Monday, January 13, 2014

Backup and Sync...months later

I went back to have another look at the synchronization services I reviewed last year. I felt overwhelmed! Everything has a more polished look. Each service has its own fans. Maybe there's now one among them that would put all of the others to shame. I don't know. I've found a system that works for me, so I now leave the task of further reviewing to others. I'd love to read it, but not to do the basic research myself.

As of the moment, there are three services I find worth considering.

  • The first, no surprise, is Dropbox. It's the service that defined the category. It seems to work almost flawlessly. It not only synchronizes files across devices but also backs them on line, to be there should disaster strike.

    It has a few shortcomings, however.

    • Everything has to go into a single Dropbox folder.
    • The Android app. Because Android devices often have limited storage, the Android Dropbox app behaves differently from the desktop program.
      • With the desktop program, all files are automatically synchronized across all computers.
      • With the Android app, the names of files and folders are synchronized automatically, but files are not downloaded automatically, to avoid taking up all available space.
      There is an option to designate favorite files that do get updated automatically. However, unless things have changed, there's no way to update the contents of a folder automatically. There is an Androd app, DropSync, that adds this feature, but it is not part of Dropbox, itself.

The other two services I like allow users to designate as many folders as they wish for synchronization. Different folders can be synchronized across different sets of devices. My work files might get synchronized across all of my devices while my personal files never appear on any computer owned by my employer.

  • Cubby allows any folder to identified as a Cubby. Think of each Cubby as its own Dropbox. You can have as many as you want and synchronize each Cubby over as few of many devices as you choose. Data are backed up on the company's servers. A paid account includes Direct Sync to synchronize as many Cubbies as one wants without having the data backed up online. Direct Sync protects privacy and has no size limits. The annoying thing about Cubby is that it is constantly using 3 to 6% of the CPU when it should be idle. Others have reported higher numbers. I imagine some polling is necessary, but I don't see anything like this with other services.
  • BitTorrent Sync (BTSync) is like Cubby's Direct Sync. Any folders can be designated for synchronization on as few or many devices as one wishes. There is also a Read Only option, so that changes made on that device are not reflected on other devices. I use this for folders of song lyrics on my tablets to guard against accidental erasures. BTSync is free. The downside is that there is no option for online storage, so you need your own disaster plan. Mine is an automatic weekly (soon to be daily) back of my desktop computer.

Right now,

  • I use Dropbox for sensitive files where I want the security of online backup copies.
  • I use BTSync for everything else.
  • I'm not using Cubby at the moment due to what appears to be an excessive use of resources. However, its ability to make any folder a Cubby and provide online backup keeps me from crossing it off of my list entirely.
I'm not arguing that this is what everyone should. It's merely what I do, and why. Please leave a comment if you've got what might be a more effective approach. I'd love to read about it and consider it for myself!

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