Keeping mobile workers in sync

The most obvious way to exchange data with mobile workers is to use the

Internet. What is not so obvious is how to guarantee that the rovers are

working with the same data as the folks back in the office.

The iMobile Suite from Synchrologic Inc. can help keep your mobile workers

up to date. We found the latest release, Version 2.4.0, to be straightforward

and easy to use.

The suite has two components: The server component runs on Microsoft

Corp.'s Windows NT 4.0 and works with Internet Information Server. The client

component uses Microsoft's Internet Explorer and runs on various desktop

and handheld computer operating systems.

Installation on the server took less than 30 minutes, and the laptop

software took a few minutes. The iMobile Suite requires little hard drive

space — 15M for the server and 5M for the client.

When we installed iMobile Suite Server, we used the database that's

included on the Synchrologic CD-ROM — a run-time version of Sybase Inc.'s

Adaptive Server. This configuration has a downside, however: You can host

up to only five clients simultaneously.

With the server installed, we launched the iMobile Admin Console, which

is a plug-in to the Microsoft Management Console. We did not need the manual

that came with the product because the features in the Admin Console were

self-explanatory. We could have created new iMobile users, but we took advantage

of a feature letting us import existing Windows NT users. Then we created

groups of users, such as Accounting and Public Relations, who we could send

software and data deliveries.

The next step was to create publications — sets of files — and organize

them for distribution to specified users or user groups. The process for

creating publications was logical and easy to follow.

But we did have to look at the manual to see how to get the client software

launched. You have to use Internet Explorer to launch an HTML application

from your computer's local drive, not the server.

Using this local application, you enter the name of the server Web site

that you want to access to retrieve or send data, along with your user name

and password. The application connects with the site, and without even touching

a key, the application will copy the files available to you as specified

by the administrator.

Because iMobile also can automatically copy files from the client to

the server, it is an ideal tool for ensuring automatic backup of your mobile

workers' laptops and handhelds.

The client component, iMobile Connect, is made up of a series of ActiveX

controls and is quite powerful. For example, you can use iMobile as an electronic

software distribution tool to install new software to client machines.

There are products on the market similar to iMobile, such as Intellisync

from Puma Technologies Inc., and ScoutWare from Riverbed Technologies. But

iMobile does the job so well and with such ease of use that it's going to

take a compelling reason to look elsewhere.

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