I mainly use Syncplicity as a backup tool, which isn’t really it’s main raison d’être, but works really well. All the folders I select are updated to the cloud whenever I change them. This means I can also download these files from any connected device. The default option of fully synchronised folders (as opposed to back up only) would also download any uploaded files back to your original machine. Whilst I can understand how useful this may be I really didn’t like the idea of my cloud files automatically replacing local files, what if my account got hacked? There are backups and revisions so it probably wouldn’t be the end of the world but it didn’t sit easy with me.
I use the “fully synchronised” folder on one folder on my computer and this acts as a (sorry, I can’t think of another word for this) dropbox, allowing me an easy way to send files back to my machine over the web interface.
I wasn’t quite sure what would happen when I added another computer into the mix. I wanted the same set up, to be able to back my files up to the cloud. After installations and logging into your account you are presented with a list of folders Syncplicity already knows about. You can add these folders to the new computer and when you do you are prompted for a location to store them. Unfortunately this defaults to “My Documents” (I hate things that use My Documents, it’s supposed to be mine and you’re trying to store things that may not be documents) but this can be changed. For “Fully Synchronised” folders, it does what you expect and any file added to the folder on any of the machines or via the web interface will appear in all of the others. I added my ‘dropbox’ folder and, sure enough, all my files were downloaded to the new computer.
I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was surprised when I added the “Back Up Only” folder from computer A to computer B and it started copying files across. This makes sense I had told computer B that I wanted this backed up folder and so it adds the backup from the cloud. It wasn’t quite clear what would happen next and unfortunately Syncplicty’s UI doesn’t handle this setup very well. The “Back Up Only” folder from computer A is listed as “Fully Synchronised” on Computer B and therefore this means that if you make changes on Computer B they are synchronised back to the cloud and vice-versa, but NOT back to Computer A. This is probably the correct behaviour but it confused me for a while and perhaps needs to be handled by Syncplicity a bit better. The UI could be improved to deal with multiple machines, perhaps by listing backup and synchronised folders differently. It also gets potentially confusing if you do have a “Documents” folder on each machine and only want to back them up, all folders appear in the same list in Syncplicity which means you have to go back into the client software to add a label. It would make more sense if non-synchronised folders were listed by their original source.
After a bit of experimenting I decided to have a “Syncplicity Backup” folder on each machine, each containing a back up of selected directories from the other computer. This means that I have a copy of those files on both machines but if I do make changes to the backup I have to manually copy them back to the original source. This feels safer than automatically synchronising, plus it still gives me the benefit of not having to copy things to a USB drive or downloading them from the cloud.
I’d be more tempted to fully synchronise more folders if I wasn’t so paranoid about accidentally or maliciously losing (or adding, for that matter) files in the web interface and have them appear on my machines. If only there was an option to not allow synchronisation from things changed via the web interface. Even a prompt or preview of incoming changes would be a huge improvement.
I’m still really impressed with Syncplicity, even if I’m not using it as it was intended, I think I just need to work out what folders I may need where.