Review: You Software Part 2

You Synchronize worked, but it didn't make me replace my old software (January 23rd, 2004)

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Product Manufacturer: You Software

Price: $49.95

The Good

  • Advanced features, like checksum-based synchronization; simple interface; automatic scheduling; full range of capabilities, including backup/restore and sync.

The Bad

  • Too intense for most SOHO users, yet lacks central administration capabilities for enterprise usage; syncs and backups can take far longer than competing products; significant CPU usage; redundant online archive capability.

You Synchronize

As the business community is starting to rediscover the Macintosh, we've seen more and more companies roll out software designed to help users backup their data. Companies like Arkeia, BakBone and Dantz make software that corporate Mac users can install to help back up their files. At the other end of the spectrum, you have software like Déjà Vu, Backup Simplicity and Tri-BACKUP that's designed so that individual users can easily safeguard their files by moving them off to CDs, external hard drives or (dare I say it?) tape.

After trying You Synchronize, I think the software is somewhere in the middle. And that's not necessarily the place it wants to be.

The software's very name clearly positions it, and its target audience. You Synchronize's sweet spot is for people who may have a desktop computer and a laptop as well. (For the record, that's exactly the configuration I use.) You Synchronize is designed to appeal to those power users who need to ensure that the latest version of any given document is safely available on both computers that they use on a regular basis.

The software, I'm told, is an upgrade from a product called Executive Sync, which won a Macworld magazine's 2003 Editor's Choice award. And it clearly gives me all kinds of options that define the level of data protection available, the files to be backed up and the frequency with which those backups and synchronizations are conducted. Those options can be quickly configured and are intuitively designed.

But remember where I told you I want software that's effective without being so darned hard to figure out that it drives me batty? For my money, You Synchronize doesn't meet that goal. To its credit, the software lets me choose the level of synchronization I want: it will let me compare file modification dates, which is a pretty simple task, or will let me compare checksums, which is downright down-in-the-weeds difficult and intense. It also takes far, far longer (especially on the first sync), which the Click to enlargesoftware doesn't tell you. I told You's tech support guy that I had 244,000 files on my external hard drive; he gulped, and said, "Wow, anything longer than 10,000 files, we ask people to expect an overnight backup." He's right, of course, and he was extremely helpful, but that's not going to please a number of potential customers who run small or home offices.

Another point: I initially tried to checksum all 244,000 files, and was wondering why my Mac had slowed down. Simple answer. You Synchronize was using 40% of my CPU to conduct its task. Ouch.

You Synchronize also enables you to archive an additional copy of documents to another site on your hard drive. Forgive me, but I think that's one capability I don't need: Why am I going to archive the data to a second location on the hard drive? If it's already backed off to an external source, it's safe; if my hard drive crashes, the extra copy does me no good. I see this working for the laptop user who's in the field and messes up a document and wants the original back. Of course, burning a CD of documents before you leave also accomplishes the same task, and takes up less space on the hard drive. (By the way, "archiving" in the enterprise data storage field generally refers to making an additional copy on tape that can be moved offsite for another level of data protection. Archiving, as defined by You Synchronize, clearly doesn't accomplish that.)

In the final analysis, You Synchronize is too robust, and too complicated for me. I use Déjà Vu; it backs up my data every night like clockwork, although probably not at the level that You Synchronize does. It performs its tasks in less than 10 minutes, operating in the background, and tells me it's done. How Mac-like.

And while You Synchronize misses the mark on the low end, it also misses it at the high end. This is software designed to be used by the end user; while it has enterprise-grade features, it didn't offer centralized control...at least not that I could see. So a systems administrator could not automatically configure multiple Mac clients from a central location. Perhaps that's coming in a later version.

Don't get me wrong; what You Synchronize does, it does extremely well. But perhaps it does it too well, given its target audience. And as good as it is, I can't see a reason to spend $50 on the software, when other software that costs less than one-third of that does the job for me every bit as well.

by Steve Friedberg


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