Cloud-storage service SugarSync announced today that it’s pulling the plug on freebies. For years now, anyone with an e-mail address could claim a 5GB SugarSync account, no strings attached, and enjoy the benefits of real-time syncing, sharing, and so on.
As of February 8, 2014, the company “will transition to a paid-only service model.” Any newcomer who wants to test-drive the service will be able to do so for 90 days (or 30 days with the 60GB plan). And any current user of a free plan will have to transition to a paid one.
I, for one, won’t shed a tear. For as much as I like free stuff, SugarSync may be the single most confusing and unintuitive cloud-storage service on the Interwebs. I’m not saying it was unusable, merely that it made the whole folder-syncing and -sharing process unnecessarily complex.
But I used it, and you know why? Because it allows you to sync any folder on your PC, rather than forcing you to drag and drop your stuff into a special bucket (which is the modus operandi for Dropbox and a lot of other cloud services). That’s a huge plus.
Now, however, I’m looking to put my data eggs in another cloud basket. Thankfully, there’s another service that’s even better than SugarSync: Bitcasa (from the Spanish for “house of bits”).
First things first: You can get a 5GB account absolutely free, same as SugarSync used to offer. Ah, but for every friend you refer who signs up for an account (even a free), you get an additional 1GB of space–up to a maximum of 20GB. That’s a pretty ample serving of gratis storage for not much effort on your part.
The service offers clients for Android, iOS, Windows, Windows Phone, and Mac, though you can also access it via any desktop browser.
But the clients are part of what make Bitcasa a bit different from the competition. In Windows, for example, you use your “Bitcasa Infinite Drive” the same way you would an external hard drive. In fact, you can even free up space on your internal hard drive after you copy files over to your Bitcasa drive.
However, it also supports mirroring (a.k.a. syncing), and allows you to mirror any folder to your account to have its contents synced there–just like SugarSync.
Beyond that, you get all the usual cloud-storage perks, including file sharing (via unique URLs generated on the fly), a music player for streaming your songs, and mobile apps for accessing photos, files, and the like.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say Bitcasa has arguably the best mobile app of any cloud service, with automated photo/video backup, full support for media streaming, and a great interface. I’m also enamored with the browser interface, which I find vastly superior to those of both SugarSync and Dropbox. It’s clean, attractive, and intuitive.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for free cloud storage, don’t feel bad that SugarSync is no longer an option. And don’t automatically choose Dropbox just because it’s the best-known option. Bitcasa rocks, and you can get up to 20GB absolutely free. I highly recommend giving it a try.