Sync Outlook and Google 5x Faster Than Before


We are happy to announce a new feature that enables a substantial speed increase when syncing with Outlook or Google. We call this feature “Optimized Update Sync” and we think you’re going to love it!

Optimized Update Sync (OUS) is now available in CompanionLink build 4044. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, head over to the downloads page to do so now! Our tests have shown sync speed increases of 5x on average. Some sync configurations even synced as much as 18x faster! Take a look at a sample of our tests below:

Reading this chart is fairly simple. “OLx32 Google 5000 50 Off” looks confusing at first, but it means we tested Outlook 32-bit syncing to Google with a database of 5000 contacts that had 50 changes and Optimized Update Sync Off. In a nutshell, the top bar of each group shows the sync with OUS off, while to bottom bar of each group shows the sync with it on. You can see the difference it makes!

A few notes for those of you excited to try out OUS:

  • – OUS is currently implemented for Outlook and/or Google. Expect it to be implemented for other platforms in the near future.
  • – OUS can be enabled/disabled via the Options menu. It is enabled by default.
  • – OUS does not affect initial syncs, P&Rs or rereads.

Full release notes after the break: Continue reading

Is CompanionLink Part of the Google Tax?

Img Credit: The Globe And Mail

Does Google Apps come with “hidden fees?” That’s what Tom Rizzo of Microsoft indicates in a recent blog post about the hidden costs of Google Apps. In fact, he refers to the extra costs as the “Google Tax” – the costs one would incur if they started using Google Apps to manage email, contacts, calendar, tasks, desktop publishing, and document management.

It’s no secret that many people are searching for a replacement for Microsoft Office. What’s most interesting, perhaps, is that they aren’t actually switching. In fact, Microsoft’s findings show that 9 out of 10 people use Google Apps in conjunction with Microsoft Office; not as a replacement for Microsoft Office. The “Google Tax,” however, still applies. Microsoft mentions CompanionLink as an example of a third-party application that is required if two-way synchronization between Outlook and Google Apps is desired. CompanionLink is part of the Google tax, claims Microsoft in a white paper they published.

Under the scenario where Google Apps is used in conjunction with Microsoft Office, CompanionLink is, in fact, a key component of the Google Apps ecosystem. CompanionLink allows people to keep their Microsoft Outlook contacts and calendar in sync with Google Apps. In fact, CompanionLink supports any Google, Gmail, or Google Apps account – paid or free.

Arguably, people using paid Google Apps services don’t need to use CompanionLink. Google offers a tool called Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook as part of any paid edition of Google Apps. If you’re on a free edition of Google Apps or using a free Google or Gmail account, you don’t have this option and need to look at 3rd party software like CompanionLink.

Even with Google’s tools, however, paying customers are offered forum-based support only. To some degree, this makes sense – they are a cloud-based company, after all. Phone or email support may not fit the cloud model.

This is where CompanionLink really shines.

In addition to numerous advance features, CompanionLink provides both email and US-based phone support. CompanionLink guarantees the synchronization between Google and Microsoft Outlook works on day one and day 365.

So, is CompanionLink a part of a “Google Tax?” Maybe. But we feel strongly that the ability to pick up the phone and talk to someone is, on its own, well worth the cost of admission (which, by the way, is a one-time license fee of $49.95).

Google Task Sync: Coming Soon to CompanionLink

As some of you may already know, we currently handle the synchronization of tasks via Google by converting tasks to Google Calendar events. When moved to the Calendar, tasks are dated by the due date in Outlook or Palm Desktop. Past Due tasks are moved to a special entry on “Today” so they are on the date of the last sync. This will remain an option in CompanionLink, but soon we’ll be adding an alternative option.

Recently, Google released an API for Google Tasks. This means that we can more closely interact with Google Tasks data. Within the next month or so, we plan to add the ability to sync tasks from programs like Outlook and Palm Desktop to Google. For people looking to sync their CRM database to the Google cloud, this will be a great option. However, for those looking to sync tasks from their database to their mobile device, this is not yet an option. Google Tasks doesn’t sync natively to any phone (not even Android!).

If you’re looking to sync tasks to your phone, your best choice is to use CompanionLink to synchronize via Wi-Fi or USB, directly to your Android or iOS device. With these sync solutions we are able to provide Outlook-like tasks on your mobile device and are not limited by Google’s Task limitations. For example, Google Tasks don’t have Priority and Reminders.  DejaOffice, on the other hand, provides a full set of features including priority, recurring tasks, reminders, categories, status, and more.

To learn more about DejaOffice, head over to www.dejaoffice.com.

Android Fragmentation: A Real Problem or A Hyped Non-Issue?

If there’s one topic surrounding the Android OS that comes up time and time again, it’s the issue of fragmentation. With so many devices and variations of the OS, developing for Android can be difficult. Before deciding if this is a real problem or simply a non-issue, let’s take a step back and define what we’re talking about.

Put simply, Google developed the core code for Android and has allowed device manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung, and HTC to create custom variations of this code. Google likes this because it gets their OS on a wide variety of handsets. The device manufacturers like this because the bulk of the software work is done for them and they can focus on customizing the OS. End users like this because they have a plethora of choices, all with the same basic features that they’re looking for. Developers, on the other hand, aren’t as keen about the whole situation.

Back in October, the popular Twitter client, TweetDeck, shared some information regarding the variety of devices and OS’s that their app was currently running on.

Img Credit: TweetDeck

At first glance, there are quite a few OS versions to support. That said, looking at it differently you could conclude that a good 80% of users are on Android 2.1 and above. If you write an app to support OS 2.1 and higher, you can expect it to work on the majority of Android handsets with very little issue, right? Well, maybe. For some applications, this is entirely true.

