SyncTogether: Cloud Free and Secure Mac-to-Mac Sync

| In-Depth Review

Not everyone is happy with the idea of using the Apple MobileMe Cloud to sync personal data, especially if the contacts list contains sensitive personal or family data. Also, for those who don't need the capability of push notification between an iPhone and a Mac, a direct iPhone sync to a Mac is satisfactory. Under these circumstances, the Mark/Space SyncTogether does the Mac-to-Mac job easily and reliably.

Apple's push notification is very convenient for people on the move a lot. For example, say you're at lunch with a business colleague, and he gives you his contact info. You enter it into your iPhone. In a few seconds (with luck) that new information is pushed to your designated Mac in your office. Long before you get back from lunch, the contact list on your office Mac is already up to date.

The Basic Problem

This works great for many people, especially if they only have business information, contacts and calendars, to deal with. However, for many home users who are more interested in keeping family calendars and contacts synced and don't have a need for instant push updates, using the MobileMe cloud may give them pause. For example, one might have all family members and their SSNs in the Mac OS X Address Book. Syncing via MobileMe, even though there's never been a (known) security breach of Apple's MobileMe servers, might still be a source of concern.

Moreover, whenever an iPhone is docked to a Mac, one can elect to have it auto-sync. So if you aren't making a lot of changes and updates that don't need to be immediately up-to-date, the nightly sync, when docked, is good enough.

What all this is leading to is the need for a good, alternative Mac app that can sync contacts, calendars, and even Safari Bookmarks, Dock items, Mail.app accounts and notes over the local network. If the sync is done with a remote computer, on the Internet, it must be a secure connection. In that case, all that remains is to connect the iPhone and do a manual or auto-sync.

SyncTogether to the Rescue

SyncTogether 1.0.2 from Mark/Space Software is one of those apps that will do that Mac-to-Mac synchronization locally. A license for US$49.95 entitles the user to maintain sync between up to three Macs, and one can add more clients, in groups of three, as needed. One can mix and match which items are synced between those computers. One can, if desired, even conduct the sync between remote Macs in a direct connection over the Internet, from IP address to IP address.

Here's the list of features:

  • Mac-to-Mac synchronization
  • Selective Sync keeps personal information private
  • Syncs Address Book Contacts
  • Syncs iCal Calendar Events and Tasks
  • Syncs Safari Bookmarks
  • Syncs System Preferences
  • Syncs Apple Mail Account Settings, Rules, Signatures and Smart Mailboxes
  • Syncs Call Log
  • Syncs Text Messages
  • Syncs Panic Transmit Favorites
  • Sync Notes and Memos with BareBones Yojimbo, Entourage 2004 and Mark/Space Notebook
  • Schedule manual or automatic sync
  • Compatible with The Missing Sync
  • Includes Mark/Space Notebook
  • Supports IP and domain name addressing to sync over the Internet. 128-bit SSL encryption used.

If necessary, for privacy, SyncTogether can synchronize just designated Address Book groups. That way, a person can keep family and business information isolated.

Back in the days, prior to MobileMe, when we all used Sync Services, for some reason, I could never get an error free sync between Address Books on our home LAN. New address cards on one Mac would either not show up on the other Mac, or the sync would just halt with an error. I resorted to exporting the contents, moving the archive file to the other Mac, then importing to an emptied database. Then as I described above, whenever my iPhone was docked, it would sync the contact data. It was a bit of a pain, but doable.

The launch of MobileMe got off to a rocky start, and, in addition, I'm not a big fan of using the Cloud for any of my data. I always thought a local sync would be preferable. Now, SyncTogether has provided that long sought, simple, local sync between two Macs, my personal machine and the MacBook Pro I use for TMO.

Operation

The requirement by the developer is that the app be installed on all the machines it's been licensed for. Then, one machine is designated, in name only, as the server and the rest as clients. A setup phase walks the user through identifying the Macs on the network and the user account. Here's the main screen.

 

SyncTogether Main

SyncTogether Main Window

After the machines are talking and the desired sync items are set up, all one has to do is click the Sync button. In my case, I've been using the app for several weeks, and it's never failed to perfectly sync my Address Book and iCal entries. If one wishes, a log of the transactions is available for viewing. Warm fuzzies abound. If the connection is between Macs on the Internet, then a specific IP address must be used.  When a password is set, 128-bit SSL encryption is invoked to keep the data secure.

 

Sync Together Log

SyncTogether Log

From then on, one only has to leave the apps running and one can set the interval for a reminder to sync. There aren't a lot of geeky options, and it just works.

SyncTogether Prefs

Preferences

There are some additional niceties. SyncTogether will sync data from Bare Bones Yojimbo, Entourage 2004, and the MarkSpace Notebook. It's also compatible with The Missing Sync.

SyncTogether Setup

Setup Phase

 

Summary

There are other Mac apps that perform this function, but this is the first one I found when I searched. One of the other TMO editors reported that he's had good experiences with Mark/Space software, and it is of high quality. I can second that now. However, I must note that, like many small entrepreneurs in this business, a human in the company is absolutely unreachable by phone and all transactions must be done by e-mail. The Mark/Space Marketing Manager I spoke with mentioned that they're moving to address that issue.

If you have doubts about using the Internet Cloud for your Mac data synchronization or simply don't have a need for MobileMe's features and and push syncs, then for US$49.95, SyncTogether is a handy, reliable method to maintain control of your personal data -- and get it synced easily -- on up to three Macs.

SyncTogether for Macs requires Mac OS X 10.4.8 (Tiger) or later. An additional license for three more Macs is $49.95.

Product: SyncTogether 1.0.2

Company: Mark/Space Software

List Price: US$49.99. (Three additional Macs: $49.99)

Pros:

Easy to set up and use, 128-bit SSL encryption when sync is over the Internet, detailed logs, just works.

Cons:

None found.  Developer hard to contact by phone.

Sign Up for the Newsletter

Join the TMO Express Daily Newsletter to get the latest Mac headlines in your e-mail every weekday.

Comments

B9robot

I can’t say if I could trust this software. I helped a friend setup Missing Sync for Blackberry and it was a disaster that took about 6 weeks to figure out how to install it and get it to work. First of all the download link that you need to go directly to the blackberry always got an error when trying to open that link. Then I found out that you could only sync 1 calendar otherwise that would cause a sync error and Calendar wouldn’t sync at all!
Not impressed with Missing Sync software. If they have a working demo mode I would recommend doing that first before purchasing.

CJ

And why, pray tell, would anyone keep SSNs for the whole family on their computer? Haven’t we heard enough about stolen computers with sensitive information?

Bronco46blogs

The only safe way to keep stuff like SSN’s is with 1Password. But I wouldn’t trust anything else its all encrypted and can sync with other devices using encryption. This may be fine for someone that only keeps very benign data on their computer.

opfa

Impossible to install on a new computer with snow leopard?:-(

Log-in to comment