Isn’t it amazing that in the modern era, we are surrounded by loads of information, be it in audio/visual form or in some other format like text files, docs, sheets, etc.? With so much info at our disposal, we need to store it in something.
Most of the time, we preserve the old data in case it is needed sometimes. But this can turn out to be cumbersome later on since the storage capacities are limited for most of us. Even if you have high TBs of hard drives or other sources (and there’re costly too), we need another way to get around this issue.
Well, guess what, we have something called Cloud Storages, to deal with our extra storing space issue. What exactly are these cloud storages? Are they safe? How much can I upload on these storages? Such questions may be pondering in novice minds, and so we would summarize it in short below.
- Lifetime 6 GB of storage for free.
- No bound on the size of the file downloaded or uploaded.
- Very basic user interface that even a novice can master on first day.
- Multiple platform support from Windows, Mac to Android and iOS system.
- 30-day refund policy in case you didn’t like the product.
- Enhanced security features like powerful in-transit encryption.
- Zero-Knowledge Policy to keep the data fully private, even from the Sync service providers.
- Multiple Compliances from privacy organizations like PIPEDA and even health organization like HIPPA.
- Vault feature to backup files or create private cloud folders.
- Decent team management and sharing options.
- They have good customer support for various plans.
- Amongst one of the cheapest and secure cloud storage services.
- Average upload and download speed.
- No password protection on desktop shared folders.
- Very poor desktop UI.
- Slow responsive interface over all platforms.
- No file preview in the web interface.
- No live chat for a lower subscription plan.
Simply put, Cloud Storage applications are online storage spaces, which allow the users to upload files over a cloud server, which can be later downloaded on any connected system. This storage requires an internet connection but provides better security features for your stored files.
These cloud storages may allocate different storage space according to the subscription plans. You can try out from free alternatives like google drive, OneDrive, etc. to other limited storage providers like Mega, pCloud, Dropbox, etc.
Similar to the above products is a cloud Storage service called Sync.com. Available on both Desktop and mobile platform, it gives service from anywhere to upload/download files from their designated storage space.
Founded in Toronto, Canada, Sync was started in 2011. The main goal was to form a cloud storage service that will not involve any third party into the system and offer higher privacy standards for its customers. They claim to have their empire expanded to over 700k businesses and private users.
As we move on to discuss a detailed review of this product, we will check every feature it offers and judge its worth. We will also see some comparison with other related products, so as to get a clear picture of its feature and potential.
To begin using the Sync cloud services, the users need to do registration on the main website. After the registration, the users need to download the client over their device.
Once the web-client and your device are synchronized, you can begin using the cloud services. Below are some of the features and service that Sync offers, so let’s go through them.
When it comes to cloud storage services, the feature is mostly related to the storage and security part. Other things are added as additional perks in the application.
Upload and Synchronize
Let us discuss the primary feature of the Sync, the one it made for, i.e., cloud storage. The steps are quite novice-friendly for the process of upload and syncing them.
Just head on to the web application and go to the files section in your account. From there, you will see the upload button on the right side. Push the button, and you will see the upload tab.
Drag and drop documents from your system into this space and begin the upload. Once the uploading is finished, recheck the files if they are uploaded properly.
How does the synchronization work? For doing it, install the application on the given device. After the installation, login in your account on that app. Once done, the synchronization will begin automatically.
There will be a separate folder space created in your system's memory. You can always change the location from settings in the app. This new folder will now download all the files you uploaded earlier.
The real purpose of synchronizing function is to make sure the data is safe on two devices and be cross verified. Simultaneously, it can automatically upload the files you put in the sync folder of your device.
It may take a while for the upload, but you can refresh and see the new files on your web platform. This indicates the file has been successfully uploaded to the cloud servers.
Most of the time in the modern world, we come across instances where we have to exchange certain data with others or maybe ourselves over additional devices. To do this, it is not always feasible to run around with pen drives, hard disks, etc.
One of the best options to skip the data transportation issue is to use a cloud storage service. Apart from that, if you are part of a big organization or institution, you may want to share substantial amounts of data on a daily basis, which can be very hectic via physical storage devices.
To rectify the issue, most cloud storages have now incorporated the share feature in their applications. Using this feature, the clients can exchange the data on these cloud services and also it is a more secure way of sharing than the physical alternatives since they are more prone to damage and are less secure.
Sync has this feature and can be used for secure sharing of the data. To start using this feature, the users need to first create separate folders for the team.
