Synchronizing without being rube goldberg: plaxo is my hero

From the Mediator Tech blog of Tammy Lenski.

plaxoSome would say that sychronization is the holy grail for small business owners. That is, synchronization of calendars, address books, and even email across multiple computers and PDAs.

About a year ago, I purchased a Mac for my home office, my first move away from PC-hood in over two decades. It’s proven to be just the right move for me, but it created a synchronization conundrum: How to sync my appointment and address books between my phone, my home office Mac, and my office PC, and how to access both from any Internet-connected computer when I’m on the road? Oh yeah: And how to do it all easily?

The answer to the first question wasn’t so hard to achieve. I discovered all sorts of programs lining up to offer me hope: SyncMyCal, Missing Sync, CompanionLink, SpanningSync, Calgoo, and others. Some of these also helped answer the second question, particularly with my use of Google Apps for online viewing of my schedule and contacts.

But the answer to the third question eluded me, always just out of reach, but close enough I could feel its presence. To achieve what I wanted took several sync programs working with one another in sequence–and challenged me to remember the Rube Goldberg-esque methods I’d created in my increasingly Quixotic quest for the holy grail.

It was Plaxo that finally rescued me. And it’s come as close to “simple synchronization” as any method I’ve used. It’s free, though there is also a premium option for a few additional services. The equipment I now sync includes:

  • MacBook Pro with iCal and Address Book.
  • Two Dell Latitude PCs, one running Vista and Outlook 2007 and other running XP and Outlook 2003.
  • Google Apps using Gmail and Google Calendar.
  • Apple iPhone (via iCal and Address Book).

Plaxo allows you to create “sync points” that include Outlook, Outlook Express, Google calendar (but not, alas, Gmail contacts–no one can sync to it yet), iCal, Mac Address Book, Thunderbird, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, Windows Mail and even LinkedIn contacts. Once you set up all the sync points and in some instances, download a piece of software to your computer(s), Plaxo works quietly in the background to synchronize (though you can manually sync if you’re in a hurry to get an appointment synched, for instance, before you power down for the day).

Plaxo’s history hasn’t been entirely smooth. Apparently they used to contact people in the address books of Plaxo users, essentially spamming those folks in attempts to get them to sign up for Plaxo too. After a deserved backlash, that practice stopped in 2006 and I’ve had no such experiences. Here are two of Plaxo’s current privacy policy statements: Who does Plaxo share my information with? and Plaxo privacy choices.

Thank you, Plaxo. Rube Goldberg has left my life once again.
Copyright © 2007 by Tammy Lenski. All rights reserved.


Tammy Lenski

Dr. Tammy Lenski helps individuals, pairs, teams, and audiences navigate disagreement better, address friction, and build alignment. Her current work centers on creating the conditions for robust collaboration and sound decisions while fostering resilient personal and professional relationships. Her conflict resolution podcast and blog, Disagree Better, are available at… MORE >

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