Home | Blog | Software | Reviews and Features | Forum | Help | Donate | About us
topbanner_forum
  *

avatar image

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
  • December 04, 2016, 02:31:55 PM
  • Proudly celebrating 10 years online.
  • Donate now to become a lifetime supporting member of the site and get a non-expiring license key for all of our programs.
  • donate

Last post Author Topic: Writing to two folders simultaneously. Possible? Tired of running synch progs  (Read 12283 times)

mwang

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 205
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
I've been trying out Syncplicity, Dropbox and NomaDesk for the past few weeks, and I've learned a few things regular reviews on the web ignore. Before getting to them, however, let me briefly state what I'm looking for and what other similar products I exclude.

I'm tired of sync'ing my desktop to my notebook before leaving home, only to miss the train. (I know, I know, I shouldn't wait till the last min. to do anything.) I tried briefly to sync directly through VPN with SFFS or Beyond Compare, but the process is too slow (due to the paltry uplink bandwidth of my home adsl) to be a long term solution.

So I'm looking for something that does sync'ing, sharing and versioned backup over the internet. As a result, products/services that do only sync'ing and sharing (like Foldershare) or only backup (Mozy) are not considered.

I also exclude two very popular services--Jungle Disk and Sugarsync--for they don't have free accounts. In addition to my own family, I'm also trying to set up file sharing with my students/assistants. With JD/S3 I might be setting myself up for a $30-50 bill per month, which I can't afford. (My school isn't going to pay for the cost.) Sugarsync is probably less expensive, but it doesn't allow you to exclude certain types of files from sync'ing. I would tolerate it if it's a free service (like Dropbox).

One other concern kills another popular choice--Microsoft Live Mesh--for me: privacy. JD/S3 is the only truly trust-worthy choice for files are encrypted on the server, and you're the only one with your own private key. Most others do encrypt the files on the server, but the company keeps the keys. They depend on internal security control to prevent employees or hackers from reading your files. (Syncplicity says it keeps the keys on a separate server, not sure about the others.) Not ideal, but I can cope (by encrypting critical files myself).

MS Live Mesh nevertheless stands alone in not encrypting files on the server, relying solely on internal security measures. So despite its generous storage policy (5 GB free), I won't try it.

OK, that narrows the field to 3 contenders (I'm sure there're others; suggestions are welcome), and here are my comments:

  • Dropbox

Dropbox has been widely praised for its simple interface and good performance. It's deserved, but somewhat misleading. It's simple because it lacks flexibility its competitors provide, most notably the ability to sync more than one folder and to exclude files/folders from sync'ing. They do say both are high on their priorities, and should be delivered early next year.

  • Nomadesk

Nomadesk is relatively unknown, with a smaller user base (judging purely from the traffic of its support forum). And yet it has a great service. It doesn't sync your current files per se. Instead, it creates virtual drives wherein you could drop files you want to sync/share. Files on the virtual drives are stored locally inside an encrypted image file. It's like a Truecrypt drive with sync'ing/sharing and online backup capabilities. Very cool!

Better yet, it has a unique feature called TheftGuard. Say your notebook is stolen. You reports it and the next time that notebook tries to sync with Nomadesk, its content is erased.

Like Dropbox, it does delta-sync, so the performance is good. Better, it allows you to exclude certain types of files from sync'ing, and you could retrieve backup versions right in your file manager via context menu.

With its current implementation, however, what makes Nomadesk great is also its weakness. Since it works only as virtual drives, it means massive drive remapping for me if I want my shortcuts/symlinks and path-specific application settings to work. It also means each share has to take up a drive letter, even it's lightly used. They say they are looking into the possibility of allowing a share to be mounted as a folder instead of a drive.

Another problem: as a virtual drive, some characteristics of a physical HD partition is lost. E.g., the recycle bin doesn't work anymore. Yes, you could retrieve backup files from them, but what if you're off line?

  • Syncplicity

This is the service I ended up keeping, for now. It's Windows only, though Mac client is on the way. Linux support is unknown, though it's been repeatedly requested on their forum.

That aside, the lack of delta-sync is its only real weakness against the competition. Watch Syncplicity repeatedly uploading the whole Evernote database is a pain. I've since excluded Evernote files from sync'ing automatically, but that's not an ideal solution. They do say they're working on it, though.

