While Dropbox is the primary file sync solution for most of the LockerGnome team, it certainly isn’t the only solution out there. I first realized the potential for services like Dropbox while using the Live Mesh beta Microsoft launched several years ago. At that time, Live Mesh support for Mac OS X wasn’t there yet, which meant I couldn’t easily get files to all the places I wanted them. Dropbox further outpaced Live Mesh by supporting iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. Microsoft lags in this type of mobile device support. As Microsoft transitions Live Mesh out of beta, it’s being combined with Live Sync and replaced with Windows Live Mesh.
Having said that, Live Mesh and its usurper, Windows Live Mesh, are great products for what they do. With support for Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Mac OS X version 10.5 or later, Windows Live Mesh meets the needs of many home computer users who simply want to access the files they need from anywhere. Windows Live Mesh works in a fashion similar to Dropbox, with folder monitoring on each of the computers in your mesh, where files are copied to the various computers so you can access them as you need them. You can share a file or folder with anyone through SkyDrive, the online component of Windows Live Mesh. I also like the ability to Live Mesh enable any folder, which is a better experience than having only one folder in the form of the Dropbox folder.
Possibly the biggest shortcoming of this whole project is the 5GB limitation of SkyDrive. Here again, I can get better performance from Dropbox, but the tradeoff is needing to use that one Dropbox folder as the primary folder. For my needs this works, but if you have a specific methodology of sorting your files, Windows Live Mesh allows you to keep your system.
Windows Live Mesh also competes with services like LogMeIn, allowing you to control a remote PC through the Web interface, but I don’t see that as a key feature because it isn’t cross-platform. I still contend Windows Live Mesh has inherited the vision of the Windows Briefcase that first appeared over 15 years ago, allowing you to sync files at home and work. Windows Live Mesh takes this a step further, allowing you to easily sync small files, like office documents and images, but falls short of being the complete solution for the mobile media worker like me with video files typically running in the 2GB range.
If you are currently using Live Mesh, be sure to transition to Windows Live Mesh or you will lose access to all your online synced files after March 31, 2011.