Sync.com is one of the newer entries in the cloud storage market, with the Canadian-based service only emerging from their public beta in August of 2015.
The company was started by the co-founders of the web hosting company Netfirms, as a way to create a cloud storage platform that was more secure than the other options available. Since then, they’ve been making big promises about being the more secure alternative to Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
So, does this new service have what it takes to pull your hard-earned dollars away? We ran this latest entrant through our performance tests, dissected their whitepapers, and studied their interfaces. Check out how they fare below.
- Seemingly solid zero-knowledge privacy
- Client-side encryption
- Secure sharing tools
- Powerful management options for collaborative folders
- Desktop sync client
- Mobile apps for iOS and Android
- 5 GB free plus bonuses and referrals
- 2 TB for $98 / year
- HIPAA-compliant for Business Pro accounts
- Sharing options only available through web-client
- Many sharing options limited to Pro plans
- Cannot download or upload entire folders in web or mobile clients
- Sync performance limited to 5 MB/s
- No document editing, photo gallery, or media player
- Overpriced 5 TB plan
Sync.com offers a surprisingly full suite of features around a solid security and privacy back end. That said, there are some rough edges surrounding performance, limited mobile apps, and odd UI choices. I found myself needing to split tasks between multiple UIs, file and folder management in the sync client and sharing in the web client, which is a bit annoying. That said, for those looking for a more secure and private version of sync clients like Dropbox and OneDrive, this is a great service to check out.
Sync.com is a “zero-knowledge” cloud provider, which means they claim to have no way to access your data. They are also based in Canada, meaning Sync.com is immune to the U.S. Governments requests via the Patriot Act.
Some have voiced skepticism about a browser-based zero-knowledge service, as there is inherently interaction between the server your password. The skepticism is fair, and their privacy protections might not please everyone, but considering the password is heavily hashed and, even then, never directly submitted to Sync.com, I feel their privacy protections are strong enough to recommend.
Should you want to know more, Sync.com has a privacy whitepaper you can check out.
The web client offers all the basics like uploading, downloading, moving, and deleting files, as well as creating new folders. The interface is reasonably quick, clean, and other than hiding most of the interactions within an ellipsis, is pretty easy to get used to.
However, I was frustrated with the lack of support for downloading or uploading entire folders in the web client. Only individual or groups of files can be downloaded/uploaded, which normally results in an annoying amount of micromanagement.
Files are downloaded and uploaded individually in the web client, and due to the local encryption/decryption, there can be some significant delays between processing one file and going to the next. The files will only be downloaded as encrypted files in your web session until you hit Save with each file, at which point the file will be decrypted and saved locally.
Interestingly enough, the Trash Can feature is a toggle, rather than a subfolder. Toggling it on will show you deleted files within the folder they originally were kept, which is a unique and appreciated way of dealing with the trash can. But it can be odd if you don’t remember where the deleted file was.
Sync.com appears to have no limit for keeping your deleted files, and they also report supporting unlimited file versions. I have yet to see a limit for this in my own testing.
Finally, while Sync.com is primarily designed to keep your cloud and computer in sync, they do have a “Vault” to archive files and folders that you don’t want synced to your devices.
Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no document editing, photo gallery, or media players built into the web interface. But they do offer a basic photo and PDF viewer.
Sync.com offers a pretty full suite of sharing options including expiration dates, download and upload limits, and even download stats. Unfortunately, most of these link customizations are set behind a paywall. However, I appreciate that the option is there and appreciate that free accounts can at least set passwords on shared links.
Shared links are secured and private much like the rest of the service. A key is generated locally based on your password and attached to the end of the link URL (after the #). This key will let your recipients access and upload shared files without Sync.com ever seeing your password.
Sync.com also offers multi-user collaborative shared folders for teams. These are shared folders that will sync to the accounts of your fellow collaborators. Once again, the basic options are there for free accounts, but paid accounts get more customization.
Paid users also get an administrative center for managing access controls, setting edit or read-only access on the fly, file audit and history logs, and even the ability to remotely wipe shared data from a collaborator’s devices.