For others, however, writing an application that works is far different than writing one that works properly. With all the custom variations of the OS, an application may not behave as expected. If you’re a developer writing for Android, guaranteeing that your app works on all Android device means buying dozens of devices to test it on. For most developers, this simply isn’t feasible.

I think we can all agree that fragmentation on the Android platform exists. So the question becomes “is it a problem?” In my opinion, almost. What I mean by this is that unless it’s addressed, it could spiral out of control to the point that it simply isn’t manageable. It may get to the point that certain apps only work on certain devices. Want to play Angry Birds? Get a Samsung phone.

That said, I don’t think it will get that far. In fact, Google has already released a tool to help curtail the issue, and they recently partnered with manufacturers to help ensure devices are kept up to date. Is it enough? Maybe for now, but it’s not a complete solution. So how does Google minimize the imminent fragmentation problem while maintaining the openness that many of us love about the Android platform? Well, that’s the big question, now isn’t it?

Prices Are Changing On June 1

Beginning June 1, 2011 we are increasing the price of the following products by $10. The new prices will be as follows:

  • CompanionLink for Outlook: $49.95
  • CompanionLink for Palm Desktop: $49.95
  • CompanionLink for Google: $49.95
  • CompanionLink for Time & Chaos: $49.95
  • CompanionLink Express: $79.95

This nominal increase will allow us to continue providing free US-based phone support to our customers. Providing world-class support is important to us. In fact, we offer free support even before you buy. We stand behind our software and want to ensure your experience with it is a great one!

If you are still determining whether or not to buy our software, we recommend you do so before the price change. We offer a no-questions-asked, 90-day money-back guarantee in case you decide to return our software.

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!

Why All Sprint Customers Should Go Sign Up For Google Voice

Google recently announced complete integration between Google Voice and Sprint phone numbers. In my opinion, this is huge news. Sprint customers will be able to link their number to Google Voice and instantly take advantage of all the great features that Google Voice offers. This all works seamlessly, without requiring an app of any kind on the phone.

As a Sprint customer using Google Voice, you’ll be able to forward calls to other phones, take advantage of voicemail transcriptions, send (and archive) texts online, make calls from your Sprint number via Gmail, and more. Having such easy and ubiquitous access to your call history, text messages, voicemail, and more can be a huge productivity boon. For some time now our phones have been able to augment our computer use. It’s about time our computers truly do the same for our phone use!

If you’re a Sprint customer ready to integrate with Google Voice, head over to http://www.google.com/googlevoice/sprint/ to get started. If you’re on one of the other networks (like myself), well, you’ll have to wait patiently and hope that the other carriers follow suit!

Do You Own Your Data?

If Google were to completely shut down right now, would you lose anything? There’s no doubt that many of use would lose thousands of important contacts, calendars, emails, and more! In fact, many of us would be left digitally crippled, with irreplaceable information suddenly gone.

Of course, nobody is expecting this to happen. Then again, 3 years ago few Sidekick users would say they expected their service to disappear either. Unfortunately, T-Mobile recently confirmed that on May 31st all Sidekick services will, in fact, be shut down. When this occurs, Sidekick users will no longer have access to the cloud-based system that defined their devices. Users will no longer be able to access their contacts, calendars, notes, and more. Of course, T-Mobile will be offering solutions for migrating this data to other devices, so all is not lost. However, the news brings up an important point: Owning your data is crucial!

While this may not have been true 3 years ago, I’d be willing to bet that many Sidekick users have come to expect this news more recently. Gmail users, on the other hand, don’t expect to lose their data at any time. But that is exactly what happened just a few days ago. Thousands of Gmail users woke up to an empty inbox. While their data has since been restored (thanks to Google’s redundant backup system), many were without access to important information for days. A hit like that can have a serious effect on your productivity, especially if you rely on services like these for work.

All this said, I don’t want to say cloud-based services are bad. On the contrary, I believe they can be amazingly useful. What is bad, however, is entrusting them with the only copy of your data, because at that point it’s not really your data! In order to access it, you need to be connected to the cloud. In the event of service downtime, you are without access to your data. If you can’t access something when you want to, do you really own it?

Whether you decide to simply back up the information or sync your data to another source, I highly recommend taking the steps necessary to make a copy of your cloud-based data. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do you’ll be extremely grateful for the offline copy! So what are you waiting for? Choose to own your data!

Tech Tip: Use CompanionLink with Google’s New “2-Step Verification” Feature

Google recently rolled out a new security feature called “2-step verification.” As Google puts it, this is designed to add an extra layer of security to your account by “requiring you to have access to your phone – as well as your username and password – when you sign in. This means that if someone steals or guesses your password, the potential hijacker still can’t sign in to your account because they don’t have your phone.”

While this feature certainly makes your Google Account more secure, it can cause applications that need access to your account, such as CompanionLink, to stop working with your usual Google/Gmail password. Google planned for this, however, and built in a solution. You simply need to set up an “application-specific password.” This is a special password that only works with the specified application. If  you have taken advantage of Google’s more secure login system (or if you want to), you’ll need to be sure to create an application-specific password for CompanionLink to ensure uninterrupted syncing.

Google has posted a guide with instructions on how to create an application-specific password.

Google planning Android-powered television

Image Source: cnet.com

Google recently announced plans to bring their Android operating system into living rooms everywhere. Google, Intel, and Sony are working on a set-top box that would integrate traditional television overlayed with online elements. The potential is tremendous- news, emails, music, videos and more all instantly available on the TV, and integrated into the programming.

CompanionLink currently ships sync products for Android devices that allows users to sync their contacts, calendar, tasks and memos from their desktop PCs. It is not currently known if Google’s TV product will have modules for business functionality, such as a calendar. This is something we here at CompanionLink will keep our eyes on as it develops.

More info on Google’s project here.