5 best desktop cloud sync apps

Check out the top five desktop client apps available for Linux, macOS, and Windows.

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If you're a cloud storage user, and you're looking for the best desktop client app available, here's a list of my top five clients on the market.

SEE: Vendor comparison: Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud (Tech Pro Research)

1. Insync

Insync is, by far, the best of the best for syncing Google Drive to your desktop. Not only can you sync multiple Google accounts (each account will require a separate license for a one-time fee of $29.99), but you can determine what is synced, where it is to be synced, as well as work with teams (requires a team account, which is a one-time fee of $49.99 per Google account), get notifications on your desktop, preserve directory structure, merge folders, share files/folders from the desktop, and so much more.

The Insync app comes in the form of a single window (Figure A), called up from the notification (or system) tray. Insync also offers seamless integration for most default file managers. For certain file managers (such as Nautilus on Linux) a plugin must be installed from the Insync Downloads page. Insync file manager integration allows you to add folders outside of your configured sync destination. Insync is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows.

Figure A

Figure A: The Insync app window running on Pop!_OS.

2. Dropbox

Dropbox is one of the cloud sync leaders on the market. And with a desktop app that's hard to beat, Dropbox absolutely belongs on this list. With the Dropbox desktop app (Figure B), you can view notifications, get share links for files, open either your local or remote Dropbox folders, open files, pause syncing, snooze notifications, and gain access to Dropbox preferences. The Dropbox desktop client integrates seamlessly with your file manager and lives in your desktop system (or notification) tray. Dropbox doesn't offer too much in the way of bells and whistles, but if you're a user of this particular cloud service, you cannot beat the reliability and ease of use found in their client app.

Figure B

Figure B: The Dropbox client running on macOS.

3. Duplicati

Duplicati is a bit different than most desktop sync apps. Instead of being a standard desktop client, it acts more like a web-based app (running on its own, built-in web server), and allows you to sync/back up to a multitude of hosts (such as SSH, SFTP, WebDAV, Amazon, Azure, B2, Box, Dropbox, Google Cloud, Google Drive, OneDrive, and many more). How you set up a sync connection (Figure C) depends upon the service you use, but most configurations aren't terribly challenging.

The other issue is that Duplicati really only works one way—from the desktop to the cloud. Because of this, you'll most likely use this particular client as more of a backup. However, because Duplicati allows you to connect to so many different cloud services, this could easily be considered a must-have for users who work with multiple clouds.

Figure C

Figure C: Creating a Google Drive backup with Duplicati.

4. GoodSync

GoodSync is an incredibly powerful desktop syncing app that can work as either a backup or a sync tool. In fact, GoodSync is so powerful, it can pretty much fill any desktop sync/backup need you have. GoodSync features real-time data transfer, block level transfer, unattended service, end-to-end encryption, version control, copy-locked files, file/folder move/rename detection, security attribute propagation, bandwidth throttling, and more.

GoodSync can sync/backup in numerous ways, such as computer to computer, computer to NAS, computer to cloud storage (such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Azure, Office 365, etc.), and over network share protocols (such as FTP, SFTP, and WebDAV). Setting up a sync might be a bit of a challenge for newer users (Figure D), but it's not impossible.

GoodSync outshines nearly every other desktop cloud sync app on the market—regardless of price. GoodSync can be installed on Linux, macOS, and Windows. The one caveat for Linux users is that GoodSync only offers a command line option. GoodSync isn't free (although you can test the app free for 30 days). A single license is $49.95 for a personal desktop user, $1,194 for servers, and $2,995.00 for GoodSync File Server.

Figure D

Figure D: The GoodSync desktop app might be a bit too powerful for some users.

5. Odrive

Odrive is a powerful sync client that supports many popular cloud services (such as Google Drive and Dropbox) as well as file sharing protocols like FTP and SFTP. The Odrive client exists as a system tray pop-up menu (Figure E) and offers plenty of options from that easy-to-access window. Odrive features end-to-end encryption, network drive support, unlimited cloud connections, odrive folder relocation, auto download, bandwidth throttling, large file splitting, auto empty trash, user authorization, and more.

As with most good cloud sync desktop apps, Odrive seamlessly integrates into the desktop file manager. Odrive does a great job of bridging the gap between the overly simple (such as Dropbox) to the overly complex (such as GoodSync). Odrive is free unless you want to include end-to-end encryption. The non-free client costs $8.25/month.

Figure E

Figure E: The Odrive system tray pop-up menu.

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By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.