Upload the files that you need to share with the teammates in this folder. Click the three dots icon on the side of that folder and select the share button. This will ask for the Email ID of the person you want to share data with.
This way you can share the entire folder with your teammates. But there is a problem in this sharing. This is not a protected way to share access to a folder. The shared folders need to be password protected in both web as well as desktop interface.
In the current version, anyone with access to the desktop version can steal or misuse the shared files or say send an email to self via the web portal and later on gain full access to it. Password protection is a must for shared folders and must be taken as high priority.
The other sharing feature includes link sharing. The owners can set much better protection to these links. Contrary to the above, the sharing link does have the password protection feature, but only in the web interface.
Apart from the password protection, the owners can set an expiry date for the links, download limits, self-destruct, read-only access, email notifications, and file access counts. We don’t know why similar security wasn’t incorporated in a regular file sharing on the desktop files and folders.
The sharing and collaboration section is mediocre and needs more improvement and security features like mentioned. The UI of the shared folders can be tweaked to display lock status for locked one and red for unprotected ones. The team sharing needs more secure access methods.
Is it possible that we can keep some files from not synchronizing and only accessible over the cloud interface? This is entirely possible with the help of Vault function.
As the name suggests, Vault function is provided by Sync to give unique storage space for files that you don’t want in the sync or share folder of your device. This can be used to keep the data safe and also use the vault’s cloud storage as a separate space for backups.
The Vault tab is provided on the top navigation bar of the web interface. That tab will redirect to the vault interface. Now you can upload the files that you want to keep safe and not synchronize with other devices.
Similar to the interface in the normal sync folders, vault files can also be shared as a link, previewed, downloadable, can copy/move, edit or remove them. The owners can transfer data from vault to the shared folder and vice versa. The vault folder also has a share feature, but that is quite ironic given that we designed it specifically for not sharing.
Now there is one more tricky use of the vault feature that many users will ignore. This is about using the vault feature to free the computer space. The files and folders that you make on the sync interface will automatically download them in the desktop or other connected devices.
This is sort of risky path as any big problem in the cloud server and all the files stored in it may be permanently lost. Most probably, the chances of such happening are low, but the users need to be aware of it. Also, the users can upload excessive files on their device to this vault space, which can act as cloud-only storage.
Overall, the vault feature is just a private storage space feature. There is nothing that awestruck us in it. They can add more security and UI features to make it like a real-life vault, something like making it highly confidential storage with a password and better encryption, limited access in a day, etc. and lastly, this feature needs some work to justify its price.
These are UI based tweaks that make life easier for users. Such features are part of the quality of life updates and are critical many times.
Link and file preview is one among such features. Using this, the users can preview any links shared and also view the files in the cloud storage itself. The users can also preview documents from Microsoft Office, PDFs, and other audio/video file formats.
The file request is used to demand multiple files from an individual or teams without giving them access to your library. This can be handy to keep the shared and vault content safe as well as do secure one-way data exchange.
Vault and secure sharing are also a part of productivity features, but they both need a good rework so as to give remarkable results. Similarly, instant upload and sync are part of this section. Good cloud storage must be highly responsive and should be quick in syncing with the desktop or other devices.
There is also offline access available for the sync folder. The users can use the desktop or mobile interface to access the files on the local storage and later on it will sync with the cloud servers on its own. Sync also has integration with windows and mac finder to give a smooth experience to the users.
The users can also get activity logs, and notifications for every action checked in the settings. Other admin related features include multi-user login console, multiple passwords for the team, centralized billing, transfer the sync accounts, etc.
As per standard practices of software industries, every updated version brings out new QOL updates and along with it comes more productivity features. These features evolve over time, and so we can only hope Sync comes up with better productivity updates.
Since we have gone through most of the features of this cloud storage software, it is time to review the user interface. As we all are familiar with the concept of UI, it is the part of software ergonomics. A good UI will satisfy the users and the key to do that is keeping a simple template of the software interface.
Since most of the cloud-based storages are over online cloud servers, a good web interface is a must have priority for them. This is because of any mistakes or confusing UI in this interface, that can make users do wrong settings or accidentally delete any data, both of which can make things worse for the customers.
The web interface in Sync has a similar look to Windows Explorer. The main dashboard on the web interface will list all the folders that you created in Sync cloud. You can see the shared folders too here.
The files can be sorted by name, modified date, and size only. Honestly, more option can be allocated here like the typical explorer menu viz. title, creator, music-related tags for mp3 files. Also, the thumbnail view is limited to two options only, and you cannot reduce or enlarge the current sizes.
