How to sync files across 2 or 3 machines? (I miss foldershare and Windows Live sync!)
March 10, 2011 6:09 PM   Subscribe

How to sync files across 2 or 3 machines? (I miss foldershare and Windows Live sync!)

I’m trying to find a way to sync files across a couple of computers.

For years I used Foldershare, very happily. Then Foldershare got absorbed by Microsoft, and turned into Windows Live Sync, which was also fine. Now Windows Live Sync has been replaced by Windows Live Mesh, which I’m finding to occasionally slow, unreliable, and generally a bit of a pain. So… I’m looking for something that does pretty much what Live Sync did.

What I’m hoping for is something that does these things:

a) Syncs files between multiple machines (at least two, ideally more), bidirectionally. Handles conflicts in a reasonable way.
b) Can work with several thousand files, up to at least 100 GB or so, ideally in whatever folders I specify.
c) Free (ideally) or cheap (okay). Cheap = No more than $50/year, or $100 one-time.
d) Works in more or less real time: When I save/rename/delete a file on one computer, it syncs on the other(s) right away, rather than waiting for me to run a sync.
e) Seamlessly lets computers sync over the Internet when they are not on the same LAN, and, ideally, over the LAN when they are both on the same network.
f) Set-it-and-forget-it operation: Should keeps files in sync without my having to think about it, whether over my LAN or the Net.
g) reasonably secure
f) Of course: Reliable, small footprint, works fast, etc, etc.
g) Would be nice (though not necessary) if it’s smart about renaming/moving files, good at using bandwidth effectively, etc.

In theory, Live Mesh fits most of the bill here. But it fails on “reliable, small footprint, works fast”.

I know lots of people love dropbox, but what I’m hoping for is something that does computer-to-computer syncing, rather than relying on online storage for the sync. I guess I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, but using online storage for syncing seems potentially slow and expensive ( both in storage and bandwidth) when there are lots and lots of files to sync. (I use Crashplan for online backup of the stuff that needs online backup, and I like it a lot).

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!
posted by ManInSuit to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (Oh and - I guess I implied but did not specify - I am running Windows...)
posted by ManInSuit at 6:24 PM on March 10, 2011

Re: your dropbox concern, it has LAN sync:
LAN sync is a Dropbox feature that speeds syncing dramatically when the file exists on your Local Area Network (LAN).

What does that mean exactly? Well, when you add a file to your computer's Dropbox, the file is then synced with Dropbox servers. Dropbox will then initiate the syncing process as soon as it determines a change has been made to the file. All linked computers and shared folders will then download any new version of the file. With LAN syncing, Dropbox will look for the new file on your Local Area Network first, bypassing the need to download the file from Dropbox servers, thus speeding up the syncing process considerably.

LAN sync is an extra advantage for use in locations where computers are networked together over the same router or other local area network.
I think it hits almost all your other points - except for the price, as it's $100/yr for 50GB. 100GB would be $200/yr.

On the other hand, Dropbox can be tried out for free, so you can easily give it a try to see if it meets your needs.
posted by Remy at 6:27 PM on March 10, 2011

Jungledisk. With rackspace as the storage solution instead of s3, as rackspace charges $.15/gb after 10gb w/o charging for transfer, while s3 charges $.14 plus bandwidth charges.

You can go with reduced redundancy for 9 cents with s3, but it is reduced redundancy.

JungleDisk gives you a handy little app that takes care of the sync for you.
posted by TomMelee at 7:00 PM on March 10, 2011

I've had great success with sugarsync.
posted by modernnomad at 7:01 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I'm an idiot, I didn't comprehend what you were saying. You're trying to avoid the cloud.

Goodsync or AllwaySync is what you want for LAN sync.
posted by TomMelee at 7:01 PM on March 10, 2011

On Unix my answer would be "a cron job running rsync"

Have not used, but this claims to be rsync for windows:

and windows Scheduler is the equivalent of cron job.

Rsync, is basically a smart network file copy (only send the updates or newest changes and send them compressed if you want) that works pretty much seamlessly in either direction.
posted by oblio_one at 7:44 PM on March 10, 2011

posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:21 PM on March 10, 2011

Why not use an NAS that you can access remotely from any of your computers? A year ago or so I had a WD My Book World wirelessly connected to the home network, and MioNet set up for remote access. It wasn't blazing fast and I can't say I'm quite in love with WD hard disks, but the speed was sufficient to stream movies and definitely I liked the concept of a centralized (backed-up) space. You never have to worry about having the latest rev because there's only ever one file being edited. And it seems like MioNet has gotten better (richer features) in the mean time.

For pricing, NAS drives run anywhere $80 on up, and MioNet is free if you get one of the WD drives or $7.99/mo for just the software.
posted by carsonb at 8:37 PM on March 10, 2011

I love Dropbox. It does local LAN sync (there's a setting buried in the client somewhere). And it does encryption for you, so you don't have to set up your own secure tunnel for your over-the-Internet syncing. You could do it your way, but why reinvent the wheel?