There are other smaller issues, in no specific order:

1. While Syncplicity is great in allowing users to sync any folder, greater flexibility is needed in where to put a sync'ed folder and how it's named. E.g., I set up Syncplicity to sync my wife's whole data partition (D:), which isn't that big anyway. When I set up her other desktop, however, Syncplicity wouldn't allow me to use d:\ as the location for the sync'ed folder, insisting on a sub-folder, not the root. This is a huge problem for she has many file shortcuts, folder links and application settings that depends on specific paths.

The same issue arises when you share a folder with another user. My wife and I share some folders, but through Syncplicity they are named differently on our desktops. On mine, e.g., it's "xxx", on hers, it's "xxx (my_name)". Again, this breaks all the shortcuts, links and settings depending on specific paths.

My temporary workaround is to use subst and symlinks to mimic identical paths, but it's not only cumbersome, in the case of subst I loose the system Recycle Bin on the virtual drive (same problem with Nomadesk's approach).

2. Speaking of shortcuts and symlinks, Syncplicity doesn't seem to backup those. I don't need it to follow the links and fetch the original files/folders (though it would be great as an option), but I do need those shortcuts (.lnk files) and folder links sync'ed, so I could use them on another machine. (I didn't notice this problem with Dropbox or Nomadesk, but I wasn't paying attention to this when I tried them so I can't be sure.)

Correction: On closer look, Syncplicity does follow folder symlinks/junctions and sync the files within. I hope this can be made optional. Many of the folder symlinks on my system are set up to prevent duplicates, and I prefer Syncplicity to keep the links as links. File symlinks are sync'ed into zoero-byte documents at the other end. Useless, but at least I know there should be a file and its name, so I can hunt it down (since it's a link originally, there has to be a real file somewhere). Shortcuts (to files/folders alike), OTOH, are simply ignored. No trace of them on the target system at all.

3. Compared to desktop backup utilities, usability is still lacking. E.g., exclusion management could be easier. I can exclude a file from the context menu in my file manager, but not a folder. I'd also like the ability to manage exclusions from a central location (interface), so I could quickly exclude a host of files I don't want sync'ed. (For the moment I hack the "user.config" for this purpose.)

Likewise, There're folders in which I want only certain types of files sync'ed. Can't do that now. But this criticism applies to all three I've tried, and IMO Syncplicity is better of the three.

That's all for now. Hope it's useful for some, and hope to learn of others' experience.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2008, 06:51:26 PM by mwang »

Darwin

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 6,984
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Great post, mwang  :Thmbsup: Thank you for sharing this - it'll be a big help as a reference when others (such as yours truly) set out upon this journey... With very little editing, you could post this as a mini-review. Better yet (from a DC reader's perspective, not necessarily from yours), you could edit this more extensively and extend it to make it a fully-fledged DC review.
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

mwang

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 205
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Darwin,

Thanks for your encouragement. I dare not attemp a fully-fledged DC review for I don't have the time (and, in this case, money) to try all of the big names out there. A mini-review did cross my mind initially, but then I'd have to include more comprehensive information for each service. The way I did it, I could omit information covered elsewhere (like storage size limit for free accounts and pricing), such as the big table on Lifehacker. (Edit: links added.)

That said, I do feel guilty not giving back enough after learning so much on DC. I'll try to update it and make it a mini-review when I have the time.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2008, 03:03:45 PM by mwang »

tomos

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • ***
  • Posts: 10,316
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
yes, very helpful post mwang, thanks!

me, I'm now using 2 online backups (but currently more interested in backup than synching)

  • Dropbox (free version) with it's delta-sync capability for database type files - IQ/SQLNotes, Surfulater, where I dont want to see full file backed up every x minutes
  • JungleDisk/S3 for the rest

obvious disadvantages are two processes running ...


Nomadesk sounds very good - but the links to files would be a major problem for me too
I dont think I'd be willing to go for that, especially when there's not yet any price structure in place

Synplicity - I find the 99$ a year for 50GB too expensive, although I know it's a common price (same as DropBox I think)
Tom

mwang

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 205
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Thanks, tomos. A quick question: doesn't JungleDisk do delta-sync as well? Why do you need Dropbox for that?

