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Syncing data between multiple computers

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 by Servage

dropboxEver since I started using a notebook I have had the same annoying problem that everyone else seems to have: How to go about syncing data between multiple computers? During the years I have tried many, too many, solutions. Home-made scripts, synchronization software, backup programs and more, just to have my files the same way across my computers. Today, where data is shared between a lot more devices than earlier (work desktop, home desktop, laptop, mobile phone…) this issue is more apparent than ever before.

Some time ago a friend told me about this data-sync-thingy called Dropbox. Hmm, I thought, yet one of those almost-working-solutions. It claims to integrate with any operating system and allow you to select a folder that will be automatically synced with your other machines via Dropbox’s servers. Thereby you have all your files accessible from anywhere (including a webinterface). It also claims to sync only changes in files, making the synchronization process very fast, almost instant. And it’s even free of charge.

Well, what can I say? My surprise after having tried so many other (non-working) solutions during the years was very big, when I learned that Dropbox really works. And it does. Simple and free. I have been trying it for a while now. I have a total of about 1.5 GB of data in the system, and all my daily work is synced seamlessly. I don’t really see of feel any system resources being used, but yet, magically, when I go home, I have all the files from work right there :-) Give it a try. This is very useful!

Syncing data between multiple computers, 3.8 out of 5 based on 21 ratings
Categories: Cool stuff


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40 comments (leave a comment)

Cool site. Thanks for sharing it.
Signed up using your Referral Link ;)

As useful as this is, you really should point out that it’s a referal link. I don’t mind helping you, after all Servage has been fantastic to me, but it confused me with a “you and your freind will get bonus space..” then I noticed your referal link.

That is absolutely right. Servage does never promote any services for commercial reasons and does in no way profit from promoting services like Dropbox (or InstantLogo, YUI components and all the other things we have published here in the past). I simply had my (private) referral link in the clipboard when pasting the URL into the article. So apologies for any confusion that may have risen.

Might be blind, but I can’t see a link to it on the article.

for all the rest

Ahh that’s alright Jakob. :)

This really is a great service! I use it for several purposes. You can easily create folders, which are synced with several accounts, so if your working on some kind of project at school or work, all the team members can have their own dropbox account, but still you can share some of your files with them.

Maybe something to add to this article: the free version is including 2GB of storage; if you want more, you can get a paid account for $9,99/month or $99/year.

But it’s a nice tool! Thanks for the tip.

I like my servage to do almost the same thing using the webased file manager and a the ftp and syncbackSE (You can sync for free with a ftp, it detects changes files by date/size, when you want autosync when file changed you have to pay).

We always look at exiting features to implement. The syncbackSE from is a good app. but similar to the “WebDrive” we already offers. Using the WebDrive with a traditional backup solution one could already achieve this. The beauty of Dropbox (besides being free) is that it comes in so many flavors; Windows, Mac and Linux and acting like a on-line USB stick.

I also prefer syncback for several reasons – foremost that it works and takes care of itself.
WebDrive is unreliable, especially on 64bit Vista, which is on one of my computers.
I have also had trouble getting various sync applications to work with WebDrive…

I guess it’s OK to use “strange” services like DropBox if you data has no importance or value… :-P
I want control of my data without having to check up on too many services.

Isn’t where a proggie that does that with ftp,
so you can use Servage webspace to achieve that…?

Why go and pay for something that might be open source.

There are many backup solutions out there, and indeed much open source software available. However, for the purpose of simply synchronizing files between multiple computers I have never seen a client software that does it so seamlessly as Dropbox. I use it for my documents, which in total sum up to a few hundred MB, so there’s no problem with the limitation of 2 GB of the free version of Dropbox. Obviously, if you wish to sync your other stuff like tons of photos, music and even videos, then Dropbox – even in the paid version – is probably not the right thing. But again, that’s also not what Dropbox tries to be. So, sync your daily stuff with it. It works great. The power of Dropbox lies within its client software. Backup you other files with a different solution (for instance using your FTP account at Servage) – or on an external harddrive using Time Machine on Mac, if you’re an Apple-freak like me ;-)

Thanks for this Jakob. I got this linking me and my friends computer up now. We were using that MS Office Groove which was slow and was to cluttered. But thanks to you, we now have a lightweight folder sync app. Its kewl to as it also has a Web User Interface so I can view the files online.

Thanks again for sharing :)

The points above are all very insightful.

I would like to add, that is also a service like Dropbox, which “automagically” syncs your data between several computers. It however is also an online backup solution and has an even nicer web interface than Dropbox in my opinion. In fact there is only a 45 day trial, but if you would like to add more computers than only 2 (I have about 8 in there), you might anyway need more than 2 GB of space.

There is software for Windows and Linux AND (and that is REALLY cool) there is software for iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. With that, you can e.g. send a document from your switched-off computer via a “download this file” mail from your mobile phone. You can see and access all attached computers. Pretty cool that!!

The “Magic Briefcase” is more or less the same as the Dropbox. Apart from that you can also access other folders on the other computers.

All very nice, but aren’t you at all worried about its security? I just don’t see myself dumping all my precious sometimes top-secret documents on some server that is not mine..

How trustworthy are the people of ‘dropbox’? It’s a commercial entity, and if they desire to do so, they can scan all your files for whatever information they like. Seems to me security and privacy are completely forgotten by its users.

I like you concern for security. To often that is forgotten when acting online.

In this case you could add another layer of security by wrapping all your files in an encrypted container. That also has the benefit that if your local machine is stolen or lost, no one can access your private files. On Mac I do this by putting my super-sensible data in an 256-Bit AES encrypted image file (go to “Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility”. Select “New Image” and apply the proper settings for size and security in the form).