Good luck!
posted by goblinbox at 9:45 PM on March 10, 2011

dropbox free only does upto 2Gb
posted by mary8nne at 8:46 AM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: The price of dropbox concerns me a bit. $200/year is more than I'd like to spend. More than that - it have this sense, perhaps a little irrational, that I don't want to waste my limited internet bandwidth on uploading all my data to the dropbox cloud when I don't really want to. Some of the stuff in my sync doesn't really need online backup. And, I'm really happy with Crashplan as my cloud backup for the stuff that does.

Sigh - Foldershare and Windows Live sync were both pretty perfect products for what I want. It's really too bad neither exists anymore. (And I'm surprised more people don't have this problem. What I'm trying to do doesn't seem so unusual - I just want to be able to work on my files on my desktop, and on my laptop [even when my laptop is away from the Internet] and not have to worry too much about copying files around...)
posted by ManInSuit at 9:38 AM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: rsync seems to me like it'd fail on the "real time" criterion, no? My impression is I'd have to run rsync whenever I wanted to sync up the files. Even on a chron job, that's be slower than the more or less real-time that foldershare did.

Unison looks cool, but also looks really daunting to set up.

A remote-access NAS is intriguing. But I really like being able to work on my files from my laptop when I'm not online.

Sugarsync, goodsync, and alwayssync seem worth looking into.
posted by ManInSuit at 9:42 AM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: Hmm. I could be wrong about these, but....

- Sugarsync looks like it also wants to upload everything to the cloud, like Dropbox
- Goodsync looks like it runs syncs as jobs, rather than running in background to sync in real-time.
- I'm trying to get a handle on what alwayssync does. It looks like it's not really meant to work over the net. And it also looks like it runs syncs as jobs, rather than running in background to sync in real-time. But I might be misunderstanding.

A feature that foldershare/livesync had that I didn't explicitly list-

- The sync process runs in background all the time, watching for file changes. If either computer is offline for a while, it'll automatically reconnect as soon as it's online again (whether via LAN or internet) and try to get everything back in sync.

I continue to really miss foldershare....
posted by ManInSuit at 9:55 AM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: There's also a program called AeroFS that looks close to what I want, but it seems to still be in beta...
posted by ManInSuit at 9:59 AM on March 11, 2011

GoodSync or Allway DO run as jobs, however you can set the update interval to whatever you want, there are myriad options.

You could also just put the documents in a shared folder on your network, and/or then backup those files elsewhere to make sure you have past version revisions.

Again, the bonus with using these for sync is that you have the option of maintaining a revision history for when someone messed up.
posted by TomMelee at 10:37 AM on March 11, 2011

It may or may not be an improvement, (seeing as it's still very much in beta,) but there's an Ubuntu One daemon available for Windows now. Presently, it doesn't offer multiple folder support or auto-sync on file change, but that's coming up down the road. And hey- this way you can use the same system cross-platform if you decide to use Ubuntu for something.
posted by fifthrider at 5:56 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: After a lot of searching: I haven't found anything out there that replicates the functionality I loved in Foldershare/LiveSync, except for Live Mesh. Live Mesh works okay a lot of the time, but, for me, is just flakey enough to be infuriating. Mostly - it can, at times, be painfully slow. In sync software, this leads to pretty deeply annoying hassles - you end up getting conflicts between multiple versions of a file, because the program didn't manage to sync the file up between edits. Not cool.

It's really too bad. In theory, the feature set is pretty close to just what I need. In practice, it performs okay a lot of the time. The software is sort of like 98% what it needs to be, but for me at least, that 2% shortfall is a really huge pain- a program that intermittently fails to keep your files up to date just isn't very useful.

So.... I've just switched to dropbox.

Right now I am using the Free version on a subset of my data. It seems, thus far, to work *really* well. It syncs files very very fast, whether over the LAN or Internet, and seems to be super-smart about using resources wisely - especially about being super-efficient about not re-sending data that's already been sent (when a file is moved, renamed, copies, or changes only partially).

So - thus far, dropbox looks amazing. It's too bad the feature set isn't 100% what I'd hoped for. But I'd rather adapt my own workstyle (which I think I can do here) to use a great piece of software, than rely on a piece of software that theoretically does what I need, but is actually bloated and unreliable.
posted by ManInSuit at 8:54 AM on May 2, 2011

I just got an invite for and it looks pretty rad. I think this will fulfill most of your requirements as it does operate in P2P only mode w/out uploading any files to the cloud or a central server.

Plus it's cross platform, clients exist for Windows, Mac and Linux, so this could turn out to be ever better than FolderShare. (which I miss too btw, FolderShare was especially great for all Windows small offices that needed to share files but could not justify a server).
posted by srf21c at 12:07 AM on August 11, 2011

Response by poster: After several months: I now use dropbox 50gb for $99/year. It is really really great. Continues to run tremendously smoothly. It also has features I did not know I wanted: I thought I did not want to send all my data to the dropbox cloud, but that turns out to be useful in ways I had not imagined. Syncing my laptop and desktop is easier when I don't have to worry about them both being online at the same time. And it now seems impossible to imgaine there was a time when I didn't have all-the-time access to all my files via my phone and ipad.

I use dropbox for my "most active" 30gb or so. I use crashplan to back up that data, plus my less active and/or bigger files. (Dropbox and Crashplan seem to play together fine). It's a setup I am very happy with.
posted by ManInSuit at 9:39 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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