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Configuring Mobile Computers : File and Data Synchronization

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3/5/2011 4:00:52 PM
While using mobile computers, sometimes you are connected to a corporate network and other times you are not. Sometimes you might want to work on the files stored on a network server even when you are not connected to the network that holds the network server. You might also want to connect mobile devices such as phones and PDAs to your mobile computer or desktop computer so that information can be copied back and forth.

The new Windows Vista Sync Center provides a single easy-to-use interface to manage data synchronization between multiple computers, including network servers, and with mobile devices you connect to your computer. To start the Sync Center, click the Start button, click All Programs, click Accessories, and then click Sync Center.

To set up synchronization between two computers, you create a sync partnership between two or more sync locations, which specifies what files and folders to sync, where to sync them, and when (see Figure 1). You can schedule an automatic sync on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, or when a specific event occurs, such as every time you log on to your computer. You can also perform a manual sync at any time, such as when you are getting ready to disconnect a mobile PC from the network and want to make sure you have the latest copies of files on a network server.

Figure 1. Sync Center.

Note

The ability to sync with network folders is not included in Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, and Windows Vista Home Premium.


Every time you sync files between two locations (such as between a computer and a mobile device), Sync Center compares the files in both locations to determine whether they still match or whether any have changed. It determines whether any files need to be updated to stay in sync.

If the files differ, Sync Center determines which version of each file to keep and copies that version to the other location, overwriting the other version there. It selects the most recent version to keep, unless you have set up the sync partnership to sync differently. Sometimes Sync Center will prompt you to choose which version of a file to keep. This usually occurs when a file has changed in both locations since the last sync. When this happens, Sync Center will notify you of a sync conflict, which you must resolve before it can sync the items in conflict.

When you set up the synchronization, you may set up a one-way or two-way synchronization. In one-way sync, files are copied from a primary location to a secondary location, but no files are ever copied back to the primary location. In two-way sync, Sync Center copies files in both directions, keeping the two locations in sync with each other. Most sync partnerships are automatically set up to perform either one-way or two-way sync, although some sync partnerships let you choose.

You might set up two-way sync between a network folder and your computer, where you instruct Sync Center to copy the newest version of any file it finds to the other location, overwriting any older versions of the same file. This is a good way to sync if you work with the same files on both the network folder and your computer, and you want to make sure you always have the most recent version of every file you’ve worked on.

You might set up one-way sync for a portable music player, for example, where you instruct Sync Center to copy every new music file from your computer to the mobile device but never to copy music files in the other direction (from the device to your computer).

Offline Folders

To create an offline folder, open a network folder, right-click a file or folder, and select Always Available Offline. Windows automatically creates a copy of that file or folder on your computer. Anytime you reconnect to that network folder, Windows will sync the files between your computer and the network folder. You can also sync them manually at any time.

In addition, you can encrypt your offline files to help secure private information. Of course, when you encrypt offline files, only your user account can access the cached data.

To configure offline files, click Control Panel, then click Network and Internet, and then click Offline Files. From the General tab in the Offline Files dialog box, you can enable or disable offline files by clicking the top button. You can also use the General tab to open Sync Center and view your offline files (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Offline files options.


The Disk Usage tab enables you to see how much disk space is currently being used by offline files and enables you to change the limits of storage that offline files will use. The Encryption tab enables you to encrypt or unencrypt your offline files.

The Network tab enables you to choose to automatically work on any locally cached offline files when your connection to the network is slow. You can also choose how often to check for a slow network connection.

When a shared resource is made available on a network, you can control the cache settings for that shared resource. This enables you to determine how remote users access files inside each of your shares. The cache settings are defined on the computer on which the shared resource resides.

The Caching settings for shared folders are configured by clicking Advanced Sharing, on the Sharing tab of the folder’s Properties sheet. The options are as following:

  • Only the files and programs that users specify will be available offline. This setting is the default and enables any files or programs in the share to be available offline to users but users must make the decision.

  • All files and programs that users open from the share will be automatically available offline. This setting ensures that any files a user accesses from this share while online will be available offline.

  • Optimized for performance. This check box enables the caching to take place in the background therefore helping to optimize network performance.

  • Files or programs from the share will not be available offline. This setting disables caching from the share.


Connecting Mobile Devices

Many mobile devices can connect to your Windows Vista computer and synchronize data and files between the two. Typically, you connect your device to your computer either using a USB cable or cradle, or through a wireless signal (infrared, Bluetooth, or WiFi). Most devices ship with a USB cable or cradle, and most modern computers are equipped with infrared or Bluetooth.

If you connect a mobile device using Bluetooth technology, you need to configure the device as discoverable. You also need to set up the passkey to associate the device with the Bluetooth signal. This ensures that each device is connected to the device to which it is intended to connect.

Note

You can use the Windows Mobility Device Center (downloaded and installed from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/en-us/help/synchronize/device-center.mspx) to disable USB connections and Bluetooth connections. To access the Mobility Device Center, open the Control Panel, click Mobile PC, and select Mobility Device Center.


Before you can synchronize information with devices, you must set up sync partnerships. To create a sync partnership with a portable media player, you just need to do the following:

1.
Connect your device to a computer running Windows Vista and open Sync Center. Windows Vista includes drivers for many common devices, but you can also obtain drivers from the CD that came with your device or from Windows Update.

2.
Set up a sync partnership. Clicking Set Up for a Media Device Sync Partnership opens Windows Media Player 11.

3.
Select some media files or a playlist to synchronize to the device. To select media, just drag it onto the Sync dialog box on the right side of Windows Media Player.

4.
Click Start Sync. When your chosen media has transferred to the device, you can disconnect it from your computer and close Windows Media Player.

You can sync your contacts with some mobile devices, allowing you to take your contacts with you wherever you go. To sync contacts with a mobile device, the device must be able to read the contact file that Windows creates for each individual contact. The device must also be compatible with Sync Center, which Windows uses to sync files between a computer and a mobile device.

If you have Exchange Server 2003 or later deployed in your organization, take advantage of its integration with Windows Mobile, which provides direct push e-mail using ActiveSync technology, Global Address List lookup, and numerous security features.

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