Money Magazine recently rated college professor as the third best job in America, giving the vocation an A for flexibility. While the magazine’s ranking mechanism is unknown (and you will probably disagree with the rating of B for stress level), they do have a good point about the flexibility side of things. Our profession is big on flexibility. You might find yourself working with different computers in the office, at home, at a favorite coffee shop, on trips – the possibilities are endless. This calls for a great tool with which to centralize and sync computer files. And in worse case scenarios, you might find yourself needing to use computers that aren’t your own.
I’ve had great success in addressing these needs with Syncplicity. Available for Windows XP/Vista and Mac (still in beta), it offers a desktop application which you can download to any computer you want to have in your synchronization plan. It’s easy to set up a free account at the website, and you’ll get 2GB of storage and the ability to sync two computers. You can get 50 GB of storage and unlimited computer syncing for $9.99/month or $99/year.
Setting up the program is simple. After downloading the free tool, walk through the installation wizard and tell it what folders you want to sync. When you install the program on another computer, it will notify you that a folder is available for syncing and ask you to accept it. A nice feature of the program is that you don’t have to share all folders with all computers in your group. For example, you might want to share all your teaching files with all computers but your personal photos on just your personal machines. You can do that easily with Syncplicity by just not accepting the folder to be downloaded on work machines.
The program runs quietly in your tool bar, indicated by a pleasant little pinwheel icon.
And when you make a change to a file and save it, the pinwheel changes for a moment to indicate that the program is uploading that changed file to the server.
Double-clicking on the icon brings up the Syncplicity management tool.
You can add new folders to your synchronization plan, change where the synchronized folders are located, even share a folder with someone. This last feature has been helpful to me in teaching a lab in which the students videotape an experiment and then need to download their file to do some analysis with it. I simply shared the folder on Syncplicity and emailed the program-generated link to the students. The link directed them to a website from which they could download the file.
Syncplicity visually confirms what files and folders you have synced with the program by placing a green checkmark over the file and folder icons.
And if you ever need to pull down a single file and work with it on a computer outside of your sync plan, you can simply go to the website, log in, and access your files there.
Syncplicity is similar to other tools such as DropBox but in my view has a big advantage in that you’re not required to put the folders and files you want to sync into into one single folder, as you must do with DropBox. Let’s say you have a folder in which you keep drafts of tests you’re writing. At school you might want to keep those files in your My Documents folder, but at home you’d like to keep them on your desktop. With Syncplicity you can sync folders in different locations, a big plus.
Personally, during my Great Computer Apocalypse of 2009, I was at one point juggling four different computers. My home and office machines were failing left and right on me, and I was cobbling together my old grad school laptop as well as my husband’s as I was waiting for new computers to be delivered. Thankfully I’d been using Syncplicity to sync my home and office machines, so even when they both failed I was able to pull down my files by installing the Syncplicity desktop tool to the temporary machines. And when the new ones arrived I installed Syncplicity and was up and running within minutes. My files were always kept up to date, no matter what computer I was using. I highly recommend that you check out Syncplicity as you enjoy the flexibility of your work.