Cloud Storage Review: SugarSync for Business

by Paul Mah

Though not as well-known as other cloud storage services, SugarSync for Business offers many sophisticated capabilities that will benefit small businesses.

The SugarSync cloud storage service offers online backup to the cloud for both PCs and Macs, and it lets you access your files from a number of popular mobile platforms. The service synchronizes files through the use of a lightweight client utility that does its work in the background.

However, the company offers SugarSync for Business, a slightly enhanced version with additional capabilities designed specifically for businesses. For example, a single administrator can centrally manage pooled storage capacities and the creation of new user accounts.

Because SugarSync for Business incorporates all the core capabilities of SugarSync, we will start off by introducing the general features before delving into the dedicated capabilities found in SugarSync for Business.

Advanced Cloud Storage

We love that SugarSync lets you select any folder on the computer to sync, which is not the case with most cloud storage services. Moreover, SugarSync supports an unlimited number of devices, which means that you can install the SugarSync client on multiple computers. The software automatically propagates changes to existing files -- or the creation of new files -- to all pertinent devices.

SugarSync offers a number of advanced capabilities over other cloud storage services that may not be immediately evident. For example, SugarSync saves the last five versions of a file, and it also restores files that are accidentally deleted. To access previous versions of a file, go to the SugarSync Web interface and click on the desired file. Click on More and then Versions to bring up a list of the last few revisions to restore.

SugarSync for Business; cloud storage service

Figure 1: SugarSync for Business offers a centralized administration portal for managing multiple employee accounts within a company.

You can transfer large files without using email or setting up an FTP server. Right-click on a file within a SugarSync protected folder, and then click on SugarSync and Get Public Link. This creates a unique URL that you can use to download the file from a Web browser. Simply email the URL to colleagues or even share it on social media. Click on Public Files to see a list of files with unique URLs. This is also where the software tracks the download count for each URL, and you can also go here to disable the URL links if desired.

Finally, you can share entire folders, or just files, with other users by simply clicking on Share at the SugarSync Web interface. Depending on your needs, you can set file- and folder-sharing to read-only or with full-write access.

Once you share a file or folder, SugarSync takes care of the nitty-gritty work by sending an email message to instruct recipients on what to do next.  As you can imagine, shared folders is an incredibly useful feature for collaboration within project groups or departments.

Access Files Anywhere

Small business owners who want to tap into the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend need look no further than SugarSync, which offers support for a remarkable array of mobile devices. Aside from the desktop client, which is available on Windows and the OS X, SugarSync supports all current mobile platforms. Not only does the SugarSync app offer access to your files in the cloud, it also updates the cloud copy with any changes made using the mobile device.

You'll find a SugarSync app for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Mobile (Note: Not Windows Phone), Symbian, and an iOS app that's optimized for the iPad’s larger amount of space. In addition, you can access all files stored on SugarSync from a standard Web browser – on desktops or mobile devices.

SugarSync for Business; small business storage

Figure 2: SugarSync saves the last five versions of a file, and it also let you restore accidentally deleted files.

Finally, an Outlook plugin lets Outlook users send SugarSync links instead of bulky attachments, and you can configure it to automatically back up your email attachments.

The multitude of access methods effectively translates into anywhere file access for workers. Moreover, employees can easily access their files from a Web browser in the event of a lost laptop or a failed hard disk drive. Indeed, the SugarSync Web interface can automatically pack entire folders as a single archive file for a faster, more manageable download.

Central Administration

As mentioned earlier, SugarSync for Business is essentially SugarSync with a centralized administration portal for managing multiple employee accounts within a company. It is possible to view each person's current storage usage, and configure an email notification when employees approach their storage limit.

When you sign up for the service, at least one person must be an administrator, which counts towards the user limit, but you can have multiple administrators. An administrator can add new users, define a storage limit in GB or leave it as Unlimited. The latter lets you use as much storage as available to the company under its usage plan. You can disable existing user accounts by going to the Users tab under the Business Account settings and clicking on the Edit link for the desired user.

When disabled, SugarSync for Business offers the ability to log in as the disabled user without having to know the password. This lets you recover files from the account of an employee who has been fired, for example.

Calculating Cost

As with practically every other online storage service, SugarSync offers a free 5GB account; however, SugarSync for Business is a paid-only service. A basic business account starts at $29.99 per month or $299.99 annually for 100GB of storage and three users. You can add more users for $9.99 per user per year. Additional storage capacity costs $29.99 per year for each 100GB block. Small businesses may prepay for a year and receive a two-month discount.

The Bottom Line

Of course, SugarSync is hardly perfect. In a way, its advanced capabilities may make it more intimidating for people looking for a rudimentary backup solution. The desire to simplify usage even more was probably what led to the recently released SugarSync 2.0 beta.

The new version offers a greatly improved user interface designed for better ease of use, as well as a new global search feature and the capability to view all synchronized folders within a "drive" that appears in Windows Explorer. Though we elected not to review this new version as it is not yet complete, its presence offers ample evidence that the company seeks to improve on the product by constantly adding new features and tweaks.

Of course, some may balk at paying a premium price for SugarSync for Business rather than the basic SugarSync service. However, the business-centric features that it offers are invaluable in properly managing the service and storage capacity. Finally, remember that SugarSync for Business comes with live support, which can be a lifesaver for smaller businesses with non-existent or very small IT departments.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Dec 13th 2012
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