For the longest time, I’ve had problems figuring out the best route to take in order to synchronize all the files on my main workstation with my MacBook. I would normally transfer files between the two of them over my home network and be done. While this worked for quite some time, I’ve found that I tend to work on more than one project at one and it’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with all the files for each project and which ones need to be updated on my MacBook. So I started to look for ways to automatically synchronize my files so that I wouldn’t need to worry about it anymore. I’ve found a few different solutions that worked and in this article, I’ll go over two different methods to automatically synchronize files between multiple Mac computers.
The first application I’d like to cover is one that I’ve covered before in the last article called “.Mac Alternative”, FolderShare.
FolderShare is a great program for those Mac users that do not have many files to synchronize and that are looking for something fully automated. FolderShare is currently in beta and is being produced by Microsoft. While I normally wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole, I decided to give it a try and the results were pretty good. Currently, FolderShare will only allow 10 shares per account and 10,000 files per share. A share is basically a folder, like our Documents folder, that needs to be synced with another computer. This was fine for me in the beginning, but once my files started to grow I would get disconnected errors claiming that the folder being synchronized had exceeded the file limit of 10,000. Those that are like me and have a few thousand photos and maybe a few thousand more project files are going to meet this limit very quickly and the folders will be disconnected and will not be able to sync to any other computer associated with your account until the limit is dropped back down below 10,000 files.
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Now if the file limit and share limit isn’t a problem, then FolderShare is defiantly my choice of synchronization programs for the simple fact that it’s always running and syncs whenever anything is changed. This was great for me because I could get a call at the last minute to meet with a client and I could have been working on their file while they called. So I’d save the file I was working on, pack up my MacBook and be on my way. Then once I meet with the client, they would eventually like to see my progress and I’d have to explain that I hadn’t moved the new files over. But with FolderShare as long as there was an Internet connection, the files would be synchronized immediately and I could show the client my current progress. The only problem I would have with FolderShare was that it would not synchronize .psd files. I emailed FolderShare’s tech support a few times about this and they suggested simply zipping up the files I wanted to synchronize and they would be transferred over, this was OK until I forgot to do this, in which case I would just be out of luck.
Now their service will also let you log in to any of the computers connected with their application and view the files on that computer. They would also allow me to download the files to the current computer I was on, even if it had FolderShare installed or not. This was a great feature if I forgot to zip up one of my PSD’s, but the only problem with it is it’s very slow. My workstation at my home office is currently connected to a business cable connection and can reach up to 1MB/s in upload speeds. So when I decided to give the feature a try and download one of my files, I was surprised to find out that the file would only download at around 10 – 20 kb/s max. Normally this would be fine but it seemed the larger the file was the slower it would download and sometimes it would get to the last megabyte of the file and then slow to a complete crawl and sometimes stopping altogether. I was only able to ever completely download 2 files in the 4 – 6 months I used FolderShare.
The other problem that I had with FolderShare was that it caused my Mac’s to boot really slowly. At first, I thought it might be due to the fact that I’m running Intel Macs and the application might be programmed for PPC processors, but that wasn’t the case. I checked their site and also the Activity Monitor and both indicated that it was indeed an Intel application. I’m not really sure why this was the case or what I could have done to resolve the issue, but keep in mind that FolderShare is still in beta and you may get different results than myself. All in all, it’s a great application and does exactly what it says to do. For those Mac users that do not have many files to keep synced and would like a “no brainer” way of keeping their files synced 24/7, FolderShare is defiantly the ticket.
The next application I’d like to talk about is ChronoSync. ChronoSync isn’t free, it costs $30.00 USD. Even though ChronoSync isn’t free, doesn’t mean it’s not something to look at. I’ve been using Chronosync for about a year now and I must say it’s a good program. The interface is setup a bit odd, but it’s not too hard to get accustomed with and is quite simple to figure out. The program can do some pretty amazing things and is pretty advanced on what it can handle, think of SuperDuper but for synchronization. I’ll go over a few of the features I like and why. In my next few articles, I will be writing some tutorials on how to setup ChronoSync as a synchronization application as well as a full-featured backup application.
Probably my most favorite feature in ChronoSync is its ability to do bi-directional synchronization. What this means is that the program will analyze each computer that is being synced and if a file on one is different from a file on another, it will update the old file with the new one. A word of advice with setting up this feature, though, keep in mind that changing something very small in a file will cause its edit date to be updated and ChronoSync will look at it as an updated file and replace any older versions of the file with the new one. There is a feature however, that’s built into the program, to archive or move old files to a separate folder instead of deleting them. Just in case something went wrong or the file shouldn’t have been changed. Bi-Direction synchronization is a great way to keep sync times low and keep all files across multiple computers updated. It normally takes ChronoSync around 3 minutes to do a full sync between my computers. This is because I have all the same files on it as I do on my Mac Pro. So when I run a sync through ChronoSync it will only update those files that have changed and if I changed a file on my MacBook and haven’t copied it over to my Mac Pro yet, ChronoSync will do this for me.
ChronoSync has a nice rules system built right in that will allow for just about any type of configuration. For instance, I run VMware Fusion on my main workstation and the virtual operating system files can become quite large. I do not have the room on my MacBook nor do I run VMware on it, so I have no need for these files to be synchronized. However, I do synchronize my Documents folder and this is also the location in which VMware keeps the OS files for the virtual guest computers. So instead of setting up all the other folders within this folder to be synchronized, I just tell ChronoSync not to synchronize files or folders with a red label and ChronoSync will not synchronize these files or folders. The rules can basically be used to configure ChronoSync to ignore or include files based on a slew of options that the user can set.