I've mentioned in the past that I have an effective way to consume information, and also alluded to my use of FolderShare, but I never really discussed the system in its entirety.

The problem

I want to keep my desktop and tablet synchronized, including e-mail, contacts, documents, etc. I want it done seamlessly and without requiring any affirmative action by me. I need to be able to synchronize or access those files even when I'm not on the same network (which is most of the time).

The solution

It might sound like a tough thing to solve, but the combination of Exchange Server and FolderShare make it quite easy. Sure, it's not a perfect solution, but it's damn close.

Exchange for the information

When I have my tablet, I'm running the full Outlook client, connected to the Exchange Server via RPC over HTTPS. This means that all of my e-mail, contacts, and calendar information is live data. Not only do I get new items, but I can create new items, mark things as read, delete items, etc.

During those rare times where I don't have my M200, I still have access to this information through Outlook Web Access (OWA). OWA emulates the look and feel of Outlook and the experience is quite good.

Outlook Mobile Access gives me lightweight access from my Smartphone. (I don't use Over-The-Air ActiveSync sync anymore - when I add a server to sync with, I seem to lose the ability to sync with other machines, and I'm currently using the phone to pull in work data / tasks to my home PC). Again, all working against the same datastore, so if I, say, delete something on my phone, it's reflected on my Outlook desktop client.

On top of this, I run Newsgator at home to pull in all of my RSS feeds into Exchange, which means I can get at that information in the same way. Some don't like mixing subscriptions and mail, but I keep things sufficiently separated. I have a pretty efficient system for reading through Search Folders, and by keeping them in Outlook I can apply the same workflow (next actions, etc) that I use for e-mail.

FolderShare for the files

FolderShare is a peer-to-peer synchronization service recently bought by Microsoft. (It's free right now). You run a little tray application that monitors changes to a folder and replicates those changes (adding new files, updates, deletes, even renames) to another computer running FolderShare.

Unlike other tools I've tried in this space (e.g., SyncToy), FolderShare tunnels traffic over whatever ports are available, so it works behind firewalls and with NAT. For example, I use my tablet to take notes during my classes. As the files are saved, the changes are automatically replicated back to my home PC.

I can also reorganize folders on the go and have the changes reflected on my desktop almost immediately.

Summary

The net result is that I have nearly ubiquitous access to my information and I never have to think about synchronization.  As long as I'm connected, I know I have the latest information and I know any changes are persistent.    

In other words, I can worry about processing and using the information instead of worrying that I have it, or the latest version of it. That's a powerful thing.


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