Everything But the Kitchen Sync

Things are heating up in the consumer file-syncing space, with startups aggressively boasting about their feature adds. Boulder-based ProtectMyPhotos, which you can read about in this TechCrunch post, offered us the “exclusive” on their addition of auto-synchronization from their mobile and browser apps down to the photo (or other files) stored on a Windows PC. I replied to the pitch, asking how this was any different from Sharpcast, a company I’ve covered before. The ProtectMyPhotos team promised a demo would show me the light, and brought what seemed like the whole company on a WebEx conference call.

Basically, the key difference is ProtectMyPhotos automatically rewrites any changes you make to your photos in any of its apps to the original files. Edits, deletions, and reorganizations are reflected on an unlimited number of computers registered with the service. The company (like many other photo tools) also auto-detects any new photo files on your machines and adds them to your account. And ProtectMyPhotos CEO Cliff Shaw promises they never actually delete anything, in case you want it back.

That seems useful enough — especially if all your photos are things you want to share, and all your devices are things you want to share with. But all this automatic transfer could end up being a problem if you have something to hide, use employer-owned computers, or just want a little more privacy. Shaw says you can turn off the auto-updates if you really need to.

I asked Sharpcast CEO Gibu Thomas why his product doesn’t overwrite desktop files, and he admitted ProtectMyPhotos had identified a hole in the current Sharpcast offering. But this kind of automation will be in the next release, he said, calling it trivial. Then he got a little feisty, saying Sharpcast is the only consumer-oriented company that has implemented “push” synchronization (like a BlackBerry) to make updates appear across all the apps as soon as they are made. “I don’t think you can make the sync any better,” he said incredulously. “Would you sync it before the change?!?”
All in all, a fun little excursion into the world of synchronization. Personally, up-to-the-second photo transfer isn’t something I’ve been yearning for. But both startups say they’d like to tackle a whole lot more (though ProtectMyPhotos is a bit of a locked-in name, eh?), so we’ll have to check back with them in the future.

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