Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cross Platform File Syncing with Syncplicity

I have been using a program called Dropbox to sync a folder between multiple computers and a server for a few months now because the software has been available for both Macs and Windows and I have both. Recently, a competitor called Syncplicity released a Mac client for their service so today I decided to take it for a test drive. A free account on Syncplicity is good for syncing up to two computers and comes with 2GB of online storage which can be expanded up to 5GB if you refer new users to the service. All connections across the net are encrypted with 128 bit SSL and their server which stores copies of your synced data is encrypted using AES, the industry standard for information security.

I installed the Mac client first, which is still in beta, and it is a very rough client. Finder crashed multiple times when trying to get it setup initially. The Windows client, on the other hand, which I installed on my XP computer, seems to be very polished and easy to use. Syncplicity will monitor multiple folders that you get to specify. There is also a web interface where you can monitor and the files linked to your account. There is no way to delete folders from the web interface or the Mac client. This process is a snap on a Windows client.

In terms of file syncing, once each client is configured, everything appears to be very smooth. Files added to or changed in a synced directory on one computer will show up on the other within a minute or two, which is really as fast as most people will need. If you are working with two computer side by side then file sharing is probably less hassle than this type of service. Also, in terms of real world usability, a limit of two computers on a free account may not sound like a lot, but how many of us really need to sync more computers than that? While yes, I do have several computers, most of them are all almost always on the same LAN so I can use file sharing to access the same files on multiple computers. Two computers is enough to have Syncplicity installed on a desktop and a laptop. Also, if you happen to need access to one of your synced files and you're on a different computer, you can download and upload your files through their web interface.

I am used to using Dropbox which is a very similar service. One thing though that I am always aware of when installing new software, especially software that will always be running in the background, is greedy the program is for system resources. On my Mac, Syncplicity is taking up about 35MB of RAM compared to 23MB for Dropbox, not really a big deal. On my XP computer, Dropbox uses just under 20MB and Syncplicity is using over 50MB! This is a more noticeable difference and I wonder if as the Mac client get developed further if it will use up more system resources like it Windows version does.

For this reason I will probably stick with Dropbox even though I have 5GB of storage on my Syncplicity account versus the 2GB I get with Dropbox. Dropbox also support more connection on free accounts and has a Linux client. Even though I am not using Linux right now, I may in the future and I would rather not have to switch software. For now though, I will probably run with both for a few days and see what I think.

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