By Meredith Barnhill
In a fast-paced environment, businesses can't afford to be tied down to one device. Being able to access personal data like contacts, email, calendars and documents on a mobile device or laptop or desktop, regardless of where you are at a given moment, is invaluable.
Most smartphones include proprietary syncing software that allows phones to sync with one or more computers. The software is no extra cost to the consumer and comes with user-friendly instructions. Unfortunately, some smartphones are designed to sync only with certain programs, such as Windows Mobile phones with Windows Media Player and Outlook. You also have to physically plug your phone into your computer—most cables are proprietary as well. Replacing lost cables can be costly.
If your computer and mobile phone are Bluetooth capable, you don't need to remember the wires to sync all your data. This is especially good if you work primarily on your phone and need to back up or retrieve data from it on your computer. If your computer doesn't have those capabilities, you can purchase a Bluetooth dongle at any electronics store. Make sure that the software and the dongle are compatible with your phone and computer.
After setup, every time your computer and phone are within range, your data will sync. Bluetooth, while convenient, isn't the most reliable form of synchronization, however. Any interruption in signal might result in loss of data.
Another wireless option is utilizing Internet companies like SugarSync to sync your data. Google makes syncing their products with smartphones extremely easy but it requires you to use Google's products to keep everything connected.
Google's sync capabilities are extended to iPhone and Nokia users but limited for Blackberry users.
If you have a Windows Mobile phone and Microsoft Exchange, you can sync your data using these instructions from Microsoft. This product can be costly for smaller businesses, unless they use a hosted version of Exchange.
Apple uses similar technology to sync iPhones with Macs and PCs called MobileMe. SugarSync and Apple's MobileMe have yearly fees that may be more feasible for smaller businesses.
Paid vs. free
There aren't a lot of free comprehensive syncing solutions available, and the ones that exist aren't as streamlined or user-friendly as ones tailored for businesses. Some programs, like ViceVersa and SyncMate, offer free, reduced versions and charge for the full product. They also don't have as much support as bigger companies do, but can be useful for an individual's needs.
About the Author
Meredith Barnhill is an Austin-based multimedia journalist working in higher education who constantly syncs information between her iPhone, Mac computer at work and PC laptop at home.