Q&A: Robb Henshaw, SugarSync

Case Studies Nov 13, 2012
SugarSync logo black
SugarSync logo black

Robb Henshaw of Dropbox alternative SugarSync talks to Cloud Pro about the launch of SugarSync 2.0

How is SugarSync different to other file sharing services?

If you look at Dropbox or Google Drive or any of the competitors they all have the same model where they give you one folder and you have to drag and drop everything into that one folder. If you don't put it in there, it's not in the cloud. We viewed that as a very limiting model.

So what we did was we are the only cloud provider that lets you sync any and all of your folders. So you can pick as many folders as you want and you don't have to drag and drop them into a separate location. You can keep them where they are. This is a very cool, very powerful multi-sync solution.

Who is SugarSync aimed at?

We have two audiences. Our bread and butter is the consumer, and about a year-and-a half ago we launched SugarSync for businesses as well.

With that we don’t go for the large enterprise, we go for the SMB, so smaller companies that do not have a dedicated IT staff, and we make it easy for them to sync and share across multiple people.

With SugarSync for business instead of buying storage for every individual person, you buy storage as a company and everyone shares that storage. It gives you a point of contact, gives you administrative control, and you can block somebody out if they leave or anything like that, so you are able to control access.

What’s new in SugarSync 2.0?

We found we had been winning all these head to head reviews and people were calling us the best, but we were still deemed not as simple to use for new users as Dropbox and Google Drive. So about a year ago, we decided to redesign the existing program from the ground up.

Our goal was to make it as simple as possible for a brand new user who has never used the cloud before to get started, without losing the power and the functionality that we had before. Keep the power, make it more simple. So we came up with is this new desktop app.

How does the app work?

As opposed to big, full-screen type of thing, we designed it to look kind of like an IM client and the goal is to have people keep this open all the time in the background. We want people to do this so they can easily drag and drop if they want to add new folders.

To do this, you can do one of two things: you can go ahead and multi-select a bunch of folders at once and just upload them all to the cloud if you want to. Or you can create a new folder in the cloud using the app and all you have to do is drag and drop them [on the app window] and it instantly starts syncing.

You can also choose which folders are synced where. So I have a folder showing in the app that is not synced to my work laptop, it is just synced to my home desktop and for now I am choosing to view it as cloud only – I want to be able to access it, but I do not actually want it on this machine.

However, if I did want to sync it to my laptop, all I would have to do is toggle a switch in the app and it would make it sync locally. Or I can turn off syncing and my files can be saved to the cloud alone.

That is another thing that sets us apart from the other cloud solutions – you can pick and choose what devices you want different things saved on.

What is the purpose of the ‘cloud only’ option?

With Dropbox and all the other guys, whatever you have in  there is synced locally to all of your devices and therefore it's taking up space on all of your devices. But in the age of ultra books where you're getting smaller hard-drives and tablets and smartphones, you don't want all your stuff on all of your devices.

The ‘cloud only’ option lets you sync files locally to your device temporarily. For example, before I go on a plane, I could just pick the folders that I want and say, ‘Sync this locally’ for now. Then, once I connect to Wi-Fi again, it will sync all of the changes I’ve made during my flight and I can unsync the files off of the device. I can pull stuff down temporarily and then put it back into the cloud.

One of the other things we’ve added in the new version is SugarSync Drive. It is a virtually mounted drive, so if you just want to work in Finder, it shows you all of your cloud folders on all of your machines but it looks like it’s local. It is an easy way to access files from any device and it feels like it is right there and local even though it is not. So for a normal consumer, not a tech-y person at all, it makes it feel familiar.

How do you ensure that users’ data is secure?

We use data encryption and have similar levels of encryption to Dropbox – AS156 encryption – and we have SSL encryption for mobile devices as well. So as you upload it, everything’s encrypted into the cloud, it’s encrypted onto our servers.

We also have our own SAS70 compliant datacentres, which assures government grade security of the actual, physical data, and uses retina scanners and those types of measures. So it is everything, from data in transit, data at rest, the actually security of our physical properties and the fact that we have multiple, physical datacentres: One on the west coast or the US, one on the east coast, one in Korea, and with our recent round of funding, we’re now building datacentres in Germany and Ireland.

Having multiple locations means all of your data is redundantly stored, so if one physical location was completely destroyed, you would still have your stuff stored in at least two different locations.