While the "cloud" can be a confusing subject for some, a good cloud service will simplify the idea so the average consumer can use it. A cloud service mainly provides uploading and syncing of files to an online account so they can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection. Many services make this process simple and efficient. SugarSync, one of the many cloud services available today, unfortunately makes the cloud complicated and difficult to use for the beginning user. However, it does offer some unique qualities for heavy media users.
Confusing SugarSync Desktop Client
Signing up for SugarSync on its website is fairly straightforward. After your account is created, you will be prompted to download the SugarSync desktop client. While this isn't unusual (Dropbox requires a downloaded application as well), SugarSync's desktop client is fairly confusing and largely unnecessary. You can use the Web interface to upload files individually, but to upload and sync your current desktop files and folders efficiently, you'll have to go through the SugarSync desktop file manager.
SugarSync is advertised as keeping multiple devices and computers in sync all at the same time. This is the one area where the desktop file manager comes in handy. The file manager displays all the computers currently linked to your SugarSync account. From here you can view what files and folders are being synced on each machine and even drag them from one machine to another. Files in the cloud that are linked to your account can also be accessed here. While this client makes managing multiple machines easier, the process becomes convoluted because of a second "Manage Sync Folders" client.
This second window of the application designates what folders are synced to what computer, a process that can also be accomplished in the "File Manager." A third window in the desktop client shows you which files are currently being uploaded/downloaded from your computer. Most cloud services don't even have a one-window desktop client, and SugarSync's three-window setup seems like a bit much. However, while confusing, the desktop client does give you a great overview of all the files currently being synced to the cloud.
Notable SugarSync Cloud Features
Some of the more positive features (although not unique to SugarSync) are file version history (the ability to restore an older version of a specific file or folder), mobile applications for iPhone, iPad, Android and other mobile platforms, and a decent price. You pay $5 for 30GB, $10 for 60GB, $15 for 100GB and even $25 for 250GB. There is also a free option that gives away 5GB worth of data.
The Web interface is fairly elegant and usable as well, even more so than the desktop clients. Your files can be viewed, shared and downloaded from the Web app. You can even view the computers connected to the account in the left-hand column.
One of the more notable features is the ability to upload a file to your SugarSync account via email, natively. Other services have third-party developers who have made applications for this purpose, but SugarSync made this native to its platform. Upon creation of your account you're given an email address @sugarsync.com and emailing file attachments to this address will make them available in the cloud.
SugarSync also lends itself to syncing media, such as music, photos, etc. Users with large media libraries are always challenged with getting all the content on their mobile devices. Many times you have to pick and choose which movies, songs and photos to sync on your device. The SugarSync app and mobile site allows users to stream music and photos to their devices over Wi-Fi or 3G. On the iPhone, SugarSync will even keep the most recently played songs locally on the device, so you can listen to your popular songs without an Internet connection. The built-in photo viewer also does a good job of displaying the pictures you've synced to the cloud.
Along with consumer-level data storage, SugarSync now offers business solutions with multiple users for just $9.99 per person. Expandable storage and secure file sharing are included.
The Verdict on SugarSync Cloud Service
Though it has its shortcomings, SugarSync has some unique features that differentiate it from the pack. Streaming your media to a mobile device and uploading files by email are valuable assets for any cloud service. Those who are heavy music or podcast listeners may find SugarSync the ideal cloud service for their needs. Those who are seeking simple file upload or backup may need to look elsewhere.
A complicated setup, confusing desktop client and UI inconsistency all hinder this cloud service. While the price may be right, and few consumer cloud services offer 250-500GB at a manageable cost, users may want to see if Dropbox or Box.net meet their needs for cloud services and backup.