Saturday, October 22, 2011

iCloud Exemplifies Technology Short Comings


I’m a firm believer that technology should be designed to make our lives better and easier, not more complicated.  With the release if iCloud last week I’ve been working hard to figure out how it can help improve my personal use of technology but also be used in our enterprise.

Anytime I can use technology to automatically keep all my access point current then I consider it a win.  For example, we have an Exchange server, which allows me to keep my email, contacts, calendar, and tasks updated and automatically synced between all my access devices.  For me that is an iPhone, iPad, laptop, and desktop.

One issue has been bookmarks.  I like to keep my bookmarks synced between my devices so if I need to remote into an appliance on the network I can do that easily without having to remember an IP address.  I used to do this using Live Mesh however that only did my laptop and my desktop.  Live Mesh also failed when we started redirecting profiles for Windows 7 users, which included Favorites.  Live Mesh is not able to sync a redirected folder or any network based folder so it broke and stopped working.

I was hoping iCloud would be the solution to my problem but it isn’t, as iCloud also can’t sync to files on a network, which would include any folders you redirect.

I think this is a major failure of technology companies.  The argument is probably that these features are for home users to keep things in sync and not for those of us who use technology both at home and at work.  How short sighted can you get?  I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet who thinks using iCloud to keep my bookmarks in sync between multiple devices, including those on an enterprise network they may have redirected folders and network based storage is a good idea.  Why cut your market share in half here when from a purely technology perspective how hard can it be?

My work around to being able to use iCloud at work was to ask our IT guy (me) to exempt my profile from redirecting the Favorites folder.  That allowed iCloud to work and work beautifully – much better even than Live Mesh ever did.  Live Mesh would replicate files but you lost icons and sorts.  iCloud perfectly mirrors what you have including custom sorts and icons.  I was able to exempt my policy through a little GPO magic which would allow me, if I was so included, to provide this same service for others who might want to sync their Favorites between their work machine, home machine, and iDevices.

I also did an extensive internet search to see if anyone else was having this issue and to my knowledge, I’m the first person to post that:
  1.  iCloud will not work with redirected folder.  Period.
  2.  iCloud syncs better than Live Mesh.
  3.  GPO can be used to allow users to work around this limitation while still maintaining a backup of their Favorites using roaming profiles.
Maybe the genius’ at Microsoft or Apple will catch wind of this and figure out a way to open up their sync applications to work both on and off corporate networks thus helping even more people to enjoy their products.  Why make technology harder than it has to be.