The top navigation bar consists of mainly four tabs. They are Files, Vault, Sharing, and Events. The rightmost end of this bar has accounts setting and help options. As you can see here, the UI does not offer any exclusive look or features on this front panel.
Let us now explore the navigation tabs. Starting with the Files tab, this tab will display the files and folders, either shared or unshared. The users can see some basic explorer like options here as we discussed just above. It was a bit unsatisfactory to see that there was much-unused potential in this section, and it could have more features and a bit more visual appeal.
The succeeding tab is the Vaults Tab. As we have already discussed the vault feature above, we will just see the UI effects. As we have said earlier, the vault needs better security features in it. It should prompt password before being accessed, have self-destruct for selected files, locks individual files from modification, etc.
The next tab was Sharing files and folders. Both team sharing and link sharing are included in it. The users can add many folders in this section. All the changes are reciprocated in other devices too. So be aware that you take note of that device’s storage space.
Lastly, Events Tab, as the name suggests, is used to keep a note of all the activities that you conduct in the cloud storage. This section has displayed all the events from simple file moving, addition, deletion to link shares, folder shares, invites, client downloads, etc.
However, the free version has restricted the sorting feature and unlimited event history. Only two sorting methods are allowed in this section, i.e., by date and share folder. The UI can be made more sophisticated by adding a separate folder for each of the above actions and then those events expanding under their given categories.
That said, the events section needs more features and a sophisticated system to sort and track the actions easily. Also, adding Email notifications for more events can be helpful.
Let us now move to the account settings section. The users can find some usual options like storage data, name, Email ID and its preferences, referral codes, etc. Under the security section, the users can view the connected device and set the password permission.
You can also tweak changes in two-factor authentication, email password recovery, auto log out, and single sign-on. Pretty sleek UI, isn’t it?
To finish with, we would say the UI for web interface was really undeveloped. There is so much potential for improving the visual as well as other QOL features in it.
As we have seen the working of Sync in the web interface, we can move on to another important platform, i.e., on the desktop.
To our disappointment, the desktop app does not have a full-featured interface. The entire app is restricted to the tray icon in the taskbar.
The tray icon will show some options like sync folder, events, preferences and help section. The preferences tab possess some settings like bandwidth settings while uploading and downloading the files from the cloud.
From this control panel, the users can change the folders that can be synced on their computer device. You can also change the account password from here.
This was all about the desktop app. The desktop UI is not restricted to app only. Double click the tray icon in the bottom, and that will open the Sync folder on your desktop.
The folder will have items like your typical system folder. It will have all the files and folders that you have uploaded in the cloud storage except the vault folder.
The shared folders will have a shared thumbnail on them. A green check mark will show that those items have been synced with the cloud server. Either you add files to this folder or to the cloud one, all changes will be reflected in both of them.
The shared folder had not much security functions. The desktop UI could’ve been tweaked to include a password pop up window while accessing the protected content. Many more functions are needed to be added to the desktop UI. Many other cloud storage products like Dropbox, Google drive, pCloud, etc. have much better desktop UI than Sync, and so Sync needs to update it for a better desktop experience.
Mobile apps are very common in the current era, and so is the need for the most web-based application to make a separate app for different devices.
Sync also provides a mobile-based application, which offers similar UI like the web interface. Just like its web counterpart, Sync mobile too provides files section, sharing, vault, link sharing, and events tab.
Unlike the desktop app, the mobile version is smart enough not to start the data synchronization before certain items are selected. This helps in limited storage devices like phones unless you want a full memory notification out of nowhere.
The mobile app provides some basic security features like pin code and fingerprint protection. The events feature is not so detailed like the web interface, but its good enough to give you a rough idea.
You can also integrate the camera gallery in the mobile application. Under settings, you can download all the files in the camera folder over a Wi-Fi network. The users can also clear local offline files. No Bypass option blocks other internal apps when passcode lock in Sync is active.
So overall, the mobile-based application had much better UI than the desktop version. It had a few more security perks than other interfaces. The users can independently use this app on their mobile devices and will even need to use different devices.
You put all your essential documents in some private vault and the next day, there is an incidence of theft there, and all your files are now gone. Many of the readers will faint here with such news, isn’t it?
How to look for the assurance that your documents are properly protected by the vault managers? You just need to see the security facilities they have provided like the armed guards, CCTV cameras, fingerprints across the vault rooms, breach shields, and similar security measures.
Similar to the above instances, the important and confidential data that you have uploaded on the cloud servers need enhanced security to make sure anyone other than you do not access them. Not even the cloud service providers must have access to your files.
