Change Beta to Beta or Goodbye to Live Mesh

Published on July 02, 2010

Change Beta to Beta or Goodbye to Live Mesh

    Instead of a foreword

    Just a few years ago, by connecting a local area network to the office, we, as a team of design engineers using Autocad, Inventor, 3dsMax, celebrated the transition to a new level of interaction when the entire database for work began to be stored in one place.

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    Yesterday it was an office with a local network, today it is local Wi-fi networks in every house, but years have passed and, like in those days, we again face the same task - to debug the mechanism of interaction of the team, which is scattered around the world today, It works with large projects with thousands of files, where files sometimes weigh about a gigabyte. And if through mail, chats, forums, Facebook, Google Groups, Google Wave, etc. we somehow learned how to coordinate common work, then to create a fully functioning network for exchanging project information, building shared file libraries and managing projects - we have not yet succeeded.

    In the search for free, reliable and convenient services, we tried a lot of offers, including Box , DropBox , Syncplicity , Skydrive , Live Sync, Live Mesh , etc., and now, it seemed, we groped a more or less working option, as we were pleased with the news that they close Live Mesh and instead impose an alternative service Live Sync, which in fact, as it turned out, brings us only disappointment.

    Next, I’ll talk about how we found a way to solve our applied problems of building a collaborate system for conducting engineering projects, tied to the advantages and disadvantages of existing online services for synchronizing and storing files in the clouds.

    Searching of decisions

    The specifics of the team’s work on the engineering project is such that we have thousands of project files that are changed by different team members in different places (Russia, Israel, Mongolia, etc.) and all this should be synchronized between everyone, duplicated, and, to allow everyone to work offline.

    Carrying out the search, we met with various types of such services:

    1. File sharing

    It is clear that all kinds of file sharing, such as Rapidshare, iFolder categorically and immediately disappeared. These services are only good for storing large amounts of static information online, which is not subject to change and is suitable only for download. In addition, if they are free, then storage is temporary and with a lot of restrictions.

    2. Online flash drives

    Such attractive, at first glance, services like Skydrive with free 25GB (and 125 in the form of 5 united Hotmail accounts) were also not in the lot. It is tempting, a lot of space, you can upload a bunch of files, but the main drawback of such services is that the files are static, you need to download and upload them separately, you need a constant Internet connection. Although there are all kinds of services, such as Gladinet or SDExplorer , which allow you to create virtual disks or directories on your computer and establish an exchange with online storage, but in fact - it all works very slowly, intermittently, and requires a constant Internet connection. In addition, they will close such a service and say goodbye to files, unless you specifically make sure that they are still duplicated on the computer.

    3. Online synchronizers

    Online synchronizers, such as Live Sync, which until recently was a separate Windows Live service, have a big plus in that they practically do not limit us in the amount of disk space for synchronization, because they do not store files in online storage, but only synchronize the folders of different computers, which can be connected quite a lot to such a network.

    But, the main drawback is that computers must be constantly on the network, if we missed such a synchronization session, then there are many problems with the version of the files, which, in practice, cannot be resolved later, because it takes a lot of time and attention.

    In addition, Live Sync constantly had a lot of problems with the Firewall, to the extent that everyone had to turn off the Firewall for a short time so that synchronization was successful.

    4. Online repositories with synchronization

    a. Box, Syncplicity and DropBox

    Services such as Box , Syncplicity and DropBox proved to be progressive . When we found out about them, we felt relieved. However, these services also have a lot of application limitations for team work.

    For example, Box and Syncplicity allow you to synchronize only 2-3 computers for free. The most profitable against their background is DropBox, which allows you to synchronize 10 computers, which is already suitable for the average team. This is a big plus.

    But the main problem of all such services is that they are limited in volume for free accounts, or are expensive when it comes to teamwork.

    For example, DropBox limits the amount of sharing through shared folders. That is, when sharing folders, the receiving party should have enough free space in the online storage. For example, if someone offers me a 1GB shared file, while my storage is full, I won’t be able to receive it. 

    This is where the problem arises, we can’t cunningly buy 1 paid account and share it for everyone. You have to pay the whole team for their accounts. For example, for $ 1,000 a year, you will have all the same 50GB of storage for sharing between 10 computers. Is it too much?

