Sync.com - A Canadian Dropbox Alternative That Embraces Privacy

Sync.com – A Canadian Dropbox Alternative That Embraces Privacy

What do you do when you want to synchronize your files to the cloud, but you don’t want the cloud service to have access to them and you don’t (no offense to my wonderful American readers) want them stored in the United States?

For years this was my “rainbow unicorn” I was searching for – a Canadian Dropbox alternative.

I finally found it with Sync.com[1] back in 2013 (when I first wrote this post), and the service has come a long way since then.

How Sync.com Works

If you’ve used other file synchronization services, using Sync.com will be familiar.

Sync folderYou 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.com 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.

Sync.com Web Interface

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?

Zero-Knowledge Encryption

Sync.com is promoting their security and positioning themselves as a “zero knowledge” service. What does this mean? In their words:

“Zero-knowledge” means we absolutely cannot access the encrypted data stored on our servers. Your data is completely safeguarded from unauthorized access, which is the only way you can completely trust the cloud. Protecting your right to privacy is our passion.
* End-to-end, client-side encryption on all your files, in transit and at rest
* Only you have access to the encryption keys
* We don’t store your password – it’s never transmitted to us
* File meta-data is also encrypted and only accessible by you

They talk about this more on their privacy page and there’s a whitepaper, if you’re interested.

It’s Aboot Time There Is A Canadian Sync Service

I had 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 centers are in Ontario. 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.

Other Features

When I originally wrote this post back in 2013, there was very limited sharing ability and no mobile apps. Thankfully this has now changed.

Mobile Apps

There are now Sync.com apps for iOS and Android.

In the mobile app you can access your files and share them. You can also set a PIN lock.

Sync iOS App

One big omission on the iOS app: I couldn’t find a way to save a PDF (via Open In… or any other method) to the Sync app. It seems(?) that you can only save Photos and Videos from the Camera Roll.

Desktop Integration

Starting with Version 1.1.6, you can now generate a sharing link right from Windows File Explorer or the Mac’s Finder.

Sync Finder Sharing

Once you choose Share Sync Link, the link is copied to your clipboard.

Speaking of Share Links, there is one downside to the way they implemented that functionality. In order for someone to download using the Share Link, they need to have Flash installed or they will get this message:

Sync Flash Error

This isn’t a problem if your recipient uses Google Chrome, but might be otherwise. Flash is becoming more and more rare. Hopefully they can come up with another solution for downloading encrypted files soon.

They have many other features at the Free and Pro ($49/year) that you can read about here.

These minor suggestions aside, so far I have really liked using Sync and it is popular with some users in the Paperless Document Organization Guide Facebook group.

If you are looking for a potentially more secure Dropbox alternative, Sync.com is worth a look.


  1. That’s a referral code. If you use it, I will get 1 GB additional space and so will you. Win win.  ↩

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 17 comments

Kale - January 4, 2018 Reply

I was an early customer when they actually did keep their servers in Canada but recently this has changed so caveat emptor!

Their servers are now actually in the US (or redirected via the US) – they lie on their website. If you check the IP their website is served from 52.207.202.56 it is in Ashburn Virginia – close to centre of US intelligence services! Their web-panel also is served from the US.

I think this is either a very incompetent company or else – more likely – a malicious one.

Either way they are fraudulently claiming to be compliant with Canadian privacy, PIPEDA etc qhen they cannot possibly be when they are storing data in the US or serving it via a US-based IP.

BEWARE !!

Andrea - November 9, 2016 Reply

Worst experience ever!!! Switched from Dropbox. We have tried for days now to share folders with our franchisees. Customer service is appalling. There is no phone number. You have to wait 24 hours before you receive a response. If their response doesn’t work, you wait another 24 hours. They have caused us a lot of damage!

alex - November 9, 2016 Reply

they are not a dropbox alternative. Their product fails to do basic things like sync. Unhappy with their service. getting a full refund.

    Brooks Duncan
    Brooks Duncan - November 9, 2016 Reply

    Have you contacted their support? It’s never been a problem for me, and I have a number of users who like it a lot. What problem were you having?

ashish - February 28, 2016 Reply

This service lacks a search feature – the web panel has a filter feature but to use that you need to drill down to the folder you kept the file in. The filter feature is missing in the iOS apps.

Kay - February 25, 2016 Reply

Patr you seem to be posting the same message on every website that I see. If you are so dissatisfied with their service you can ask for a money back or something. I agree with another person who replied to you saying that if you buy a season pass to disneyland you cannot expect all your friends to join you for free as well.
MarkNL – there are people who are not happy with dropbox upload speeds as well – take a look around https://www.dropboxforum.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/201863435-Slow-Upload-Speeds-Why- and you will realize that this is not just an issue with sync.com

    Sanders - April 13, 2016 Reply

    Kay your reply to Patr is incorrect.

    You paid for the space if you give other people access to collaborate with you they should be able to use it.

    A better anology would be renting a limo, but even though you paid for full use of it, the driver makes all your friends stand on the roof rather than ride inside unless they pay the same amount you did. it’s a ridiculous policy. Looking at their pricing its a not per-user pricing (which I have seen) its hey here is 500GB do what you need pricing. If they make people you want to work with pay for a pro account just to work with you as well that is ridiculous.

Patr - December 7, 2015 Reply

Disappointed:( I bough PRO account from sync.com and uploaded 22GB to the server. I shared the 22GB folder to other people (who are not pro) but they can not upload and modify it because of free account is only 5GB. Funny message appeared. Karen from Support confirmed that it is normal situation and everyone who wants to collaborate must buy Pro account. It is illogical thinking … in my opinion. They should solve that problem and clarify their point of view. It would be great if they can describe this limitation at sync.com website so people would know that fact before wasting money and time.

MarkNL - September 30, 2015 Reply

Beware: They only offer 5MB/s up- and download speed. Takes ages to upload your data. But in case of a crash, it will take you several days to download your own files because of this slow download speed. Why don’t they offer unlimited upload and download??

steve - November 18, 2014 Reply

Another secure dropbox alternative has emerged. It is easy to use, and files are easily synced between mobile and desktop devices. Data lives in central canada!

https://www.filestuff.ca

CM - November 7, 2014 Reply

Based on your recommendation and the description at sync.com I tried it and was disappointed.

When you share a link to a folder, the contents of that folder, i.e., each file in that folder, must be downloaded separately. There seems to be no way for the intended recipient of the files to download the entire contents of the folder.

And, of course there is no preview available.

Lastly, there seems to be no way for someone to drop files into the publicly linked folder without their having an account.

PS When one is in one’s account, there appears to be no way to access Help or Support. There are no visible links. Access is available but only by clicking on one’s sign-in email address in the upper right hand corner – not very obvious.

    CM - November 7, 2014 Reply

    Oh, it’s even worse.

    Navigating the folder structure on a shared folder seems to allow entering a folder but there seems to be no way to get back up to the parent folder.

    Additionally moving files within the shared folder into a sub-folder, in an effort to see if that sub-folder could be downloaded all at once, seems to require the files to be uploaded again.

    Sorry, to me this appears to be yet another product that isn’t quite ready for prime time, although that’s typical these days.

Particle - May 8, 2014 Reply

Do they have an Android app?

Laura - November 27, 2013 Reply

Hi! Thanks for the review. I was looking for a sync alternative to Dropbox, too because I find it hard to leave my files on US servers considering the NSA scandal. I will definitely have a look at sync.com – if you're looking for secure cloud storage you might be interested in this article: http://www.onlinebackupreviews.org/how-to-encrypt

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