Sync boasts about its enhanced security features in their marketing practices. Let us explore and find if these claims are true or not.
First and foremost, whatever data that you upload on Sync’s cloud servers, the data undergoes encryption on the client side itself. The entire process of encryption is continuous in the transfer process and at rest.
Then how is the data encrypted? What type of encryption do they use? Do they have the means to remove the encryption and access my data? So many questions for the skeptics and so just keep reading to know them.
Just like any standard encryption process, the data uploaded to the servers first need an encryption key to begin and this key is called a Private Key.
This 2048bit RSA private key is the basis of all the process of encryption by Sync. It is randomly generated during the account creation and locked by the user’s password and with AES 256bit GCM encryption.
These encrypted keys are stored on the cloud servers. Worry not, as Sync has no access to these keys, and they are decrypted and encrypted locally on the client server. Similarly, Bcrypt is used to secure the login credentials of the users.
To secure the Web Panel, they have implemented Stanford Crypto Library code, for generating random codes to secure the login. All encryption happens in the local browser window, and no data is stored permanently anywhere. They claim that any technical person can open and view the source code and verify the integrity of claims.
Apart from general encryption on the files and folders, the links are protected by passwords, which is never accessible to anyone except the owner of the file. For the Shared Folders and Files, Key Wrapping technique is used, a method to transfer encrypted files over untrusted networks.
Other security features included by Sync are Single Sign-On (SSO). This uses unique URL and local OTP values to keep the users logged in their accounts. This can be reinforced by the two-factor authentication.
The entire channel of data exchange after the encryption is reinforced by using the SSL/TLS. Only using the SSL layer may be risky due to MITM attacks and so dual protection is utilized during data exchange. They also have various international compliances like HIPPA, GDPR, etc. and thus improves their trust integrity.
As we discussed above, the security features are all top-notch quality and so there is a rare chance of your data leaking while in transit or idle. However, as discussed twice before, we would again remind Sync to incorporate some more protection measures in the vault section and treat it more like a secret locked folder.
Data Transfer Speed
You must have used online storage features many times if you are quite an active user of the Internet. Even if you aren’t, most people are familiar with the concept of upload and download over the Internet.
Since we are using cloud storage, we may have frequent encounters with a site that require you to upload and download things. The main criteria of speed here are your own bandwidth. If you have an inactive connection, you will naturally experience slow speeds. Also, the cloud servers are located in Canada, which may yield slow speed for far away from users.
However, the data exchange in Sync is passed via an encryption channel, and that may be the deciding factor in the download and upload speed of files. The encryption used is AES-256bit GCM, similar to any VPN product in the market.
To properly check the transfer speed, we will compare the Sync results with some of the encrypted channel cloud products.
In this test, we will be using some combinations of different files types like jpg, mp3, mp4, HTML, text, and pdf, just the standard files we go through in everyday life. There were total 165 files weighing 258MB in size.
The trick here is to stimulate the real-life scenario so that we do not bias in the test. We did only two tests as they will give sufficient idea regarding the speed. You can see the upload and download speeds in the speed test below.
The below table has listed the test results of uploading time in minutes.
As the users can see in the table, all three cloud storages have in transit encryptions. The best performance was given by Google drive servers and second best was Dropbox. Sync was almost 60% slower than Google drive and around 30% slower than Dropbox.
When we tested for the download speeds the difference was merely a couple of MB/s between all three cloud services. When we uploaded something inside the Sync folder in our desktop, the upload time was similar to above.
Now many factors may have influenced the comparative reduction of the speed like higher end encryption leading to more time, server locations, server loads, etc. G-drive and Dropbox have more servers spread across the globe which have favored some superior results for them. And judging from above, we would certainly like Sync to increase the number of servers across the globe for faster transmission speeds.
Team Management and Collaboration
Can I use Sync to manage my teams or clients? How can I alter the access level to them as an owner? All such questions are in the minds of team leaders who want to manage the work data on cloud storage along with several team members.
Like every other product in the market, Sync also possesses the team management feature in it. This feature is not given to the free members and is only accessible in the business-pro plan.
Without much talk, let us now see what exactly this feature does. To access your team, the main navigation tab on the top will display the user’s icon on it. Click that icon, and you will enter the user's account section.
As an admin, you will see the list of all the users allowed access to the cloud facility. The team management is quite easy from adding members to deleting them.
The add member option is given on the main panel itself. The admins can set different permission to that account like changing the password, purging options, etc. If the users already have a Sync account, they can use the referral code to gain access to their files.