I think Microsofts new service seems to be a good one – it’s called Mesh and you get 5 GB for free.
Have not used it anough to say anything moore about it for the moment… “Sync, share, and access the information you care about—wherever you happen to be.”

I loved dropbox when i first found it. But soon outgrew it. I searched all over the web to find by Microsoft, I know what your’re thinking [Microsoft?] but I’m a mac user and it works perfectly. It keeps my MacBook Pro and my MacMini synced up perfectly This is not an Ad.

I was under the impression that foldershare/live sync required both computers to be on-line in order to do the magic. But if this is a environment that suites you — it doesn’t matter if it’s made of Apples, Windows or Penguins. We appreciate your tips and passes it on to our readers.

Are there any plans to possibly add backup/sync features to servage accounts?

I would also like it if I could perform incremental backups(only syncing changes rather than full archive upload, etc) both to backup files from my home computer and to take a backup of my website to my home computer.

We do not have a backup client, but you can use any backup client available that supports FTP to backup to your Servage account. Spending 3 seconds on Google I found

I have used dropbox for a number of months, it is amazing as is extremely useful when doing project work between multiple people

In reply to the use of Cobian backup a couple of comments above: I have used Cobian with my servage account for a few months now, and it suits my needs perfectly. Have not had one error or problem with it.

There’s no possibility that you copied the wrong link. As a web host, you’d be VERY familiar with the structure of a URL.

My guess is that you got your maximum 3 GB and then removed the link.

I don’t so much mind you using the referral link, providing you disclose it at the end of the article. It is a strong conflict of interest when it comes to writing an unbiased article.

“The hearts of men are easily corrupted.” (The Lord of the Rings)

It would be good if it was possible to run a repository, e.g. Subversion or similar at Servage. Currently I run a Subversion repository on my home server to share.

We are looking into this. Currently our Servage OS would be able to handle this. It is just a matter of finding a GUI or SSH way of handling this. But the “platform” is set, our Servage OS was designed to address this particular issue.

Very interesting, I’ll try it, thanks for the info !

A useful suggestion for you, webmaster-wise : your hyperlinks are REALLY hard to find in the posts, I suggest editing your css to make them bold, another color, whatever it takes :)
(viewed with firefox3)

It would be very nice if Servage offered some facilities for syncing one’s local data with the personal space on Servage’s servers, just for personal use. Apart from backing up data, it would allow users to upload just the modifications to a website, making the transfer much more efficient. My genealogical website is rather large and generated by a genealogy programme (GRAMPS), making it not feasible to select every changed page and upload it manually. Offering RSYNC next to FTP would solve this. The mentioned Cobian Backup does not provide such facilities, but just copies everything.

As a workaround, I maintain a local copy of the website as it is at Servage, which allows me to find out which pages are modified and must be uploaded, but this is just a workaround. It is rather clumsy, even though I’ve scripted the whole procedure, and it is of no use if the data on the server differs from the locally maintained image by unexpected causes – for instance in the event of hacking, as happened to me once. :-(

By the way, I appreciate these blog pages (as well as the comments) very much!

I’m using SyncToy at the moment but am phasing across to RSync. It makes more sense for me to back up locally, especially when working with photoshop and flash documents.

If anybody’s interested, I’ve actually written a bash script that automatically “mirrors” your Servage storage and saves it to .tar.gz . Like DropBox, it only downloads / changes files that have changed – saving lots of time.

I do videowork on anything from 1 to 50GB filesizes in multiple files every day, and I need to have it available instantly, so I think I’ll stick to LAN syncing for now. Great tip for smaller files though. :)

And i don’t like to store anything in Internet. So I bought a portable disk 2.5″ and always take it with myself and connect it to all computers where I have to work. It’s very comfortable.

Lovely blog! Thanks for the useful information.

I really liked your blog!

It’s been a while since I’ve been back here but I would also like to register my interest in a better backup solution. In my case I too am using SyncBackupSE which fits my needs well as I have created a 7 day backup schedule. So every evening I backup/overwrite which is about 500mb from my windows system to servage in all takes about 1 hour to complete every day. If I was able to use rsync then the backup would take a lot less time as only the smaill parts of a file has changed. I would also think this would be better for servage as it would mean less bandwidth being used and length of time x number of connections being made.

Just my thoughts :)


I’m glad to see that rsync backup is being talked about.

Surely it works well for both parties in relation to reduced bandwidth and connections?


PS: I did write a whole lot more earlier but the system bellied up some how and my post didn’t get published, so maybe and probably thankfully this is the watered down verion :)

I have spent some time recently to end up with a reasonable automated backup mechanism for my Linux machines, based on duplicity in combination with some bash scripts, all triggered by cron. Duplicity uses rsync to figure out the differences between old and new files allowing incremental backups, saving time and bandwidth. It encrypts the backup volumes using GnuPG (AKA gpg) for decent security. Finally, the volumes are tar’ed. For me this is a convenient and secure way of backing up my stuff.
There is one thing, however, that seems to be circumvented here: Servage’s terms of reference state explicitly that (quote)Disk space may not be used as offsite storage (e.g. remote backups) for electronic files or for third party electronic mail or FTP hosts. (unquote). How does this compare to the statements above by people from Servage and does anyone have experiences with Servage being difficult about this?

I really liked your blog! It helped me alot…

Awesome post, thanks for sharing mate!

Are there any news on rsync features ?
The comment by Per Strömqvist (Servage) on May 6, 2009 at 05:29 is rather old, but still there is no rsync at servage, have this feature been forgotten ?


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