The cloud offers a great many benefits to adopters, from superior computing power to effortless storage to the ability to share data across the world in an instant. The cloud platform is now so deeply entrenched in our tech culture that it has become almost ubiquitous. But as a product grows in popularity, competition follows, and your options expand with competitors each offering a different version of a cloud files hosting service. With so many options out there, how do you differentiate between the one that’s right for you and the rest?

While there are many differences both large and small that can help you arrive at a decision regarding which cloud storage service is the best for you, one feature we’ll examine in depth in this piece is called differential sync.

What Is Differential Sync?

Having a differential sync as a feature of your chosen cloud provider means that whenever you make a change to a file, only the changes will be uploaded back into the cloud, rather than having to upload the entire file all over again.

The major savings are twofold. First, you naturally save time. If you have a 10gb file but only make a few minor changes, you don’t want to be left waiting for the entire thing to upload, which not only takes time but chokes up your internet speed. Secondly, it will save you money as productivity will increase and – if you don’t have an unlimited internet provider, that is – you’ll save money on upload and download limits.

Differential sync is ultimately a nice feature to have, and a great way to improve your experience with whatever provider you do end up deciding to go with.

How to Choose the Right Provider for Your Business

Is it a deal breaker if your hosting service provider doesn’t feature differential sync? That all depends on what you need the service to do for you. If storage is the main concern, then differential sync may not be absolutely critical. If, conversely, you expect to work straight off the cloud storage and continuously update the files you’ve stored, then I’d argue that it is paramount that your provider offer differential sync in their platform.

And despite the whole process being seemingly pretty simple in terms of identifying cloud providers that offer differential sync, that is far from the case as things can get murky and complicated in a hurry.

Take Microsoft OneDrive. The company has gone back and forth on differential sync, promising to provide it by the second quarter of this year after sneaking it into the ‘roadmap’ of its planned updates, but that promise hasn’t exactly come to fruition. Does that mean that OneDrive doesn’t have differential sync? Well, it’s complicated.

You see, OneDrive does offer differential sync . . . but only for Microsoft Office files. So for a company that deals exclusively with Office files, turning to OneDrive makes a lot of sense and you may be willing to forgo universal differential sync because you like the other parts of the file hosting network.

There’s no cut-and-dry, one-size-fits-all file hosting service out there, so to speak, with each one offering positives and negatives that will be appeal to different customers looking to accomplish different things.

But if differential sync is an absolute must for your company, then let’s take a look at two very popular services and one lesser known option that offer differential sync.


One of the most famous file hosting services around – and by far the most famous not owned by a massive company above it like Microsoft or Google –Dropbox promises to analyze your files and compare them to those stores on its network, only uploading the changes and therefore fulfilling the promise of differential sync.

Of course, Dropbox is more than just differential sync, with lots of qualities that many love about the hosting network. Conversely, others see OneDrive and other competitors as being a better fit for their business.

Dropbox has a free version, but like almost every other free file hosting network, if you really want to take full advantage of everything Dropbox has to offer, you’ll have to spend some money on the upgrade.

Google Drive

Google Drive is the other elephant in the room when it comes to cloud hosting (with an honorable mention going towards Apple’s iCloud Drive, though that is more focused on those firmly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem).

Google Drive does offer differential sync and a whole slew of other features that it uses to help differentiate itself from the competition. This reviewer recommends Google Drive as the top option among its peers, and it’s a good fit for many businesses.

Box (Personal)

One of the easiest to use and most customizable file hosting networks out there – not to mention a very affordable alternative – Box is one of the best options out there for people looking for differential sync.

Similar to Google Drive and Dropbox, Box has areas where it excels and where it falls, but ultimately the service is one of the better ones on offer, with strong syncing features alongside a very intuitive interface and a platform designed for users of all walks.


There are a lot of considerations that should go into your cloud file hosting network decision. From security to application development, each file hosting service gives you a different set of features that are worth checking out. But if differential sync is a must-have, then you can’t go wrong with any of the aforementioned options.

About the Author

Sean Westbrook is a content specialist for an It Disaster Recovery Company. Sean is a dreamer, idea generator and teller of stories. Sean is also a basketball fan, traveler, and vintage furniture lover.