The original idea of this article was to review BeInSync Pro as an online backup utility, in a similar vein to Carbonite, covered in our recent round-up of back-up apps. When we started to look at what BeInSync does, though, we saw that backup was just one aspect and not the main one of the product.
The name gives it away; the primary purpose of BeInSync is to synchronise the contents of several PCs, in a similar manner to Microsoft's Briefcase facility, but in a more comprehensive and easier to use way. Simply download and run the BeInSync front-end from the company's site, on each machine you want to synchronise, then run the BeInSync software and fill in the folder details.
You can sync every file in up to 15 folders on up to five PCs with the BeInSync Pro product and there's BeInSync Business if you need more than this. Most people will limit its use to popular data folders, like My Documents, My Pictures, My Music and My Video, though. The software offers these and some others, like Internet Favourites and the desktop, though not email inbox and contacts. These two are available through a separate Wizard.
Syncing is automatic and after the initial copying of files, only happens when you save new or modified versions.
The program is intelligent enough to spot potential duplication and asks which particular folders should be synchronised. This is important if you're synchronising between XP and Vista-based PCs as, for example, My Documents under XP becomes Documents under Vista and you could end up with two similarly-named folders on each PC, wasting a lot of space.
As an advert on BeInSync's own site reminds you, if you're syncing between home and office PCs, you need to take care which material is copied between them. It could be against company policy to take work files off site, for instance, or you might have files on a home machine you really don't want to appear on one at work.
When it comes to online backup, you get 5GB as standard, but can pay for more as you need it. Given the upload speeds of most broadband links in the UK, handling more than 5GB could be tedious, but many people's My Documents folders on their own exceed that limit. It may be necessary to select out within a big document folder and pick sub-folders containing just the most vital data.