Jan Leow's Press Blog

File Synchronization and Online Storage with Backup Features

File Synchronization

I have been using the Briefcase folder provided by Windows for sometime. It was nothing to shout about as it was simple file synchronization tool which was available even way back when Windows 95 was first introduced. I didn’t really use it seriously till I needed to work on files on my portable USB flash device both at home and in the office. I wanted to have the same set of working files in my home PC, my office PC and my USB flash drive.

The Briefcase folder was adequate though it has one serious drawback. You could only work with 1 file at a time because Windows will lock out access to the other files. One way to work around this was to place the Briefcase folder in the Home PC and Office PC. While the USB flash device will use a normal folder. In order to ensure that the Briefcase cab locate your folder, you will need to fix the USB drive to a drive letter that will not change whenever it was inserted.

Now you can work on several files on the USB flash drive itself and this has the added advantage of not working on the same file on both the PC and USB device causing conflict during synchronization.

The Briefcase folder then act as a kind of back up in case you ever lose your USB device, you still have a copy of your files. This kind of back up is different from the back up software provided by Windows as you can easily open the individual files, whereas the back up set provided by Windows cannot be open and need to be restored back before it is any useful.

The Briefcase folder is light weight and simple but not quite adequate. So a quick search in the internet revealed several synchronization software available as a free software or shareware.

There were:

There were others but they were not free. So I looked through the above and each has their own features.

Easy2Sync has a very clean interface and was very easy to use. Though it was given away as free software, it was a hobbled version and only allow you to sync one folder per PC only and subdirectories are not included in the sync job set. Not useful if you have many folders and subfolders to sync, especially if you want to have separate sync jobs.

So that left me with AllWaySync. Though the interface was a little clunky, there was no limitation to its synchronization job. You could sync several folders including the subfolders spread out over several sync jobs. Apart from the software version that you install on your PC, you could also install the U3 version on your U3 enabled USB flash drive or use the portable version if you don’t have a U3 enabled USB flash drive. The portable version can be installed in just about any media including your SD/MMC card, ZIP disk, CDRW, DVD-/+RW, DVD-RAM, just about any portable device. Though for CDRW and DVD-/+RW you will need to format it into the appropriate format that allows it to function like giant floppy disk. Very handy if you don’t want to install the same software on all your PCs that you want to synchronize with. There were also several option that you could choose for automatic synchronization as well. All in all quite a good piece of sync software available.

Online Storage

[Note: this company went bust] If you prefer you could opt for online synchronization by using the free service by BeInSync. They provide you with online storage with the first 1GB free. That’s fine if your file is light weight. For heavier duty files, better rely on your portable USB device, though the risk of loss device is there, but if you discipline yourself to sync your files before you leave your home or office, you will ensure your files are up to date and not afraid of lost data should you lose your USB flash drive.

BeInSync is not so much like an online storage but more so like a backup and online synchronization service which you use it to sync multiple computers that you use. Don’t like to carry around your USB flash disk to shuttle to and fro from office to home and vice-versa? Then use BeInSync. It could even sync your IE favourites, Outlook contacts and Outlook email messages. Too bad it can’t sync your Outlook task list and Outlook notes as well. Nope, Firefox bookmarks can’t be sync as well. There is of course another better way to keep bookmarks and favourites and have it accessible anywhere: don’t use IE favourites or Firefox bookmarks. Use either Google or Yahoo bookmarks thereby it is available not only across computers but also across the two browser platform.

[Note: Xdrive service discontinued] 1GB not large enough? Then go for XDrive! I still remember way back XDrive was introduced for online storage. Connecting to the internet was using dial-up and broadband was still unheard of. It was a real pain then to upload any amount of files and the company when into cold storage for awhile. Good concept but wrong time. Now with more pervasive use of broadband technology and also being more affordable for home users, the online storage concept is now more plausible. XDrive was acquired by AOL and now offers 5GB of online storage.

You can also use it as an online back up, though it would take hours to back up even a 100MB worth of data using broadband connection. Light weight files should be ok, but heavy duty files like videos and mp3 would really strain your patience!

Good thing about online storage, if you have to share semi large file and you know people who don’t use Gmail, Yahoo mail or email that has big storage space, the online storage is just the solution. Upload your file to folder which you can designate to share out to your friends, family or colleague for access.

Sigh…! My online back up still not done yet…?

[update 19-Oct-2007]

My friends pointed out that there was a couple more of online storage. I had a quick look at them. One was very new and the other still in beta.

1) Adrive
2) Skydrive

Adrive was just started early this year 2007. Looks like UK based company. They are giving away a whopping 50GB free online storage. However, I won’t put my stuff in there just yet since this is still a new startup, you won’t know when they might run out of funds if they cannot find a way to monetized their website. Should they fold up, that’s the end of your files stored there.

Skydrive belongs to Microsoft. It is still in the beta stage and not every country is available to access its online storage function. I tried to sign in with my MSN ID only to be told that I couldn’t use it because of my geographic location. It remains to be seen what are the features and storage capacity available and what are the caveats when using it. Since it is backed by Microsoft, you won’t have to worry about the company folding up and taking along your precious data with it. For me, I just have to wait till they have completed their beta testing.

[Update 2010: Now Skydrive available worldwide, coz Microsoft needed to compete with Google!]

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