In my evaluation of the various “Cloud Computing” Services (where files and data are stored or shared on Internet file servers) I’ve come across several different viable options. In a previous posting, I mentioned the Zoho Online service (for online document management) as well as DropBox (syncing files between PCs and Internet file server). Although I’m testing both of these services currently, I did come across two offerings from Microsoft called Live Mesh and SkyDrive that appear promising.
Live Mesh is Microsoft’s answer to syncing files between different PCs and to the “Cloud” (Internet file servers), and thus competes with the DropBox service. The image below shows the Live Mesh “ring”, where you add different machines and devices for syncing of files. In this example, there are three computers in the “mesh ring”, (One Desktop PC and two Laptops), as well as “Live Desktop” which is the Cloud Computer (Internet file storage):
You can then specify on each machine in mesh ring, specific folders which you want the file contents to be synced with the other machines. What’s nice, is that you don’t need to sync your folders with the Live Desktop, as you can just sync between PCs you have in your mesh ring. Thus, you don’t need to sync sensitive files to the Cloud.
When you install Live Mesh, a small service utility runs in the background on your PC and a icon appears in the task bar. Folders can be made part of the live mesh by right-clicking on them and selecting “Add folder to live mesh…” from the popup context menu. That’s it! So on every machine that you want to add to the mesh ring, you simply visit the http://www.mesh.com web site, click the “Install Software” icon (big orange “plus” symbol), and install the Live Mesh software on your PC. Very easy to install and configure.
Now, the Live Desktop (again, the “Cloud” or Internet File Server) can be accessed using a basic web browser. For most operations, it’s better to use Microsoft Internet Explorer rather than FireFox since Live Desktop works better with certain ActiveX plugins installed (e.g., will give you a drag-n-drop interface for folder/file uploading).
What I really like about Live Mesh, is that it appears tightly integrated with the Windows PC environment. My synced folders are colored blue so I can easily identify them. All files are synced seemlessly in the background as you’re using your PC.
In addition to all of this, Live Mesh also offers remote desktop connection with the PCs in your mesh ring. You simply click on the Live Mesh icon in the task bar and select which computer you want to connect to. It works very similarily to the applications LogMeIn and GoToMyPC to make a remote desktop connection. The one definite edge Live Mesh has over LogMeIn, is that you can easily cut and paste files between the remote computer and your local computer with Live Mesh but not so with the free version of LogMeIn. As with LogMeIn and GoToMyPC, the Live Mesh remote desktop will work through Firewalls, NATs, etc. so there’s virtually no restrictions.
What’s also nice, is that Live Mesh provides you with 5 GB of free storage for file syncing, which is more than the 1 GB max limit allowed by the DropBox service.
As part of the Windows Live experience, Microsoft also offers a nice online file storage service called SkyDrive. This is primarily for storing online data and files (no syncing is performed between PCs and the Cloud). There’s no online tools for viewing or editing these files, as it is just for storage. What’s really nice, is the easy drag-n-drop feature (using Internet Explorer), and the fact that Microsoft gives you 25 GB of free storage.
Also, anyone with a Windows Live ID account (which you will need for using Live Mesh) automatically has a SkyDrive account available.
Thus, armed with these two new services I’m planning to change how I do business. Here’s what I’m shooting for:
- Install Live Mesh on my Main Desktop PC, Personal Laptop, Work Laptop, and Netbook so that I can sync files between designated machines.
- I also plan to use the Live Mesh Remote Desktop feature to log into my Desktop PC while on the road (to run applications, check email, get forgotten files) and while in other parts of my house.
- I will use the SkyDrive service to store all my important files online as a backup (in case my PC bursts into flames or my house catches on fire!).
Currently, Live Mesh doesn’t have a way for my Windows Mobile Smartphone to be part of the Live Mesh ring. I can access my Live Mesh ring by visiting http://m.mesh.com from my smartphone’s web browser (Pocket IE), but I can only see folders and my files (when I really want to view the contents of those files). From what I understand, Microsoft has beta testers examining a Windows Mobile smartphone client app for Live Mesh access, however, that client will surely require Windows Mobile 6.1 OS which my Moto-Q smartphone does not use (WM 5.0).
Definitely something to consider for Netbook owners that want to have certain files synced between various PCs and for remote desktop login. And by the way, the Live Mesh ring also works with Macs too!