There is also a purge option in the user management system. What is this purge thing in here? Well, as you may have guessed already, purge here means the takeover of the user account. This means that the admins can completely delete the contents of that account or they can keep it open to access without any other permissions.
Other than this, the admins can also share the files from any user’s account to external sources. They can also add certain restrictions to the files like upload/download requests, download restrictions, expiry dates for links, access notification, etc.
To add more users, the admin can choose to get a higher subscription plan. The admins will get a notification in case the additional user account expiry is near, which they keep with the current subscription expiry date. They can also transfer the admin roles to one of the team members.
Overall, the team management features are quite decent and may need some additional stuff here and there. The file access levels need more control options like read/write, move, copy, share, etc. Direct grouping of the users within the user management is not available.
Also, the UI needs an update to display the user’s actions, login attempts, etc. on a separate panel. All in all, this plan is ok for mid-level businesses for team level cloud management.
Here comes an Ace card that is usually deciding factor in modern times, where data theft and data mining companies flourish by selling and misusing the user info of millions of people. Even the online cloud storages are not safe from their grip.
Before buying a subscription for cloud storage, you should be seeing the security and privacy features of the services. While security ensures the data is away from hackers, privacy will ensure that your data is not accessible by the provider itself and they do not mishandle it for their gains.
When it comes to cloud services, Sync is one such service that has taken the market based on its privacy features as a top featured item. In this section, we will see how Sync has kept customer privacy so important and managed to hide it from third parties.
Based on PIPEDA, Sync has adopted holy ten commandments for securing the privacy of their customers. We will not debate them in full detail here but will give a concise review about some of them below:
Accountability: They shall be accountable for collection, processing and third-party access to their information. As per PIPEDA policy, they have assigned a privacy officer to deal with day to day info exchange.
Purpose Identification: They collect the information provided by the users like the Email, Name, Billing info, etc. for account management, technical assistant and such internal surveys.
Consent: No personal data will be revealed by Sync to any third party or law enforcement without informing a user or send an official consent form. You can always Opt-out of secondary services in the Sync account.
Limiting Collection: Sync states that they try to minimize the collection of personal user data as much as possible. However, they have raised their hands off the third-party providers, in case they collect more data from your user account.
Limiting Usage, Reveal, and Retention: As we have seen earlier, they will limit the data collection, and restrict the disclosure to themselves or law enforcement. The data retention policy is not disclosed fully as to how long they will keep your data stored after you opt-out of their full services.
Accuracy and Safeguarding: Accuracy is simply updating the user data to the latest, which can be done by daily use of Sync services. They ensure that the data stored by them is under utmost security and even if a breach happens, they provide solid encryption methods to minimize the threats. However, your account details like Email and login password are your responsibility.
Individual Access and Compliance: The users are free to ask for the stored data by Sync and gain access to it. The entire operation of storage and usage of data is transparent. They have various compliances from diverse groups like PIPEDA, PIPA, FIPPA, HIPPA, PHIPA, and ATIPPA.
Given that they are located in 5-eye nation, it is always good to be skeptical of your data, and the individual themselves must take care to make it more private and secure.
Since we have discussed all the points of this cloud service, we would say that Sync does hold on to its name. The security and privacy features are amongst the top products in this category.
But, one thing we felt was a slow response UI. Yes, when you click on any file or folder, it took around 15 seconds to even a minute sometimes for that file to open. In this lightning age, this delay is equal to ages.
Another thing we felt was to enhance the internal security for vault and team management system by incorporating more security steps. The UI can have an updated look for sure and a much appealing file and folder arrangements.
They need to increase their servers in Asian and EU countries to give better transfer speed. The desktop interface needs to be on par with the web interface and much better than the mobile one, which is not in the current version.
Another decent step Sync has worked on, is its customer support services. They have included ticket submission, Email support, knowledge base, and help center. The knowledge base and forums are detailed enough to solve the most common queries of the customers.
They also run forums, in which the customers can have direct guidance from the developers and advanced users. Telephone support and Live Chat is restricted to the Advanced plan.
The subscription plans easily compete with other cloud services like pCloud and are much better than Dropbox, Mega, etc. This is another reason for the good success of Sync. They also provide centralized billing for organizations.
At last, having dug up all the functions in this cloud service, we would definitely vote for Sync amongst the top cloud storage products. The users can also opt for free service with 6 GB storage, enough to do some basic backup or else opt for the business plan if you want to use it for a team or an organization.