{ 17 Intelligent Comments }

Online File Sync Speed Test: Mozy, Dropbox, SpiderOak, Mesh, SugarSync

Online Backup File Sync Upload Speed Test ComparisonWondering How Long It Takes For Your Files To Sync First Time?

If there’s one thing that puts a lot of people off using online file sync or backup services, it’s the length of time it takes to perform the initial upload.

True, if you’re planning to upload many GB’s of data it probably will take a while.

So the best I can do for you is to try 5 of the most popular (and free) online backup & file sync services to see just how long it took me.

I’m going to perform a test on how long it takes each of the online file backup/sync/storage – call them what you will – companies listed below to upload 478MB of files – a nice round number!

The files are a mixture of compressed format (JPG) and uncompressed (RAW) images.

Here are the candidates:

  • Windows Live Mesh 2011 (download) – Microsoft’s own offering; limited features but seems solid.
  • SpiderOak (download) – Relatively new (2008); I wouldn’t see SpiderOak as a big player so good to throw it in the mix.
  • Dropbox (download) – Very popular but still young (2008) offering, Dropbox use a more integrated approach to their client.
  • SugarSync (download) – I first tried this last year and had a few problems.  Let’s see how it performs on an upload test.
  • MozyHome (download) – Mozy recently announced their 100% free for personal use offering.  Around since 2005, Mozy are old hands at this stuff.

All of the above services are free for personal use, offering varying sizes of storage and most have premium offerings.  See table below for a brief comparison chart.

Quick Feature Comparison

Before we get into the guts of it, here’s a quick comparison chart I put together as I was going along.

Microsoft’s Mesh offering is lacking some of the basic features that the others have such as mobile support and premium offerings whilst Mozy seems to tick most of the boxes.  Read on to see how they all do.

Free Online Backup File Sync Storage Provider Comparison Chart

The Test

For the test itself, my system is set up as follows:

  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition
  • Internet Line: 15 Mbps Down/6 Mbps Up (Source: Speedtest.net)
  • Network Connection: Wireless (802.11G)
  • Applications Running: None (except for Windows services)
  • Memory Installed: 1GB
  • CPU: Intel Xeon 2Ghz
  • Encryption: Yes
  • Account: For each online storage service I will register a brand new account
  • Settings: All settings for each online storage service will be left at default
  • The Test: Uploading 478MB of data via each service providers Windows client

The Results

Well, the results are in.  Smaller numbers are better!

Online Backup File Sync Storage Service Performance Test Results Chart


  • Windows Live Mesh 2011 (download) – I was impressed with the upload speed from Microsoft’s belated storage offering but unimpressed with the lack of control and features.  No scheduling, no increased storage levels and no Windows XP support.  It does have a built in remote control feature which could be handy but doesn’t support Mac.
  • MozyHome (download) – The clear winner! I had not used Mozy up to this. From an upload performance view point, Mozy killed the opposition. It’s client is feature rich including scheduling but it’s web site interface is limited to restores only. Most attractive perhaps is it’s premium offering of unlimited space for a crazy low price.
  • SpiderOak (download) – Clunky, complex user interface and a bizarre premium pricing structure.  It was also on the slow side uploading.  Considering they advertise that it has “10 – 15 times faster data upload” – I’d love to know what they were comparing it to!  On the upside, it is feature rich and supports a lot of mobile and desktop platforms.
  • Dropbox (download) – Reliable but simple.  This is the ultra drag n’ drop offering.  No client really to speak of, just a Windows Explorer integration with a settings panel.  Upload speed was middle of the road.  My experience of Dropbox, trouble free and easy.
  • SugarSync (download) – The big surprise.  I was expecting more from SugarSync considering it’s been around a while and has a pretty could rep.  I did run the test twice though and the result was almost identical.  Slow, slow uploads.  They do have an option to increase the upload speed but for these tests I was leaving everything at default.
What have you experienced when using any of the products listed in this article?    Share your ideas below.


Wow, 17 Comments! We've got a conversation going now. Join the discussion below!

  1. It’s good to know that Mozy runs so fast! I considered using Mozy, but SpiderOak and DropBox have three advantages over it: 1) Sync between machines; 2) Public shares; 3) Linux support. This last was the dealbreaker for me because I’m running Ubuntu on some computers, but I think many Win and Mac users would also want to have a solution that combines backup, sync, and public shares in one product.

    I’m not sure what the reference to SpiderOak’s “bizarre pricing structure” is about. $100/year for each 100GB “pack” seems pretty straightforward to me. Additionally, if you have a *.edu email you can get it for half price, which makes it cheaper than Mozy (although the comparison is not equivalent because Mozy offers unlimited storage, albeit for a single machine).

    1. jc says:

      By now, in the year 2015, I pay 270 EUR per year for 5 TB, so the pricing for Spideroak seems to have gone down SUBSTANTIALLY! Spider oak seems to take a lot of time dealing with very large files (like 4GB movie files). Small files fly back and forth quite swiftly. The security aspect and the smart “changes only” strategy sets it apart from the others. You should repeat the test including subsequent uploads, e.g. after having changed files. Traditional offerings like sugar sync or dropbox will upload complete new file, spider oak only transmits the changed blocks. Much more efficient. But because of that mechanism, the first backup takes more time than for others.

  2. Scott says:

    A great report, It would have been good to see Crashplan in your comparison 🙂

  3. Bob says:

    I’m chiming in a little late, but I have been researching this topic for a week or so. The native speed test is one measure, but I would like to compare performance on another application while the sync engines are going full blast. Sugar (and others) say they throttle bandwidth to allow the client computer to maintain reasonable performance. With your 1 GB memory machine, performance for other apps running concurrently could be a deal breaker. BTW, these 5 are the tip of the iceberg: there are dozens of competent offerings out there, most with some level of permanently free service. I’m still evaluating, but right now I’m using Digital Lifeboat for backup (free for 2 computers per account) and wavering between SugarSync and iDriveSYNC paid versions for sync. I just cannot live with the 5GB sync limits of the free versions. iDriveSYNC provided unlimited sync space for 5 computers for $50 a year. SugarSync is a lot more expensive if you need lots of storage, but a 30GB version for unlimited computers is $50 bucks a year, too.

  4. Jackson says:

    How did you even manage to install Windows 7 with only 1GB of RAM?

    That’s gotta be a typo…

  5. Rosco says:

    Its a virtual machine with 1 GB RAM allocated.

  6. wow incredible wow ut oh here comes it typhoon what insane unbelievable I can’t beleive it

  7. Great post! Maybe you could do a follow up on this topic??

  8. Outstanding work over again! I am looking forward for your next post.

  9. LJ says:

    I’m working on making a research paper, and the topic is the comparison of file sync software.
    I just found your posting, and this is what i just want. I tried to test same thing,and downloaded all the software, but SpiderOak doesn’t work on my Mac. So, I’m asking you that it is ok to use your test result for my research. Of course, I will introduce your name and website as a provider of the results. Hopefully, you check this comment asap because I have to submit it tonight. 🙂 great post!

    1. Rosco says:

      Hi Louie,

      No problem. I’d appreciate you sending me a copy of the final paper. An interesting read I’m sure.


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