Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Holy Grail Of Synchronization

As you might have figured, I'm a bit of a geek and if there is one field of computing that my friends agree I'm knowledgeable about it is data synchronization. Until we see the day where cloud storage becomes mainstream and total (by that I mean literally running a virtual machine in the clouds with not even on OS on the local host), we will have to deal with fragmented services. As a matter of fact, if you want to back-up your data online or synchronize it among different computers, you will need to use different services. Having synced data across multiple computers and phones for years, I consider myself quite proficient (with my usual modesty) in this field. So, here is what I would suggest for anyone that would like to keep multiple devices in sync:

- For Contacts, Calendar, Notes & Tasks: In my experience and as much as I hate to admit it, nothing beats Microsoft Exchange. There are great companies that offer hosted Exchange services for a small fee. I've been using for the past 3 years and have been very happy with them. For less than US$ 15 per month, I get a great service and I don't have to deal with the expenses and maintenance costs of having my own Exchange server installed on a local computer.

Thanks to 123Together, I can keep all my contacts, Calendar, Notes & Tasks in sync across 3 macs, one PC, one iPad (soon 2) and all my iPhones. Their monthly service also includes an Outlook 2007 license. As for macs, iPads and iPhones, they're natively compatible with Exchange 2007.  If you would like to sync your Notes and Tasks on your iPhone as well, I recommend the IMExchange app that works like a charm (Notes & Tasks aren't supported natively on iOS devices).

I have tried different solutions in the past but none work as well as Microsoft Exchange. MobileMe is unreliable at best, tethered syncing from one device to another sucks big time. Gmail offers the ability to push sync contacts, calendars & emails natively to your iPhone but it won't support desktop syncing (unless you get a premium account).

- For syncing files and data backup: Besides making frequent backups of my computers on external hard drives, I also use an online backup service. My service of choice is SugarSync. Not only does it allow me to backup all my data online, it also lets me sync folders across multiple computers. A pure blessing when using multiple computers! I can save a file in a synced folder on my iMac at work and when I get home in the evening it will be sitting in the same folder on my home PC. SugarSync also released an iPhone and Android app which lets you access all of you synced data from your phone and view or send it from anywhere. In case of a fire at your home, all your important files will still be available and retrievable on their servers!

Dropbox offers a similar service but is a lot less flexible when it comes to syncing multiple folders or different sets of folders from one computer to another.

If you have further questions, don't hesitate to drop it in the comments, I'll be more than happy to help!

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