Sync to Swim

This is a tale of two places. Sort of. Work and home. Desk and couch. Hither and yon. And of how you can have your digital stuff in two – or more – places at once.

There was a time when your computer files could only be used on one computer at a time. You could copy your stuff and carry it to another computer, but it was a copy. If you changed the copy, then you had to carry it, with your changes, back to your main machine and make sure that you replaced the old version of your stuff so that you didn’t confuse yourself later on.

Since the emergence of the Internet and portable connected devices, tablets and smartphones and the like, a handy technology called “sync” has also arrived. Sync lets you have your data files like documents or photos in two or more places at once. And, as the name implies, the changes that you make in one place automatically get synchronized with all the other places. Very handy, and very cool.

The functioning of sync is pretty straightforward. When you save a file on one of your devices, that file gets automatically copied to storage in the Internet cloud. From there it is instantly available to all of your other devices. For example, if you have a document on your computer that you’d like to review or edit on your laptop or tablet, you save it in your cloud storage. Then, on your laptop, open the document from your cloud space. If you make changes, save the document back to your cloud space, and the changes are reflected right back to your computer. This is not the same as emailing a copy to yourself. That’s a copy. Syncing means that you’re working on the same document in two (or more) places at once. Not a copy.

Where Is This Cloud Space?

If you have a computer or a smartphone, you already have cloud storage space for your use. It might be Dropbox, or Apple “iCloud,” or Google “Drive,” or Microsoft “OneDrive,” or any number of other similar services.

How Do You Use Syncing?

Typically, when you have sync set up, you’ll have a folder on your device(s) named for the sync service that you’re using, such as: “Dropbox,” “OneDrive,” or “Google Drive.”

From your point of view, this folder works like any other folder: You save digital stuff in it. The syncing is automatic. All folder functions are as usual – rename, copy, delete, and so on. The specifics depend on the service, the device, and how you have it set up, but in general the functions are all the same. All of the sync services work with all devices. For example, Apple’s “iCloud” also works on Windows computers and Android phones.

You’ll need an account with the service to use it, but all of them have free versions with a basic amount of storage. Once you have an account, you just download and log on to an app on your devices (if it’s not already pre-installed). Once installed and logged on, the syncing starts automatically. Copy a file into your sync folder, then go log on with your other devices. Your synced data will already be there ready to use! There are many other features and functions of syncing, but this is enough to let you have your data in two places at once without copying and carrying.

Mike Pepper, The Computer Guy, has been providing software and hardware support in New York and Connecticut for more than 35 years. He can be reached at (845) 855-5824, or