However, not everyone is ready to marry the cloud. Cloud storage services must be paid for on a monthly basis, and their price can be very costly over time – the 50GB Dropbox plan will cost you $119.88 over a single year, enough to purchase a 1 terabyte hard drive. Cloud storage services also rarely offer plans large enough to store even moderate amounts of data permanently. Dropbox’s largest plan has a 100GB storage limit.
There is another way. Sync applications, skip the cloud entirely, instead sharing files automatically between designated folders. Using a Sync application means sacrificing the any-time, any-where convenience that comes with cloud storage for a more scheduled and methodical method. This can be a pain, but you won’t have to pay anything and your storage capacity is limited only by the space on your hard drives.
Windows Live Sync
Microsoft’s Windows Live Sync is a free file sync application that is a part of Microsoft’s Windows Live services. It uses a web-based interface that lets users designate folders as sync folders. Once designated in this way, files between the folders will automatically be transfered no matter where the computers are located as long as Internet access is available. The folders do not have to have the same name on each computer. It is possible to sync folders among more than one computer as well.
Despite the name, Windows Live Sync also works on OSX and works well. The web interface makes absolutely no distinction between folders that are on a Windows machine and folders that are on a Mac. The web interface does feel a bit clunky however, and you do need to make a Windows Live account if you want to be able to use this application.
Designed for local synchronization, Pure Sync is a tool aimed at home networks that need to synchronize large amounts of data. The main feature of Pure Sync is simply the ability to synchronize folders, and this function is easy enough to set up using the program’s setup wizard. Pure Sync allows for some customization in how you sync folders, including the ability to exclude sub-folders and files and schedule synchronization.
Pure Sync also includes a backup component. If you are interested in synchronization because cloud storage can’t handle large backup files you’ll find Pure Sync to be exactly what you need.
A deceptively simple sync application, AllWay Sync can be quite complex if you need it to be. If you need to sync two folders on two different computers you can easily so by opening the folders in the main AllWay Sync window and then pressing the Synchronize button. AllWay Sync will handle things from there, and will also provide you with details about what changes were made between the folders during the synchronization. The data can be a bit confusing for new users, so I suggest syncing small folders first.
However, AllWay also includes more complex functionality. It is possible to sync with alternative storage options including removable drives, network folders, FTP servers, Amazon S3 storage and more. The only catch is that the free version will transfer “only” 40,000 files in one month – if you’re transferring more than that, or you want to use it for commercial use, you’ll have to pay.
FreeFileSync will sync your local or network folders. And that is it. There is no ability to sync to outside sources, no ability to sync over the Internet, and no extra features like automatic backup. The only thing you can do is filter out the files you don’t want to sync.
With this said, FreeFileSync is the easiest to use. To sync two folders you simply need to drag-and-drop two folders into the application window, one on each side. If it is your first time syncing the folders you first have to compare them, which is done by pressing the big Compare button. Then you sync them by pressing the big Synchronize button. Instead of flooding you with data the synchronization is represented by a big, friendly status bar.
Obviously, these programs are not as flexible as a cloud storage service, but for some users (myself included) that limitation isn’t a problem. By getting rid of the cloud these applications let you sync huge amounts of data without paying a dime. Letting go of the convince associated with cloud storage can save you hundreds of dollars a year if you have large amounts of information that must be regularly synchronized.