Using, Synchronizing Multiple Computers
Did you know that as of September 2001 more than 45% of the Internet users access their computers from more than one location? Perhaps you’re among them. I am. Jakob Nielsen’s new article, Supporting Multiple-Location Users, discusses user-friendly problems to easily synchronize data, firewall problems, lack of seamless task flow across computers, and little support for preserving settings in multiple locations.
I can relate, especially in terms of needing to synchronize my main computer, my laptop, and my Handspring Prism, with my other home office computers tossed in to the mix here and there. I keep my computers and PDA synchronized when they’re all connected to the home office network, but the settings and directions need to be far more clear and more user-friendly (I’m using Windows 2000). I also don’t yet have an effective means of synchronizing from multiple locations, such as when I travel with my laptop.
OK, so there are some of the problems. Now what can be done about it? In addition to more networking hardware and software available as time has gone on, networking is also becoming increasingly included in software and operating system features. While certainly improving, we’re not at a place of user-friendly, easy use, as Nielsen also states. So we need to keep after the software and hardware engineers, send in suggestions, requests, and stay informed.
In the meantime, here are a few things that I do to keep my computers and PDA synchronized and how I handle multiple locations for the moment.
- Handspring uses the Palm OS, which has option settings to synchronize among multiple computers. That works fine for me, especially when it’s set to automatically synchronize every day.
- I synchronize my laptop and computers via network file sharing settings, also allowing whatever files I wish to be accessible offline.
My network has only been set up a couple of months now, so I’m a newbie to the networking world, and I’ve only been using Windows 2000 since the first of the year. For me there’s no turning back, and I can’t imagine life anymore without networking and synchronizing. Discussion lists are packed with people being confused with setting up networking and its features, though, and the trouble-shooting help and directions are tremendously lacking. I found the automated synchronizing unclear, for example, and it’s taken a few times of fiddling and finally asking my networking expert buddy, Joel Canfield, to get things fixed up like I want them.
- Next on my list is better remote access. I’ve used pcAnywhere but it seems so slow compared to my networking. (Am I being too picky?) It would be great to find something faster and more efficient. I can also synchronize before I leave and upon my return, of course, but remote access would be ideal when needed.
- I synchronize my bookmarks across browsers and computers via Powermarks. That program is truly a godsend.
- I keep all my files well organized for easy synchronizing and backups.
While the above is fairly simple to manage, it’s not perfect by any means. We definitely have a long way to go to make cross-computer synchronizing and use as convenient as accessing one computer. With around half of Internet users needing this capability, it’s pathetic that it’s not easier to manage.