When employees are working with your company's customers, you want them all to have the same current information, including everything from customer data to product price lists. You also want to keep, for example, interoffice phone lists and e-mail directories consistent and accurate. This means making sure databases - or whatever kind of files you use - stay synchronised. Software Pursuits' latest release of SureSync does this, letting you easily and automatically manage files stored in several locations across your network.
SureSync 2.1a synchronises files between servers, between servers and workstations, and even between workstations, on any machine it can access. It lets you decide when, how often, and how to synchronise the files, and you can establish rules and conditions controlling the synchronisation. Although SureSync is not a software-distribution package, it can also help distribute the files that a software-distribution package uses.
Few products compare with SureSync. Both Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS) and Novell's NetWare Replication Services are similar, but neither offer as much flexibility as SureSync. If you must synchronise files on networks that include Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows NT machines, SureSync is a powerful tool that will cleanly do the job.
SureSync installed quickly and easily on my NT server. The installation was greatly helped by the manual, which is clear and to the point. My test LAN consisted of a Microsoft NT 4.0 Server, two NetWare 4.11 servers, and five Windows 95/Windows 98 nodes. I tested SureSync by synchronising files between the NT and NetWare servers. I used it to keep the software-distribution systems on two servers in sync, which let my PCs receive software updates from the server, and to keep a number of server-based applications identical on both servers.
Relations and schedules
SureSync's two main functions concern relations and schedules. Relations define the connections between systems and let you select the drives, directories, file types, and files to be synchronised. Schedules define when and how often the relations will be refreshed.
When defining relations, the console software lets you select the source and target data via a point-and-shoot interface or by typing in the path. It also lets you specify the types of files to synchronise.
SureSync was very flexible, letting me decide if subdirectories could be created on the fly or if only pre-existing subdirectories could be syn-chronised. After setting up a relation, I used SureSync's preview to see which directories and files would be affected by that relation.
The scheduling options are equally flexible. I was able to tell SureSync when to run and what priority to use to minimise the impact of SureSync on other users; how to handle open files; and what to do when a copy failed. The scheduler also has a preview function, showing when synchronisations are scheduled. All of the controls are well laid out and are easy to navigate and understand.
Also, SureSync offers seven mirroring options - including mirroring from a master copy to one or more targets, which is useful for maintaining copies of a centrally controlled database. Mirroring can be bidirectional: changes in any mirrored relation are propagated throughout the relation. You can also move, rather than copy, a file, which deletes master files after distributing them.
When you're building relations and mirroring files, the source and target directories do not have the same names. If the SureSync server has access rights and is told how to reach the target directory, the data will be mirrored. If the source and target machines support Microsoft's Distributed Component Object Module (DCOM), SureSync will use DCOM to synchronise relations, which should reduce the system overhead, help insure the integrity of the copies, and let SureSync run as a system service on an NT server. If the systems do not support DCOM, SureSync will run as a program and use regular copy functions.
After completing a copy, SureSync compares the source and target files to make sure they are identical. If you need more performance, a checksum test can be enabled instead. Although faster, it isn't quite as reliable as the file comparison. All of the synchronisation activities are logged and alerts can be sent via an e-mail message to you.
SureSync's capability of assigning priority levels is not as precise as SMS' capability of limiting the bandwidth on transfers, but it is effective. Although my computers could not use DCOM, the system load was low, the transfers were quick, and there were no performance problems.
Also, SMS allows failed transfers to be resumed rather than restarted, as with SureSync. But because SureSync's synchronisation capabilities are more complex, resuming transfers may not be feasible.
The licensing of SureSync is a little confusing. You can purchase it by the server for about $600 per server or by the node for about $70 per node. The server licensing covers the software needed to synchronise from the server to workstations. In a peer-to-peer environment, per node licensing is more appropriate, but per server licensing will be most advantageous for network administrators working within an enterprise.
SureSync is very attractive and flexible. In fact, some system managers use it as a workstation backup product, although it wasn't designed for that use.
But it will probably benefit system managers in larger enterprise networks the most. Being able to synchronise files between servers without manually determining which files should go where, manually initiating the transfers, then checking transfer results will save you and your users lots of time and aggravation. Whatever the task, SureSync won't let you down.
The Bottom Line
SureSync makes data synchronisation accurate, automatic, and affordable. All of your sites, servers, and workstations can have the same information with very little drain on your IT staff's resources.
Pros: Easy to use; prioritises synchronisations to tailor the network load; has flexible scheduling; excellent documentation.
Cons: Cannot resume a failed synchronisation.
Platforms: Windows 95/98, Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3.0 or later.
Price: Download a 30-day demonstration free from the Web site. Pricing available on request.
Software Pursuits www.softwarepursuits.com