January 6, 2010

Microsoft Live Sync vs. SugarSync (Live Sync wins)

I've been a long term advocate of file syncing software. It keeps all of my personal files in sync across my 3 computers (2 desktops and a laptop), even going across operating systems (windows and mac). But over the last few months, I have been doing a shootout between Microsoft Live Sync (free) and SugarSync (pay).

I had used, loved and evangelized Live Sync for years - since before it was a Microsoft product (they acquired "FolderShare" from ByteTaxi in 2006, I think). But when Snow Leopard came out for Mac, Sync just didn't work. There was very little response from Microsoft and no ETA for a fix. After waiting a few weeks and growing increasingly desperate, I looked at several other solutions.

One popular one is DropBox, but it has a design showstopper for me. Everything that gets synced has to be in a special folder that gets synced. That isn't the way I work. I want to keep my current file system and choose which subfolders get synced to what, so DropBox was out.

The other major competitor is SugarSync. It lets me control what and where I sync and it has a nice UI. There is one major annoyance which is that it isn't peer-to-peer (like Live Sync). It syncs to the cloud, so all your files sit on their servers. This adds backup and safety, and lets you sync between computers that aren't on at the same time. But you lose privacy, and you eat up their cloud-based disk space - and you have to pay for that. I pay $5/month for 30 GB. Not too bad, but annoying since I am forced to pay for a feature that I don't even want. But I had no choice, so for the last few months, I've been living with SugarSync.

However, that experiment was a failure. I *wanted* to like it, especially since the user experience was quite nice. However, the service was just unreliable. At least a half dozen times over a period of a few months, the synchronization would stop. It would get blocked on some file and I had to go through their technical support to fix it. I'd have to delete some cached files, or they would jiggle something on their server, and in a day or two, we would get it working again. But it kept happening. Sometimes it was a result of me making a configuration change (i.e., reinstalling an operating system), and sometimes it just happened. In addition, when it got into this bad state, it would sometimes replicate files and I would find several versions of a file one machine - ugh.

Fortunately, Microsoft came through and after two months, they posted a solid version of Live Sync for Snow Leopard, and I switched back. It is working beautifully. It is free. It is fast (since it doesn't go through the cloud). And I don't have to give my files to someone else's cloud.

Go Microsoft. In this battle, you are the clear winner.


No comments: