Well, there’s certainly quite a few Outlook sync competitors, but I chose Syncing.net due to price and the pitch. They have a nice little flash demo showing everything going perfectly. Now, Syncing.net doesn’t only sync Outlook PST’s between computers, they also have a Dropbox-like folder sharing capability which allows you to “invite” other people to your shared folder(s). I did not use this functionality.
Syncing.net, in theory, is pretty easy to set up. According to tech support, you simply install Syncing.net on the host/master computer, then “invite” your other computers as necessary.
Syncing.net manages its syncing capabilities by using a secure P2P (peer to peer) connection as well as a “store and forward” feature which allows Syncing.net to use its own servers to temporarily store up to 250MB of data temporarily if one of the computers is off — thereby preventing the possibility of a P2P connection from taking place.
I tested Syncing.net on a pretty zippy dual-core Athlon based system running Vista Ultimate x64. At all times I had plenty of available memory and since I built the system there was no additional bloat from any other trialware or anything else. I used Office 2007 with Syncing.net.
The Syncing.net software is curious in that whenever it is running and has an Internet connection, it has a circle and a green checkmark in the system tray. Fine, but it’s really not clear as to what it’s doing because of this; the only way to tell if it’s transferring data is to open the software and look at the lower right corner and see that it is in fact transferring data at a certain KB/s rate. Additionally, you can view transfer status via a menu option to see additional options. But it won’t give you any indication of when it’ll be finished. No percentage or anything. They say this is because sync is inherently never “done.” Fair enough, but some kind of progress bar would be appreciated.
Upon the initial sync with the second computer, Syncing.net managed to make a mess out of it. There were duplicate folders and e-mails, calendar entries, folders within folders that had no business being there, etc. I had to instruct my client to essentially delete whatever was necessary to restore it to normal. Tech support was dumbfounded and told me to send them an error report using their built in error reporting tool — which failed (on every system I tried it on, by the way; I had plenty of opportunity to test it out). I asked them why it failed, they told me the usual, anti-virus, firewall, etc. However, I disabled my local firewall and set the router to use a DMZ (Demiltarized Zone) to ensure that there were no conflicts and disabled any anti-virus/anti-spyware to ensure that they had no excuses — still no dice. So I had to send it to them manually via a convoluted process of digging around in my hidden application folder for a huge ZIP file. Fine for someone like me, but what if I didn’t know what Windows Explorer was, or what a zip file was? Or how to browse around hidden folders?
Anyway, tech support is in Germany so they take a pretty long time to get back to you. When they got back to me in this instance, they just told me to do the sync again. Okay.
So this second time around, I deleted everything on the second machine so that it would gracefully accept the data from the master system without any hitches. An unnecessary yet recommended step according to tech support. I performed the sync again which took many hours (due to the large amount of data, primarily). When it was done I was shocked to see, again, that somehow Syncing.net had messed it up. I had practically the same duplicate folders such as “Inbox_1” which would contain partial e-mails from Inbox, and it wasn’t clear why some were in those folders but not others.
To make matters worse, once I had my client “clean” everything up, Syncing.net would always seem to be one step behind and throwing up little prompts saying that I had made a change on a different system, asking which change I wished to keep. That’s odd because there’s only one person using any given Outlook at any particular time, so, how can these magic “simultaneous syncs” be happening? Tech support certainly had no idea.
My final qualm with the software is that it consumes an enormous amount of resources, mostly in disk activity, which is the worst kind of resource to be hoarding. It causes the computer to slow down enormously with intense I/O sometimes for nearly 20 minutes at a time, even when no changes to Outlook have been made. It really locks the system up — all 3 I tested it on, Vista and XP.
So, my issues with the software and service are as follows:
– No progress bar or any indicator of completeness (or even that it is doing anything, without manually clicking and checking or seeing the intense disk I/O);
– Poor resource management (hogs the entire hard drive without waiting for idle time);
– Incessant prompts which are difficult to permanently solve (“conflicts” resulting from supposed simultaneous changes);
– Difficult and generally unhelpful tech support;
– Extremely time consuming;
– Inconsistent (sometimes it syncs files perfectly, other times it skips several e-mails, even with the “store and forward” feature enabled).
If the software fixed the resource and inconsistency issues, it would be a passable solution. However, because of the compounding issues I cannot recommend this software, just as I cannot recommend Outlook as an e-mail solution. Sorry.
Look elsewhere for your e-mail needs and try to detach yourself from Outlook as soon as you can!