To secure shared folders, Sync.com uses multiple layers of encryption in a process called “key-wrapping.” Each file added into the share is encrypted with its own 512-bit share key that is created specifically for that share. Then, each user’s copy of the shared folder will be further encrypted with the RSA-2048 public key of each user, which is of course locked with the user’s private key (password).
Sync.com’s desktop software consists of a very simple sync client with a single sync folder, more reminiscent of Dropbox or Google Drive than the suites provided by zero-knowledge providers like SpiderOak or Tresorit. However, that also means Sync.com will be easier to get used to.
Like other cloud sync clients, Sync.com will upload all files added and changes made within the sync folder to the cloud.
You can also set bandwidth limits and select which folders you want to sync to your computer, as well as track item progress and change your password.
Unfortunately, there’s almost no sharing management available in the desktop software. You get a right-click option for copying a link to your clipboard, but you’ll be redirected to the web browser for anything else.
Their sync software is available on both Windows and Mac OS X.
Sync.com offers mobile apps for both iOS and Android. Both apps also look exactly the same and offer the same functionality. You can upload files, create folders, and download files, and access files in your Vault. Like the web client, you can’t download or upload entire folders.
There’s a camera roll auto-upload option and you even have the ability to lock the app down with a 4-digit passcode.
The above preview button will temporarily download the full-sized file requested and open it within the photo viewer/doc viewer of your choice. The only real difference between downloading and using preview is that the file is deleted immediately after use.
Regardless, I am really disappointed to see that there is no sharing functionality whatsoever in their mobile apps, especially considering how good their sharing features are on the web. Presumably this is a restriction inherent in their encryption strategy and zero-knowledge policy, but it limits the purpose of their apps considerably.
According to Sync.com’s own guides, their desktop software supports transfer speeds up to 5 MB/s or 40 Mbps. This restriction is due to the encryption backend, as files are encrypted and decrypted natively. Once again, I tested performance over several days and sessions on a connection rated at about 50 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up.
|Maximum Upload Speed||8.09 Mbps|
|Average Upload Speed||6.15 Mbps|
|Maximum Download Speed||91.0 Mbps|
|Average Download Speed||31.1 Mbps|
In my performance tests, the service’s speeds are roughly as advertised. Downloads seemed to chug a bit when dealing with large amounts of media files with extensive metadata, like music. While they didn’t get to my ISP’s maximums, their speeds are still pretty respectable. (Sync.com released an update shortly after this review, which supposedly increases speeds when transferring thousands of files.)
I also mentioned before that the web client takes a bit longer to download and upload, but that’s because each file is processed and encrypted/decrypted individually before moving to the next. Sync.com’s desktop client is multi-threaded, allowing multiple items to be processed at the same time. That said, the web client’s speeds are roughly the same as shown above.
Sync.com offers 5 GB of storage for free, which is pretty standard with the industry today. There are a bunch of options hidden behind a paywall, but I still found the service perfectly usable under the free tier. You can an extra 1 GB space by doing things like installing apps and verifying your e-mail, and can earn additional 1 GB bonuses for referrals.
Business Pro (1)
Business Pro (2)
Business Pro (3)
Should you choose to go for a paid plan, they are pretty reasonable, as long as you don’t want more than 2 TB of storage. Speaking of which, 2 TB for $98 is a really good deal, and I applaud them for making that promotional beta pricing permanent. However, that 5 TB plan is shamefully overpriced.
Also of note, none of their plans are offered as monthly payments, but only as annual plans.
However, they do offer some getting started guides and tutorials that are surprisingly useful.
|Average Upload Speed||6.15 Mbps (5 Mbps connection)|
|Average Download Speed||31.1 Mbps (50 Mbps connection)|
|Free Online Storage||5 GB|
|Mobile Apps||Android, iOS|
|Keep Deleted Files||Forever|
|Back Up to Local Drive|
Sync and Share Features
|Public File Sharing|
|Data Center Location(s)||Toronto, Ontario, Canada (1 data center)|