BeInSync makes PC-to-PC sync (relatively) easy

BeInSync version 2.5 has a host of thoughtful and useful new features.

Webware gives you the capability to access your personal information from anywhere there's a network connection. But that doesn't necessarily mean you have to rely on anonymous server farms--you can also use your own personal computers as online storage. If you use multiple computers, file synchronization tools like Microsoft's FolderShare (which I have relied on for almost two years) remove the need to worry about which PC you last used to work on a file--you synchronize directories across your machines, and every one of them gets everything you do. It's brilliant.

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The first file sync tool I tried, before FolderShare, was BeInSync 1.0. I dumped it quickly, though, since it moved files around and made changes to directory structures. The complaints of one befuddled journalist (and many other users) haven't dissuaded the team from plugging away, though, and today they're rolling out BeInSync version 2.5, with a host of thoughtful and useful new features. And no more shuffling of files on your hard drive.

Getting file sync set up between two or more computers is conceptually complex. BeInSync does a decent job of clarifying things, but I did get lost for a few minutes when I first started working with the product. Once running, I found the interface is better and more clear than FolderShare's. There's an actual desktop user interface that you use to control your shares. Foldershare's is all browser-based, and old-school at that--very page-oriented.

BeInSync has a slightly better feature set. Both systems let you synchronize folders on PCs that you own and also share folders with others. BeInSync gives you access control, though: You can specify which users can only read files, and allow others read/write/delete access. The system is fast. If there's a direct LAN connection between two computers, BeInSync will use it at full speed (I transferred a 20MB file in four seconds). In my experience, FolderShare is slower. I was told you can also sync directories on your PC to another drive attached to the PC, which would be useful for backups or for keeping a USB thumb drive always up to date; I couldn't find this feature in my tests, though.

You can enable access to your PC's files form the Web (FolderShare also does this). And you can synchronize your Outlook emails and contacts file across PCs. Outlook sync seems to be a bit under-developed, but I have yet to see any tool that does a good job with this (aside from Exchange itself).

I still like FolderShare, but BeInSync has a few more tricks up its sleeve and it's easier to control. FolderShare seems to be stuck in limbo at Microsoft; PC-to-PC synchronization was to be built into Vista but was pulled from the operating system in June.

Future plans from BeInSync: Possibly a hosted backup service (sync is a great way to back up PCs), and, hopefully, deeper integration with online storage companies like Box.net.

There's a free version of the product that, after 30 days, limits the number of files you can synchronize per day. The paid version, $60 per year, allows unlimited sync on all the PCs you own.

 

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