The Plight of the Standalone Microsoft Outlook User

These days, “the cloud” is all the buzz. The cloud, in terms of contact and calendar sync (among others), means using a service like Google, Gmail, or Windows Live (Hotmail). Just host your data in the cloud and it will magically show up on your device. Simple, right?

Not so, say the people (as they rise in mutiny).

Google started the move to store personal information in the cloud. First with email, then with calendar, and then with contacts. If you buy a new Android phone, all your email, contacts, and calendar data that is hosted in the Google cloud will magically synchronize with your phone. Oh, and this magic works with iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry too.

Microsoft joined the cloud party with their Windows Phone 7 launch. They now require people to have a Windows Live account in order to sync PC data to the device. This means Microsoft Outlook users who have maintained years of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes data on their PC now have to trust that data to the cloud. The cloud will then synchronize with Windows Phone 7.

So what’s wrong with this?

Well, for starters, we’ve already seen this movie! Palm tried the same thing with their Palm webOS launch.  They required people to have a Google account, which integrated with Palm Synergy. If you wanted to keep your PC data in sync with your webOS device, you had to first sync to your Google account in the cloud. The story for Palm didn’t end so well. (HP may beg to differ.)

While the cloud is an amazing resource that should be used, not all Outlook users can digest trusting their PC data to the cloud. Many people have security requirements in place that simply don’t allow cloud storage of their data. Others are leery of hosting their sensitive information online. Their question is simple, “I’ve used Outlook for years. Why am I now being forced to add a web-based account, and trust everything to that?”

The cloud providers will argue that you trust a lot of things to the cloud, whether you realize it or not. They’re right. Your credit card details you use for that online orders, tax returns you prepare and submit online, or the numerous online banking and bill-pay services you use – they all store data in the cloud. And we don’t even blink.

But this is different. It’s not an argument on the security of cloud storage. It’s about having options. Put simply, not everyone wants to sync their Outlook data to the cloud – and they shouldn’t have to!

The good news is that there are alternatives. You’ll need to find a tool that allows you to keep your data on your PC and sync directly to your device. There are a few ways to go about this:

1. Check if your phone’s manufacturer offers a sync solution. BlackBerry and iPhone both offer such solutions to directly sync with Outlook.  BlackBerry offers BlackBerry Desktop Software, and Apple offers iTunes. Android, on the other hand, is more fragmented (HTC has HTC Sync, Samsung offers Kies, etc).

2. If the option from the phone’s manufacturer is non-existent or insufficient for your needs, look for third-party software. Shameless plug – CompanionLink has software that can sync your Outlook contacts, calendars, tasks, memos, and categories to your mobile device. It works with all Android, iPhone, iPad, and BlackBerry devices. There are a number of other options available as well, but few offer the complete sync solution that CompanionLink does. For Android, SyncDroid has a solid list of most all of the sync options available. For iPhone and iPad, you’ll most likely have to piece together a solution from a few different apps in the App Store. For BlackBerry and other devices, your options are few and far between, but a search on Google should turn up some options.

In the end, the cloud is certainly where the industry is heading. As time goes on, it will likely become as ubiquitous and secure (or even more secure) than traditional data storage options. Until that time, however, those who wish to sync their data locally still do have options!

The Plight of the Standalone Microsoft Outlook User was last updated April 12th, 2011 by Rushang

7 thoughts on “The Plight of the Standalone Microsoft Outlook User

  1. Oops – I think I must have misunderstood what DoubleLook does. There are various options for AutoSync, but I still haven’t quite worked out what they mean. I still don’t know if I can have my PC “listen” continuously for my phone. Material for another blog, perhaps!

    • Glad to hear you like it! To answer your question about our Wi-Fi sync, as long as CompanionLink is open on your PC and both your phone and PC are on the same Wi-Fi network, CompanionLink can automatically sync changes between the PC and your phone every few minutes. You need to enable auto sync for this to occur, but after you do, pushing the sync button is not required. Does this make sense?

      • Thank you for responding so promptly. Yes, it makes sense. However, I’d like to check some details:

        I’ve actually got two CompanionLink icons, although I note they both start the same executable, just with different parameters. When I quit CompanionLink, the process seems to keep running in Task Manager.

        Is this OK for the Autosync to work? Or do I need an actual CompanionLink window open?

        I’ve set the AutoSync interval to four hours. Obviously I don’t need to do anything on the PC once that’s set, but do I need to enable anything on the phone? Wi-Fi, of course, but anything in DejaOffice?

        Will it sync if the phone is asleep (I mean, I’ve switched it “off”, but it is still running the phone and Wi-Fi radios).

        Incidentally, if I force a manual sync to fail by not having the phone’s Wi-Fi switched on, the application will crash with an error message (something about “The MFC application has failed”, or words to that effect). Is there somewhere I can report this bug?

        Thanks again, David.

        • Sorry to keep hogging this place! Played around and yes, it all happens automatically, so long as the WiFi is activated on the phone (obviously). It’s great: syncing with Outlook at whatever interval you like, with no user intervention, is marvellous.

          I hope this is of use to others who might be reading.

        • Looks like you may have answered some of this yourself, but just to verify for you and anyone else reading:

          – the two icons are likely for “Setup” – where you’ll configure things, and “sync” – where you can quickly initiate a sync if you’re using manual sync methods.

          – the process in the task manager runs so that the sync will keep going even though you’ve closed the main CompanionLink window.

          – as long as you’re on the same Wi-Fi network (as you noted below), your data should sync automatically.

          – as for the bug, that’s something our tech team should hear about. If you wouldn’t mind sending me an email to social@companionlink.com with a description of the bug & error message, I’ll make sure our techs see it, thanks!

  2. I’m trialling CompanionLink for Outlook 2010 with my Android phone (running DejaOffice) right now, and I’m very impressed. For the first time I’ve got a solution which will replace my faithful Palm Treo 680. It’s just great to be able to keep my phone and Outlook synced without sending my data through (or storing it in) the “cloud”.

    Also, I like being able to sync via Wi-Fi if I want, instead of having to use a USB cable.

    One thing: I wish DoubleLook was enabled, so my PC would permanently listen out for a sync request from my phone. Right now I have to initiate the sync on both the PC *and* the phone within a few seconds of each other. This kinda defeats the object as I have to take the phone with me to the PC, at which point I might as well plug the USB lead in.

    Nevertheless, syncing Outlook 2010 on my PC with DejaOffice on my Android is just brilliant. If you need this facility for your Android, then CompanionLink and DejaOffice seem to be your only option. And it’s a very good option.

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