A Quick Look at Windows Live Sync

Winding down my series of experiences with applications and services in the Windows Live Essentials suite, I want to start talking about some of the cool add-on’s that make the online experience a very powerful one.

Introduction

VS

Some persons note that the Windows Live Team seems to be using a multi-faceted approach to data synchronization. Why? Windows Live Sync and Windows Live Mesh; persons seem to confuse or conclude that they both do the same thing, in a way they actually do, I would describe them as being closely related. The best way to really decipher the two is to think about them from the perspective of online/off line, devices, computer to computer and of course synchronization. Still not clear? Well let me go a little further. Windows Live Mesh is very full featured in the respect that, you get a combination of online storage, remote access and synchronization between computers and devices even when one or more might not be connected to the Internet. On the other hand Windows Live Sync utilizes the Internet to synchronize files and folders between multiple computers without the storage component, the major drawback to Live Sync is the computers you are syncing data between must be connected to the net at the same time and both must be running running Windows Live Sync.

Setup

Windows Live Sync is installed as part of the Windows Live Essentials suite or you can download it from Microsoft’s website, after installation, you can start the program located under the Program Group for Windows Live in the Start Menu. Live Sync supports Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP SP2, Mac OS 10.5 or later. After launching Live Sync, you are asked to sign in with your Live ID after which a blue two way arrow icon is placed in your Notification Area.

Installing on additional PC’s

 

Installing Windows Live Sync on additional PC’s (click image to enlarge)

Once signed in, the sync process will begin (click image to enlarge).

To install Sync on the other PC’s on which you will be synchronizing data between, go to the following URL: https://sync.live.com/foldersharetolivesync.aspx, click the ‘Upgrade’ button and sign in with your Windows Live ID and click the Install Sync link. I wish this was a more straightforward process, I consider it not to be intuitive and self explanatory. So more improvements could be made in this area after Sync is setup on the initial PC. If you also use an Apple Macintosh, you can also setup Live Sync on it too.

Windows Live Sync Notification Area status

With Live Sync, you can synchronize files across all the computers you use, share files and photos with friends and remotely access your files from any other computer connected to the Internet. The web based interface is similar to Windows Live Skydrive and is divided into Personal, Shared folders and Remote Access. If you have more than one computer, you can create personal folders (A synchronized folder that you create for yourself). Files in a personal synchronized folder are not shared with other people and only the owner of the folder can access them. If you have more than one computer, you might create a personal synchronized folder to share files between them.

Files added to your designated sync folder, (if setup) will immediately appear on your Live Sync Status page .

Accessing your files from another Windows based PC.

Sharing and Syncing

You can also share files with friends or colleagues when you create or connect your computer to a shared folder (A synchronized folder that you have been invited to share, or a folder that you have invited others to share. Files in a shared synchronized folder are accessed and can be changed by more than one person. The owner must invite other people to use the folder in order for them to have permission to access it over the Internet. You can have up to 20 folders with 20,000 files each with a file size limitation of 2 GBs. Accessing data from the other PC as noted earlier requires that both systems are connected to the Internet. You have a combination of ways to access the data, which includes signing into your personal sync page or doing so from the contextual notification menu which will display your custom folders. I notice that clicking a folder that’s setup for syncing does not automatically take you to its location on the Sync website, I had to go to main page and browse the the Remote PC until I arrived at the ‘Collaborate’ folder.

Personal Sync Site (the look isn’t in sync with the new Windows Live look yet) 😉

Integration with Windows Live Essentials

Users of Windows Live Photo Gallery 2009 can benefit from Live Sync by having Photo Gallery sync your photos automatically for you. Once you have Sync on the initial computer, just go to the other PC running Photo Gallery and follow the same procedure as the screenshots below.

Security and Technology

Sync is a peer-to-peer network (Two or more computers that share a direct connection) with security features. Only you and the people that you invite can view or access files in your synchronized folders. To help increase privacy, Sync encrypts all files exchanged over the network using AES (Advanced encryption standard), an algorithm used for securing data transferred over the Internet and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), an encryption format that helps keep information secure while it is sent across the Internet and authenticates files using RSA. RSA is a cryptographic technology that is the industry standard for high-quality encryption, especially for data sent over the Internet. The acronym stands for Rivest, Shamir, and Adelman, the inventors of the technique.

I would say Windows Live Sync is good enough for the individual who just wants to have access to the data on that single PC from one or more computers. For example, accessing data on your home PC from your laptop or work pc. It makes remote access simplified, there is no need to know IP addresses, no need to do any major configuration that’s often required of Windows operating systems Remote Desktop client software. Also, Remote Desktop is limited to Windows XP Professional and Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate. Live Sync allows you to get a much richer experience regardless of the operating system. So, it has its advantages, but the draw backs of having to keep both PC’s connected is probably the only main issue, hopefully some of the storage synchronization capabilities of Windows Live Mesh will in the future be incorporated into the next release Live Sync.

Previously

Windows Live Essentials – Integration with Microsoft Office 2007

Resources:

Windows Live Sync FAQ

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