Windows users have had the luxury of using an application like GoodSync for years, giving them the ability to sync or backup important folders both over a local network or even remotely.
Siber Systems has finally developed a Mac version of GoodSync and, though it’s not as feature-rich as its Windows counterpart, it still does an admirable job of ensuring that your folders and files are safely copied and archived.
The bonus is that it can do this between various directories, be they two computers (Windows or Mac) or a computer with an external storage device, FTP, WebDav or another server. Plus, GoodSync doesn’t need to be installed on any of the computers you’re tapping into. Let’s take a look at how it works.
Set Up Your First Job
After downloading and installing the software, you will see the opening screen to get you started on your first “Job”. GoodSync uses that term to describe any sync or backup you set up for two folders. When you click to start your first Job, you can name it and then choose whether you want the two folders to sync or backup.
Synchronizing the two means that any changes made to any of the files within the folder are reflected on both sides, regardless of which of the two folders you made the changes in. For example, if you’re syncing a folder with your emails from Entourage or Apple’s Mail app, and you have access from both work and home, then any messages you’ve sent or received will show up in both folders. Same goes for anything you delete or move as well.
Backup is simply one-way copying of a folder’s contents from one side to the other. This means that you can delete anything you want from the root folder without it being reflected in the backup folder. All the backup folder will look for is new files that it hasn’t copied over already.
This is good for media files like video and music where changes aren’t as likely other than adding files — as well as for any archives that you’re putting together. Another good thing about backup is that you can restore any files that may have been corrupted or accidentally deleted. But for those folders that have files where changes and deletions are common, syncing is your best bet.
Once you’ve decided what you want to do, you’ll see the main transfer screen. Click the folder icon on the left and choose which folder you want to sync or backup from. Then click the right icon and choose which folder you want to copy or sync the contents to (create a new folder, if you need to).
Though you can change the direction in which folders copy to each other (left to right or right to left), I did it left to right, so I’ll use that as my example here.
Start Syncing and Backing Up
With everything in place, you can now get started in actually transferring files over. Click the Analyze button on the top left and let GoodSync scan the root folder for a list of the contents inside. This process usually doesn’t take very long, and should be fairly seamless. Once it’s finished, you can click the Sync button and watch the files move from one side to the other.
As you might expect, the first time you sync or backup a folder will take a while to complete. This is especially true if you’re doing this with folders that have many gigabytes of data in them. A 13GB folder of many of my photos took over three hours to backup, for example. But once that initial backup was done, copying over any additional files didn’t take very long at all.
Having said all that, it also matters how and where you’re copying to. Copying to a USB or FireWire external will make things go much faster than transferring files over a local network or to remote storage.
You can tell GoodSync to automatically sync or backup periodically, on startup or whenever the two folders are able to connect to each other. Go to File > Options to bring up the window of choices.
Under the Auto tab, you can choose how you want to automate your backup. Doing it periodically makes sense if you have constant access to a mounted network drive or FTP. Doing so whenever there’s a line of sight between the two folders works well if you’re using an external hard drive or flash drive that you plug in via USB. Startup is fine, but it’s typically the most manual of the automated options available here.
Periodically syncing or backing up means you can set the duration of time between each sync or backup process. This can be as much as every 12 hours to as little as every five minutes. It’s all up to you. Unfortunately, you will need to keep GoodSync open, since the app wasn’t developed with a small menu bar icon to manage everything for you.
If you like the idea of syncing or backing up an existing folder to another folder in another location, you can clone the same Job by going to File > Clone.
You should also keep in mind that GoodSync doesn’t like files that have certain characters in them like slashes, colon, semi-colons and some others. Once it detects those, they go to the Errors list and don’t get synced or backed up.
Whenever you want to see all the Jobs you have created, you can either click the small arrow icon on the very top left above the Analyze button, or go to View>Job List to see them pop out on the lefthand side.
Considering how vitally important backing up files is, an app like GoodSync can come in handy. It’s $29.95 price tag might seem a bit hefty at first, but the peace of mind it can provide by keeping your files safely archived makes it worth the cost in spades.
That said, this Mac version of GoodSync isn’t as deep as the one Windows users have enjoyed. A mini-icon on the menu bar with a pop-up bubble telling you what GoodSync is actually doing would be nice, since I didn’t see any actual method for realizing when a backup or sync was being initiated.
Still, while you can set up backups with certain products and services out there to a solitary location, GoodSync is useful in that it can do that for many locations from one central source.
So, for example, if you wanted to back up a folder you keep on a USB stick, you can plug it in and sync it automatically to an FTP, while also backing up files to your network attached storage drive at home. That kind of flexibility is hard to beat.