Dropbox vs. SpiderOak vs. SugarSync

dropbox online backup and sync vs. Spider Oak online backup and sync vs. SugarSync free online backup and sync - Dropbox competitor

In addition to simply backing up all your files (with a service like Mozy, Carbonite or BackBlaze), many people want to be able to sync files across their multiple computers, whether it be home and office, desktop and laptop, etc…  They also want to be able to easily access their files from any device, anywhere in the world.

SpiderOakDropbox & SugarSync are great at syncing your data and allowing access anywhere, anytime.

With DropBox, you essentially have one ‘dropbox’ folder on your computer.  You can create this folder anywhere (in ‘My Documents’, on your desktop, etc…).  Anything you put in this folder will be accessible via a dropbox mobile app (available for iOS, Android & Blackberry), the dropbox website, or any other computer (Windows, Mac, Linux) that you install the dropbox software and sign in.  Any changes you make on any device or computer will instantly sync to the other devices.

In addition to being very convenient for syncing and remote access, it is a great online backup tool in that the instant you make a change, that change is backed up and synced.  You don’t have to schedule backups throughout the day and worry that if your computer crashes you might not have all your data backed up.  Dropbox works 100% in real-time.

SugarSync is very similar to Dropbox, except that you can select multiple folders that you want to sync and backup.  Otherwise they offer the same mobile apps and computer software (though no version of Linux is currently available).  SugarSync also works in real-time and keeps any and all changes instantly backed up and synced.

SpiderOak, in addition to offering similar sync and remote access options like Dropbox & SugarSync, also offers automated backup of your entire computer.  SpiderOak is therefore a bit better than Dropbox/SugarSync if you have a large amount of data that you want to backup, in addition to just some files that you want to sync.  SpiderOak is more similar to SugarSync than Dropbox in that it too let’s you choose what files and folders to backup/sync, rather than just creating one folder.


Both Dropbox and Spideroak offer 2GB of free backup.  SugarSync recently upped the ante and now offers 5GB of free backup.  Dropbox offers 250MB per referral, up to 8GB in total (500MB & 16GB if you use a student email address).  SpiderOak offers 1GB per referral, with a 50GB limit to how much free space you can earn.  SugarSync offers 500MB per referral, up to 750MB in other free space, and no limit to the amount of free referral space you can earn.  So if you have a lot of family/friends, a large facebook following or popular blog, you can easily earn many Gigabytes of free space on all three services, but SpiderOak and SugarSync definitely have the advantage over Dropbox.

As for paid plans, Dropbox is $9.99/month for 50GB of space and $19.99 for 100GB.  SpiderOak is $10/month for 100GB (so half as expensive as DropBox), and you can purchase additional 100GB increments for $10/month.  SugarSync is as little as $4.17/month for 30GB, $8.33/month for 60GB, $12.50/month for 100GB or $20.83/month for 250GB.  SugarSync is a bit more expensive than SpiderOak for 100GB/month, but is less expensive for 250GB ($21/month vs. $20/month for 200GB at SpiderOak).  So depending on the amount of storage space you need, you might want to consider Dropbox or SpiderOak if you are on the low-end, or SugarSync if you need more space.

Also, if you are a student (with a valid .edu address), SpiderOak offers a 50% discount!

Using the software:

In our opinion, Dropbox is the easiest of all sync companies.  You simply have one folder to use, and anything in that folder is synced/backed up automatically and in real-time.

SpiderOak, being a more robust product, is a bit more difficult (though still not hard) to setup.  When you first install the software you have to select which folders you want to backup and which you want to sync.  Again, this can be as simple as selecting ‘My Documents’ or your User Profile folder or your entire c: drive.  Then you don’t have to worry about it, it simply backs up everything.  You can then specify separate folders that will sync.  This is actually a good thing as you may not need to sync your GBs and GBs of photos, music and movies, but you do want to sync your documents.

SugarSync is similar to SpiderOak in that you can choose which folders to sync (though you can’t differentiate between sync and backup).  Once setup the software syncs any changes you make, in real-time, just like dropbox.  SugarSync has a few advantages over Dropbox in that there are no file size limits, you can make simple edits online & you can sync files via email.

Mobile/Remote Access:

Both Dropbox, SpiderOak & SugarSync offer a wide assortment of ways to access your data when you’re not at your computer.  All 3 companies have apps for iPhones, iPads & Android.  SugarSync and Dropbox also have Blackberry apps, and SugarSync has a Windows Mobile app as well.  All 3 companies can be installed on a Windows PC or Mac, and Dropbox & SpiderOak will work on Linux as well.

You can also login to the secure websites of Dropbox, SugarSync or Spideroak and access your data from there.


Security should always be concern #1 when thinking about using an online solution for data backup.

Dropbox uses modern encryption methods to both transfer and store your data.

  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and AES-256 bit encryption
  • Dropbox website and client software have been hardened against attacks from hackers
  • Public files are only viewable by people who have a link to the file(s). Public folders are not browsable or searchable
  • Dropbox uses Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) for storage, which has a robust security policy of its own. You can find more information on Amazon’s data security from the S3 site or, read more about how Dropbox and Amazon securely stores data.

SpiderOak uses a layered approach to encryption, using a combination of 2048 bit RSA and 256 bit AES.Most importantly, however, the outer level keys are never stored plaintext on the SpiderOak server. They are encrypted with 256 bit AES, using a key created by the key derivation/strengthening algorithm PBKDF2 (using sha256), with 16384 rounds, and 32 bytes of random data (“salt”). This approach prevents brute force and pre-computation or database attacks against the key. This means that a user who knows her password, can generate the outer level encryption key using PBKDF2 and the salt, then decipher the outer level keys, and be on the way to decrypting her data. Without knowledge of the password, however, the data is quite unreadable.

In addition, your SpiderOak password is created on your own computer and is NOT stored on the SpiderOak servers.

SugarSync uses industry best practices to ensure that your data is safe and secure. Your files are transferred securely using TLS (Transport Layer Security) and are stored in the cloud in an encrypted format using 128-bit AES—the same level of protection used for online financial transactions.  For maximum security, when you sync files to SugarSync’s servers, your files are sent over the Internet using TLS (SSL 3.3) encryption, the industry standard for secure web communications.

So while all 3 companies have good security, SpiderOak is known for being the ‘best in the business’ when it comes to data security.

The Winner:  SugarSync (but it’s close)

We truly like Dropbox, SpiderOak & SugarSync, and have a hard time choosing one over the other.  That being said, SpiderOak does offer better pricing (for a moderate amount of storage) and a better referral program by offering 1 GB per referral.  Although, if you don’t need that much storage space, Dropbox is definitely more simple to use (but it gets very expensive if you want to sync a lot of data).  If you need more storage (which most of us do these days), then we’d go with SugarSync as their 250 GB plan is less expensive than any other syncing company.  Also, while SpiderOak offers 1 GB/referral, SugarSync has no limit as to how much free space you can earn.  This can save you big in the long-run.

Here are a few more reasons why you should look at using SugarSync as your syncing solution:

SugarSync for business comparison chart

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