Last week I detailed my foray into the world of cloud backup and syncing to multiple devices. The gist was that Dropbox didn’t work quite the way I wanted, and a number of you smart folks suggested I look at SugarSync. Always one to take you up on good advice, Friday afternoon I signed up for SugarSync and got started using its cloud service. It’s worth sharing how easy it was to get going with SugarSync, and to pass on some observations about the process.
I first looked into SugarSync years ago, and while it looked pretty good I never got around to seriously use the service. It just didn’t click at the time. A quick look around last week showed it has grown up nicely, and has a lot of features for someone like me who uses multiple computers/ gadgets.
I use my MacBook (s aapl) as my desktop system, and as such it has all of my documents, music and the like. The Documents folder on the MacBook is 25 GB currently, and the Music folder is 19 GB. Based on that volume, I signed up for a 60 GB account on SugarSync for $9.99 per month. There is an annual option for $99.99 to save some bucks, but I went monthly until I am sure it fits my needs.
Once I signed up I installed the SugarSync File Manager application on the MacBook. The service allows full web access through any web browser, but the convenience of a dedicated app is also a good thing. The next thing on the agenda was selecting the folders on the MacBook I wanted to sync with the SugarSync cloud. I selected all of my personal folders, Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos, and SugarSync started uploading them right away.
This initial sync is the important one, as SugarSync has to get all of the host files to the cloud. Once the files are all there, then any computer can be set to sync with the cloud, giving full access to the information from the other computer. This initial sync takes days if there are a lot of files. SugarSync estimates 2 – 3 GB per day, which is awfully slow on a fast connection. I started my 40 GB upload on Friday afternoon, and almost three days later it is still in progress. I estimate another day, two maximum, and it will finally be finished. Bear this in mind when you get started with a service like this.
If you don’t want to let this massive upload tap your network too hard, you can throttle it back in the preferences. I decided to let it have the maximum allowed to get this process over as quickly as possible. It does hit the network pretty hard.
After the first day I decided that enough of my files had been uploaded to the cloud, so I set up SugarSync on the Microsoft Windows PC (s msft) where I wanted access to my files. I installed the Windows version of the File Manager, which looks much like the Mac version. Setting up the folders to sync with the cloud, and thus the MacBook, couldn’t have been easier. SugarSync is smart enough to know that the My Documents folder on the Windows PC corresponds to the Documents folder on the Mac, so it presented a graphical confirmation that these two folders would be kept in sync. The same was done for the other folders on the MacBook, so I was all set.
Since SugarSync was downloading the files from the cloud to the Windows PC, this was at a higher speed than the upload from the Mac; my ISP provides faster downloads than uploads. After just a day the Windows side of things was all caught up to the queued Mac uploads so now as soon as a file completes uploading to the cloud, it will download to the Windows PC.
One caveat I should pass on, and it affects this initial sync runtime, is to think about the programs you run on the host (initial) computer to sync with SugarSync. I run virtual machines on the MacBook through Parallels, and this creates some huge hidden files in the Documents folder tree on the MacBook. These files queue up to be copied just like any other, even though in this case I can never use them anywhere else. Once the initial sync starts, there is no easy way to tell it to not copy these files. They are not user accessible normally, and they are not accessible through SugarSync’s File Manager either.
There are about 10 GB of these files, so it will take quite a while for them to get uploaded to the cloud, and then downloaded to the Windows PC. If I had known about these hidden files, I would have done something to prevent this from happening in SugarSync.
Once the initial sync completes, SugarSync will keep these two computers (in this example) in sync in the background. Any file changes, additions or deletions on either of these systems will be immediately reflected in the cloud, and thus on the other system. It’s a beautiful system, as it turns your stuff into one big cloud storage. The files are locally stored, but with the advantage of being backed up in the cloud.
One thought to consider, given this huge initial sync, is how it might impact your ISP. In my simple two system example, the 40 GB of files are uploaded to the cloud, and downloaded to the other PC. That is a total of 80 GB of data transmission in just a few days, far more than normal. If your ISP keeps an eye out for that, especially if you pay on a tiered scheme, than this will trip flags for sure. I certainly wouldn’t want to take either of these computers out to work using my 3G connection while this initial sync is in progress, as the syncing would be eating up my monthly data cap quickly. Normal daily syncing will be no problem, as it will only be moving single files.
The cool thing about SugarSync is there are versions of it available for most smartphones. I haven’t done this yet as my initial sync is not finished and I don’t want to rock the boat, but I will install the iPhone version for sure. It will be cool to have access to my entire document library on the phone.
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