As soon as I switched to wi-fi, it worked properly.
These minor suggestions aside, so far I have really liked using Sync. I haven’t timed it, but it seems like uploading and downloading is much snappier than with Dropbox and I like the security features. If you are looking for a potentially more secure Dropbox alternative, Sync.com is worth a look.