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THOUGHT: To synchronize or not to synchronize? For sure but how?
Posted by Arne Hess - on Thursday, 11.12.03 - 15:09:28 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 10050x
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Well, this topic is hitting me around once or twice a quarter - minimum. It's about synchronizing all your devices to have everything up to date and it's a multi-device question. And it's a pain, every time I think about...
Why it is hitting me again? Because of my new Notebook I got yesterday but it covers multi facets: Desktops, Notebooks, Pocket PCs and Smartphones. And all I'm writing about now is for consumers, freelancers, etc - I'm not talking about corporate environments where you might use Microsoft Exchange or other solutions.

First of all I have to explain that my PC is running 24 hours, 7 days a week thanks to a reliable DSL provider which gives me access with 1024/256 KBit without any disconnects after 24 hours or other annoying stuff - so my PC is "always on" and even if it doesn't have a fixed IP address you can use services like Dynu.com to get a subdomain matched to your current PC IP. DSL is one of the strong growing technologies in the IP environment and I'm not the only one anymore who is always on - I'm sure.
On the other hand I'm not 24/7 in my office but "sometimes" at home, at my girlfriend, on the road or abroad where I have my Notebook, my Pocket PC and/or my Smartphone with me.

Desktop and Notebook
Now the jackpot question is how to get my PC, which is my master device, and my Notebook, which is my client device, synced in terms of Outlook Contacts, Appointments and E-Mails? Honestly I don't know. There is no solution (at least I haven't found one) which lets me sync both in an easy to use and convenient way. Either I copy and paste the Outlook pst file from my Desktop to my Notebook (and back after the trip) or I access my Desktop via Terminal Service Client only, to work on the Desktop, not on the Notebook and to read, reply and forward E-Mails from the Desktop instead of using my Notebook. In fact my Notebook becomes a dumb (and expensive) Webpad instead of being a powerful device.
This is so annoying and I really wonder why Microsoft still haven't released anything smart to get a Desktop and a Notebook PC synchronized in terms of Outlook! I'm not the only one who is using this combination (or am I?) and I always wonder how others manage these problems?

What I would like to see is a kind of ActiveSync service between my Desktop and Notebook which would allow me to synchronize both PCs via IP (Internet or LAN, doesn't matter) - doesn't matter if I'm using a GPRS, Modem or Broadband connections - out of my car, my girlfriends home or hotel. But there is no serious way to get it managed without copying the pst file back and forth all the time (and well, my Outlook pst is 2.5 GB now and I have no intention to do this via a slow and expensive GPRS connection just because there is one new mail on my Desktop PC!).

So the question to Microsoft is: Do you really believe everybody (consumers as well as freelances) is running an Exchange server at home? Is it so hard for you to make a convenient "consumer" solution available? What's your future plans here to make it customers easier?

The question to you - my visitors is: How do you manage this problem since I'm sure many of you have the same configuration and not everybody is running an Exchange server - right?

Desktop and Mobile Devices
The second questions is about getting my Pocket PCs and Smartphones synchronized while I'm not at home and again - I don't see why it isn't supported! Finally - and I was working on it for a long time - we got the integrated devices. A PDA is a cellphone now and a cellphone became a PDA. Both are connected - yes, finally! But again I'm in trouble with synchronization.

My PC is still connected to the Internet and receives its E-Mails, appointment invitations, vCards, etc. but how can I get it synchronized to my mobile devices? Not at all! As I wrote above I would like to see a kind of ActiveSync for PCs and while I'm talking about ActiveSync I wonder why it is that dumb that it can't be accessed from outside the PC environment as well? Again, my PC is connected and receives its E-Mails, ActiveSync is running proper but I have to wait to get both - the PC and the Pocket PC and the Smartphone - synchronized until I'm back in the office in the evening/morning or I have to access my E-Mail accounts separately though POP3/IMAP4. If I'm a lucky coder I might be able to get the Pocket PC tweaked to synchronize it Over The Air as well but no luck to tweak Smartphones today. Why doesn't ActiveSync includes an option to synchronize via wireless networks such as GPRS or public HotSpots? Why does I have to wait until I'm back in my office again?

Again my question to Microsoft: Why is this feature left? Do you really believe everybody is running an Exchange 2003 server at home? Don't you see a market necessity for it?

And again the question to you: How do you get your devices synchronized while you are on a trip and you have your PC running as well. Would you like to get it synchronized as well or do you think it's not that important?

Well, I'm going now to Google the web again, maybe I've overseen a solution (and no, I don't want pay for a 3rd party service which might keeps my data for me to synchronize it though any proprietary solutions - I have a powerful PC at home, a powerful notebook in my back and powerful Pocket PCs/Smartphones in my pocket. I "simply" need a powerful software solution which works locally on my PC and mobile devices). And yes - I'm going to install LapLink again on my PC just to copy one file back and forth... :-(

Cheers ~ Arne