Syncplicity is indeed too expensive at $99 a year, and there have been repeated calls for more pricing options (such as 10GB or 20GB plans). We'll see. Its free account is more generous with 4GB free, and you could easily earn 3GB more by recruiting 3 new users. That's enough for me.

Sugarsync defends its no-free-account policy by saying it's unfair for paid users to subsidize free accounts. I think it's a fair consideration. And they do have multi-tier pricing, with options I could afford. But free accounts make it much easier for me to invite others, and to setup group folders for my students.

I would like to hear your comments about JungoleDisk/S3. I'm quite ambivalent about S3's pricing scheme. While they bill it as an advantage (pay only what you use), it makes me feel like going back to dial-up internet connection which charged by the minutes. I remember being hyper-sensitive with my online time, disconnecting my line whenever I loaded a long page into the browser, or right after collecting mail from the server. With JungoleDisk/S3, chances are I would habitually use my old method (sync locally) as much as possible to reduce cost, and end up missing trains again.

tomos

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • ***
  • Posts: 10,316
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
from JungleDisk help manual -
Quote
# Previous Versions

    * Use the bucket previous version settings for this backup job:  All settings as configured in the Previous Versions section will apply to this specific backup.
       
    * Customize the previous version settings for this backup job:
       
          o Keep previous versions of changed files: Copies of the previous versions of files are maintainted when you modify the file or upload a new file with the same name.
             
          o Keep previous versions of deleted files: Copies of files that are deleted either manually or during backup cleanup are still maintained.
             
          o Don't keep previous versions for files over: Files larger than the specified size will not be archived when modified or deleted.
             
          o Keep at most: Allows you to select a maximum number of versions to keep regardless of the file's age.

if I understand correctly - it doesnt do delta-sync  - [EDIT/ see Justice's post below]

I still have *very* little on it (around the 1GB mark) so costs are very low - I'm only using it for *important* stuff ;) plan to add a few more GBs but am avoiding large files unless, as I say, important...
I'm looking for an online backup for my photos as well - wouldnt add them to S3, although I havent actually figured out the costs (60GB or so - see below) - maybe I should go do that cause having three online backups would seem a bit ridiculous!

Okay, lets see,
60GB @ 15c per GB p.m.would be $9 p.m. = $108 per year (+ an upload fee of $6)   !!ouch!!

Havent been using JD/S3 long - there are a couple of threads about it here if you want to read more

BTW Syncplicity's free account is 2 GBs now - guess the 4 was for early takers
Tom
« Last Edit: November 27, 2008, 06:00:03 AM by tomos »

justice

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 1,898
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
It delta syncs but only if you pay the 1 dollar a month for the extra plus service.
Optional Jungle Disk Plus Service
Jungle Disk Plus is an optional service that provides additional features beyond what comes with Amazon S3.
[...]
    * Block-level file updates, allowing you to upload only the changed portions of large files

f0dder

  • Charter Honorary Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 9,029
  • [Well, THAT escalated quickly!]
    • View Profile
    • f0dder's place
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Heh, pretty lame that block-level updates is an add-on cost... I mean, it saves both you and them bandwidth :-s
- carpe noctem

justice

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 1,898
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
I assume it's because they have to process it in someway to make it work with amazon s3, but I mean that's not our problem really, and I guess it's why they sell it with more features like webbased access to your files, which should also have been included imho. Go dropbox.

Although in reality when you need it the Plus service will not be a significant cost rise (I assume you'll spend about $5-10 a month by that time), and it's a flat fee (it doesn't rise the more you use it like regular JD costs).
« Last Edit: November 27, 2008, 03:50:46 AM by justice »

mwang

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 205
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
I forgot the delta-sync cost etra $1 per month with JD/S3. My fault. Sorry.

BTW Syncplicity's free account is 2 GBs now - guess the 4 was for early takers
It's 4GB if you use the "SYNCBLOG" code when signing up, according to their blog post. That's how I got mine set up two or three weeks ago, and it should still work. According to the same post, you could add 1GB per friend invited, up to 3.

Heh, pretty lame that block-level updates is an add-on cost... I mean, it saves both you and them bandwidth :-s
I don't think it saves them anything. You pay for the bandwidth yourself, don't you? Or am I missing something?