If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch you’ll want the latest information available on each one. There are a number of ways to synchronise different kinds of information. Here’s my suggestions as to the best solution for each area that needs syncing. If you have an Android Phone read this article instead.
I’ve been trying out the world of Android Phones recently with a Google Pixel phone. Overall I have been surprised at how simple and effortless it has been to use my Google pixel phone alongside my Macintosh OS X. I was expecting it to be a lot harder to synchronise the Google phone to my Macintosh computer but if anything I have found it easier than my old iPhone.
Each individual application syncs its own data across the internet between the Google phone and OS X. Everything else gets synchronised by Google. I have found this approach surprising simple. It’s just a matter of finding the best application for each job.
Here’s a list of applications that I have found that will nicely share data between OSX, iOS and Android.
Apple file sharing is by far the easiest way to share files if you have 2 computers on the same network. For example we have a MacBook in our family room and I have a Mac Mini in my study. Sometimes I find myself wanting to access files from the other computer. With Apple file sharing you can easily access your second computer from your first one and copy across the files you need without having to go into the other room. Here’s how to set up Apple file sharing.
Dropbox and Google File Stream have big differences. Google Drive is best for publishing lots of files to multiple users. Dropbox is great to reliably sync files across your own computers. If you are used to Dropbox, don’t think of Google File Stream as being like Dropbox. Here are some of the differences:
- Dropbox keeps a copy of the files locally on your computer so that you can access the files offline.
- Google Drive only downloads the files as you need them
- Dropbox makes it very easy to share files publicly on the web via a link.
- Google Drive can share files publicly but it’s a little trickier to set up.
- Dropbox is best for syncing your own personal files across multiple computers.
- Google Drive is best for an organisation to make files available to multiple users.
- Dropbox has less space available on the free plan.
- Google Drive gives you 25GB of storage per user!
- Google Drive has some great WordPress plugins available to embed documents in WordPress. (I’ve done this here)
‘Google File Stream’ and ‘Google Backup and Sync’ are quite different even though they are both released by Google.
Google describes the differences as one being for ‘Personal’ use and one for ‘Business’. That’s not a bad summary. They do different things and it’s important to understand the difference before you start using them. Google file stream is like an extra Hard Disk that lives in the cloud. Google backup and sync is more like Dropbox – a synced folder. Here’s why you may like to install both side-by-side to benefit from what each one has to offer.
Google Backup and Sync is very similar to Dropbox but there are some small differences. Google backup and sync has some extra options.
Desktop Folder Syncing
- Google Backup and Sync also has the option to make a backup of your ‘Desktop Folder’ and sync it.
- Dropbox cannot sync your desktop folder.
Sharing files on the web
- Dropbox makes it very easy to share files publicly from the finder of OS X. It’s is fully integrated into OS X.
- Google Backup and Sync makes it a bit more complicated to share files because it is still web-based. You need to go to your Google drive on the web and share it from there. (Once it’s set up it works well though!)
Accessing files offline
- Google Backup and Sync and Dropbox can both access file offline.
You can mount a ‘Google Drive’ onto you Mac, it’s a neat cloud based storage solution from Google. The Google Drive sits on your desktop. It looks like a regular hard drive and the contents of the folder are automatically available to anyone else who has access to the same Google Drive.
Google Drive is similar but different to dropbox. When you move a file into dropbox the file is moved into dropbox, like you would expect if you were moving a file into a different folder. (The file is not copied, it is moved.) But when you drag a file into your Google Drive it doesn’t move the file, it creates a copy of the file. It’s more like copying the file to a thumb drive.
Because of this difference in the way they behave, Dropbox feels like it’s a folder on your computer like any other folder, it just happens to be shared with others. But Google Drive has a different feel. It feels like a foreign hard drive that is out there in the cloud and you happen to have access to it from your computer. Each have their advantage, and I use both.
Another big point of difference is that Google Drive requires an active internet connection. Last week our internet was down, and I went to access a file in my Google Drive, and I could see it, but not access it without a web connection. Dropbox syncs the 2 folders completely, so they are available offline as well.
We use Google Drive to share documents across our organisation. I use dropbox to share files that I am working on across my own personal computers. I find it really useful to have this distinction in my head. Files that I want to share with other people – Google Drive. Files that I want to share with myself – Dropbox. Of course, you could use these tools any way you want but that’s the way I have found myself using them.
Here’s how to get Google Drive going.
This may well be my most exciting OS X discovery of the year. Let me know if you find it helpful. You can use ‘Google Backup and Sync’ to sync your OS X desktop folder to the cloud, and then, with a little trick, access that desktop folder from your ‘Google Drive’ other computers, so that you can put files onto the desktop of you computer remotely.