SugarSync, whose "personal cloud" offering lets users back up and store documents online for access across platforms, has added the ability to share that data among multiple users, with instant syncing and a modicum of security. While SugarSync users can already share data with others, that data resides in the cloud. Now recipients can download and sync the data locally. The best part is that it's free for those joining a shared SugarSync folder, giving users an inexpensive way to collaborate on documents.
I've been using SugarSync for several months, mostly as a way to get at my desktop data when I'm traveling with a mobile device, especially when I just have an iPad. It's easy to sync hand-selected folders on the desktop to the SugarSync cloud, and then access supported file types using the SugarSync iPad app. There are also native apps for Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian. The company says it’s taking a wait-and-see approach to the forthcoming Microsoft Windows Phone 7.
Until now, you could share files only by grabbing a link (via the Get Public Link feature) to a file and sending it via e-mail (or posting it to public sites like Facebook), just as you can with offerings like YouSendIt or Dropbox. The shared file is stored in a separate space (accessed at the SugarSync Web site) for 21 days before the link expires. A dashboard shows you how often the file has been downloaded, and you can kill the link if you want to shut down access.
But now, with SugarSync's new multi-user sync, you can share entire folders and associated files with a selected group, and all changes are automatically and instantly synced among all users. That is, if anyone makes a change, those changes are detected and synced and available for all users.
These files and folders are shared directly from the desktop, no longer from a separate folder. Recipients store the files on their desktops as well. The cloud just acts as a sync hub. With that setup, of course, comes concerns about security and file integrity.
SugarSync now lets you password protect these shared folders, or you can share files in read-only mode. Only the group folder owner has the ability to permanently delete a file. Still, this doesn't prevent anyone from sending the link to others, but in fairness, the same can happen with files attached to an e-mail. User beware of compliance issues. SugarSync detects and syncs only changes, and it also stores the last five versions of a file, so you can revert to previous versions if there are further document integrity issues.
As the recipient of a SugarSync invitation to "join" a shared folder work group, you have to sign up for a free SugarSync account (2 GB). The good news is that you can share as much data as the folder owner allows without it being counted toward your quota. But surely this is another way to create a viral channel for SugarSync through its customers; then again, most others do the same thing. Paying SugarSync customers should make sure that its collaborating friends don't start tossing big files into the shared folder, taking them over quota.
All of this extends to the mobile versions of SugarSync. Individual plans start at $4.99/month for 30GB. Business plans begin at $299.99 for the year and provide 100 GB for up to three users.
Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.
Follow Fritz Nelson and InformationWeek on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn: