While all this attention to design detail is compelling, the functional features offered in MobileMe are not particularly unique. To tell you the truth, a year into my $100/year MobileMe subscription, I don't think I've ever seriously used any of the online services directly. Rather I use MobileMe, along with a couple other services, to link together my data across the various computers and connected devices in my life. Recently, I wondered if I could get the same synchronization experience using free services that I do with MobileMe. This article describes my setup both before and after.
My connected life consists of sharing data across a home iMac, a home Macbook Pro, a work Macbook Pro, an iPhone, and an iPad. The iPhone and iPad do double duty as both work tools and home toys. In addition, wife-Annette and I use an online calendar to stay in sync (although this is more of an adaptation for her as she is quite efficient using only the paper calendar on the inside of our pantry door). Prior to my investigation I had the following setup:
- Microsoft Exchange Server (work): synchronize my Work Calendar/Contacts between my work Mac, iPhone and iPad
- MobileMe: synchronize the Family Calendar and my Contacts between my home Macs, work Mac, iPhone and iPad
- MobileMe (iDisk): synchronize documents and files between my home Macs, work Mac and provide access to these files on my iPhone and iPad. Synchronize my OmniFocus library across all computers and devices (very necessary to keep me organized)
- Google and Calgoo Connect: synchronize the Family Calendar between wife-Annette and I
Before designing a free service solution I leveraged some research and experimentation that I had done for work. This included looking into services from Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, Box.net. So it didn't tame me very long to design something that would work just as seamlessly as the MobileMe integration. Here's what I'm testing today.
- Microsoft Exchange Server (work): synchronize my Work Calendar/Contacts between my work Mac, iPhone and iPad (no change)
- Google: synchronize the Family Calendar and my Contacts between my home Macs, work Mac, and iPhone
- Google: synchronize the Family Calendar between Annette and I using shared calendars
- Dropbox: synchronize documents and files between my home Macs, work Mac and provide access to these files on my iPhone and iPad. Limited to 2G (MobileMe was 10G). If I overrun my 2G I can either pay $10/mo for more or use Box.net or similar services to cover additional data.
- MyDrive: like Dropbox and Box.net, MyDrive.ch is a cloud service hosted in Switzerland. What makes it different is that it provides the WebDav interface that OmniFocus needs for synchronization. This also makes it mountable in Finder so that I can access an additional 2G of storage.