Today is the big day, when Microsoft pulls the plug on Foldershare, the awesome PC peer-2-peer file/folder syncing service they bought a year or so ago. it’s been prettified and re-branded as “Windows Live Sync”, and well, the launch has not gone well for me and my clients.
You see, with this new version, Microsoft has said “too bad” to whatever ID you were using as your Foldershare login in the past, and now requires you use a Windows Live ID. Fair enough, it’s their product. The problem? With a new ID, comes a whole slew of syncing issues - the main being, it’s a new ID, so you lose all the “syncs” you set up, which is pretty close to disastrous for me, as I have many, many synced folders set up with clients. I do this for clients who don’t want to bother with having an in-house server, or just love the instantly updated access to files as we edit them. But now, I just lost all that access.
It’s typically a simple process to add a sync folder - you just choose the folder to sync, and send invites to everyone’s IDs. Problem? We all have to get new IDs, tell one another what they are, decide who’s going to manage all this sync re-creation, and spend days getting back in sync. Right now, I have some clients traveling, so they don’t have time to do all this, and so I can’t edit any documents in the shares, otherwise, it’ll be an out-of-sync nighmare fest.
At this point, I may be done with Foldershare. It’s always been a touch flaky, but now that I have a chance to “zero out” the whole thing, I think it might be time to try something else, as I know there are a few alternatives out there.
- Sugarsync (www.sugarsync.com): This is a fantastic paid service and I use it for my own activities, but haven’t asked clients to check it out yet, since they were already on Foldershare. The advantages of Sugarsync are many, including:
- *Easy* web-based access to your files
- A “Magic Briefcase” for on-the-fly access to files
- A wonderfully executed iPhone app that lets you share files and folders easily with others via emailed links
- An online backup of all your files. So if someone blows out a synced folder by deleting it, you can still go online and retrieve those files
- A great online and client interface that works like its own little filesystem for easy file management
SugarSync’s premium service is $5/month, but well worth it for 30GB of online backup, and unlimited syncing. It gets pricier for more space, but it’s well worth it (cost of doing biz, and all that!). And since it’s time to get your year-end tax deductions in, might be a good time to jump on the service.
BeInSync (www.beinsync.com)- I have to admit, i tried BeInSync a year or so ago, and found it pretty counter-intuitive. But they’re still around and claim over 4 million users, so they must be doing something right!
Google Docs, ThinkFree Office and Zoho Docs - if you’re just sharing office-type files (documents and spreadsheets), these are very solid options. They all have very powerful online editors (Thinkfree’s the best one, Google Docs is a close second) so you can easily edit a document, and every single revision is tracked and reversible.
NomaDesk (www.nomadesk.com) - I have been checking out Nomadesk for the past few weeks, and have been suitably impressed, even with the few bugs I’ve hit upon. NomaDesk eschews peer-2-peer sharing and instead gives you a “Virtual Fileserver” out in the cloud. After installing the client, you create folders on your virtual server, and assign them to virtual drives (which show up in “My Computer”) on your PC. From then on, it’s just like being on a corporate network with easy fileserver access. If you update a file on the virtual fileserver, it’s immediately updated. There’s no lag like with the peer-2-peer apps that must sync everyone on the network up with one another. I found Nomadesk easy to use and understand, though it seems better for a small-volume user (not someone who likes to throw 30GB around the cloud all the time, like some of my clients)
There you have it, several alternatives to the freshly broken Foldershare / Windows Live Sync.
A quick follow-up - This morning, after fighting through Windows Live Sync’s inability to simply even log on, I suggested Sugarsync to a key client. Within an hour, everyone in the office had installed it and had it running, with comments along the lines of “Amazing” “Fantastic” and “We should definitely use this.” I guess I won’t have to bother with Live Sync now.