Saturday, November 12, 2011

In my toolkit: JFileSync

Been a while between posts - school year is getting very busy and as usual I'm trying to do too many things. 

The problem: I have three Windows computers I use all the time, in conjunction with an array of USB portable disk drives. I want to be able to use which ever computer or disk drive I have at the time, while keeping everything in sync. To make thing harder, I don't have admin rights to some of those computers (read: school issued laptop *).

The solution. A free open-source Java application called JFileSync.

Some tips to make the data management painless:
  • Nominate a portable USB disk drive as your master data repository. Give it a name - this gives it a distinct identity, helping you form a mental image of the data store as a distinct entity. I call mine 'wombat' - and I have stuck a label on it.
  • Carry your portable USB disk drive in a protective case. They are robust, but still vulnerable.
  • Don't use a USB memory stick as your master data store - while they are convenient, they are also fragile. I have seen several teachers lose their entire collection of vital documents when their USB memory stick died. Just too fragile - a zap and they are dead.
  • Any time I sit in front of a computer, I plug in that drive and immediately run JFileSynch to resynch that computer to the current state of my USB disk drive.
  • I work on the computer's local drive.
  • When I'm about to leave that computer, I run JFileSyn again to get my USB disk drive up to date.
If I don't have my USB disk drive on me, or I forget the ocassional JFileSync, it's usually fine to just resynch the next time - JFileSync will 'do the right thing'. The only challenge is if I edit the same file on another device - because JFileSynch will not merge files - and then you have to think. Best not to do that.

I've been using JFileSync now for three years and couldn't recommend it highly enough. And as a side benefit, I have four copies of my data in several locations. If worst comes to worst, there should always be a place I can recover my data (barring an asteroid strike on Sydney - in which case I'm dead anyway).

* If you have a NSW DEC laptop: JFileSync is a java app - so you can just put the Java file somewhere on your laptop and run it any time - no install required.

1 comment:

  1. What about Microsoft's SyncToy 2.1, also free?