I use a variety of online services to sync information between PCs and to backup critical data to the cloud. For example, I prefer Microsoft's Windows Live Mesh over Dropbox because it's free and more easily configurable, and offers a more seamless Explorer experience, but either is a fairly handy way to sync information between PCs. And I use Crashplan to automatically backup all of my Windows Home Server-based data to the cloud, providing a geographically separate copy of my data should disaster strike.

But as time moves on, cloud services mature, and now there are more options than ever. And today, what appears to be a very interesting alternative for both cloud sync and backup has emerged. It's called Insync, and it uses Google's scalable cloud storage as a backend.

Why is this important? Google, unlike Microsoft, actually lets you buy additional storage. And unlike competitors like Amazon, Google's cloud storage is very reasonably priced.

Here's how Google's cloud storage pricing breaks down right now.

1 GB free 
20 GB ($5.00 USD per year)  
80 GB ($20.00 USD per year)  
200 GB ($50.00 USD per year)
400 GB ($100.00 USD per year)  
1 TB ($256.00 USD per year)  

I happen to be on the 200 GB plan, if you're curious. It's used primarily for photo backups via Google Picasaweb at the moment.

OK, so I know that some readers will be using, or will point out, that there are actually cheaper online storage schemes. And I'm sure that's true. But when it comes to companies I'd personally trust with my data, the list is pretty small--Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft--and it doesn't involve unknown startups I've never heard of with weird names like MeMeeOh, ScratchItUp, or PlexTron. (Yes, I made those up. And yes, I do use Crashplan, which I consider a last ditch alternative that's worth using in addition to other services because it's so cheap.)

Amazon's pricing is more expensive, as noted. Apple's iCloud is excellent but is very iOS-specific. There's no useful PC data sync/backup there, certainly nothing with Explorer integration. Microsoft offers 25 GB of SkyDrive storage for free, but no Explorer or Windows Backup integration and no way to pay for more storage. (This would be my first choice, of course. Microsoft? Hello?) And then there's Google.

I'm already paying for Google storage. So Insync is very interesting. Could this replace Windows Live Mesh (in my case)? Or DropBox, if that's what you're using?

I think so. But it just went live, so I'll need to test. There's precious little information about the product or the company on its web site, however. According to its "Jobs" page, "Insync is changing the world of cloud storage and cloud services. With files and data all over the place, it's never been harder to keep track of your digital life across your various devices and keep them synced across people." Vague, but OK. It has a Twitter accountIt's on Facebook. And there are installers for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (!), making it an interesting option for those with truly heterogeneous environments.

So I installed it.

You link each PC you use to Insync and thus to your Google Storage account. This happens on the web. There's a little tray icon that's installed on these PCs, with the requisite pop-up menu options. 

insync_menu

And then there's an Insync folder in My Documents, just like with DropBox. So it works like DropBox, not like Windows Live Mesh. Bleh.

insync_folder

Inside that folder you see there, intriguingly, are all my Google Docs documents. So there's some good Google Docs integration there too if you're into that. (That Insync Guide file is a PDF document.)

If you are a DropBox user, this is likely a cheaper and potentially better solution. If you're a Windows Live Mesh user, and use multiple synced folders all over your file system, as I do, ... It's not clear.

If you use Google Docs, this might be an interesting way to sync cloud documents to your PCs too. I know there are other solutions for that, but like most people, I don't use Google Docs so this isn't of particular interest to me.

I'll keep testing. But I wanted to get the word out first. Let me know what you think about this.