    But we are inventive people and have found a way to saddle DropBox. You cannot buy an account and share it, but you can buy an account and use it for everyone! We didn’t share anything, we just set up the agent program on one account. As a result, our 10 computers are synchronized in one 50GB account.
    For $ 100, 50GB, which is 10 times cheaper than the “frontal approach”. Then, for $ 200, you can buy 100GB (which is still the limit), which is 5 times cheaper and the amount is 2 times more than each having their own account.

    The disadvantage is that this is a shared account and for those who want to have private folders, this is not suitable. But the main advantage of such services remains their reliability - information is duplicated on many computers and, if the service ceases to exist, then the information will remain on computers. Also, the failure of any computer on the network is not fatal.

    b. Live Mesh vs. Live Sync

    A more advanced analogue of DropBox is the Live Mesh service, at least that was until recently, and then we were pleased that it would cease to exist and was already included in the updated Live Sync and Skydrive service.

    We began to use it six months ago and got a lot of advantages. This service provides 5GB for free in online storage, allows you to synchronize many devices. Given the drawbacks of DropBox for teamwork, this is a real alternative.

    For example, the alternative is that shared folders increase the amount of shared storage. If you create several accounts on Hotmail and share them all with team members, the total volume will be equal to the number of accounts * for 5GB. We made it so that everyone had their own 5GB personal accounts (for personal purposes) and plus created more than 15 service accounts, which gave us free 75GB of storage space for exchange. So you can create at least as many (did not check?) New accounts and add them to the total storage volume. Or in general, you can open a new account for each project.

    If you do not take into account delays during synchronization and its slow speed (let's write it to Beta), then this service could be considered the ideal solution for team work.

    However, the news of the closure of this service upset us.

    Not only is it closed, we were not given the opportunity to flexibly switch to the new Live Sync, which was not only reduced to 2GB, but also did not have the opportunity to transfer already stored files from Live Mesh.
    It is outrageous that this is the same Microsoft, and there is no connection between these services. It all starts with a beautiful installation of Windows Live Wave 4, which removes the installed Live Mesh agent program from the computer and installs Live Sync.

    When you find that the connection of the file base with the online storage is lost, you are at a loss. When you discover that there is no plug-in for transferring already downloaded gigs from Live Mesh to the updated SkyDrive - you already begin to get angry and hide in the righteous anger of Microsoft.

    Then, in hopelessness, you put the Live Mesh agent on top again and both services begin to work. And according to rumors, we still have six months left to collect our manat and leave Live Mesh on Live Sync + Skydrive. How will it be, wait and see. In the meantime, let's see what kind of Beta we exchanged for Beta.

    At the first review, it became clear that the 2GB that we were given is another Skydrive storage, which is in no way associated with the 25GB of Skydrive. Files that are synchronized there cannot be transferred between storages. Apparently, Microsoft decided to drive traffic by artificially blocking the connection between Skidrive 25, Skydrive 2 and Live Mesh 5. Either they have corporate competitions there and some project teams are fighting with others for the championship, leaving users to rake their Beta-imperfections: there’s not a slider, how much time remains to wait until the synchronization is complete, nor a convenient manager for managing permissions, and this is only on the surface, I have not noticed any increase in speed yet, the time delays are the same as those of Live Mesh.

    I even noticed that the office files uploaded to Skydrive 2 do not always open online for editing in the new Web Office Online, but open from Skydrive 25. In general, they are far from all right in Microsoft.

    The good news is that, as before, the shared folders are summarized in the total volume, only now not 5, but 2 GB each. If you need to have 100 Hotmail accounts, then let's go for it.

    Working model

    Summing up, we can outline the working model. Considering all the advantages and disadvantages of the services reviewed and tested in a hard operating mode, we have built for ourselves the following model:

    1. For operational work that requires instant exchange between all team members, DropBox service is most suitable with a tricky way to use it, as discussed above - one paid account for all team members linked to it.

    2. For long-term work and storage of large volumes of information, Live Mesh perfectly suited with a series of service accounts shared in the form of root folders for all team members.
    Apparently, the only alternative to it will be Live Sync + Skydrive 2GB with the same series of accounts (although you don’t need to create new ones!), Shared in the form of root folders for all team members.
    After operational work, the project is transferred to storage in Live (Mesh or Sync) and the team continues to work on DropBox, which synchronizes it between all without delay.

    Afterword

    It remains only to hope that we did not exchange Beta for Beta in the sense that it sounds in a well-known saying and that the internal confusion of software monsters will not lead users again to the dreary search, debugging and adaptation of imperfect, greedy and temporary services for such a necessary sphere as organization of collaborate storage.

    Wait and see.