This blog post was written by David Trounce from Help Desk Geek. Follow him here.
Data Synchronization is another way of saying, “Save the document here and open it there.” On paper, it sounds easy and for the most part, that's the reason why we use it to conduct business these days. You may actually be one of those people who use data synchronization and not even know it! Don’t be surprised if that's the case.
Data Synchronization is so present in everyday life that it is almost taken for granted, but what exactly is it?
Synchronization could be as simple as two computers sharing access to the same database via a local area network (LAN) within a small business, whether that connection is wired or wireless.
Synchronizing Google Drive and Windows 10 Explorer is a common use-case.
With this setup, two computers in two different offices connect to the small business server (on-site or off-site) so that synchronization can (and does) occur.
However, it's not just limited to the physical location of one office or one server. Through modern technology, synchronization can occur across the globe and that's the true genius of the cloud. This is exaclty what small businesses have been using it for.
Cloud Storage: OneDrive
It's highly likely that you're already using components that are frequently used in the cloud, like data storage. Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and OneDrive are perfect examples.
Take OneDrive for example. It's virtual storage for the Microsoft 365 Office suite which has its own set of software applications (i.e. Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint). You can access these apps via the cloud server instead of having to purchase and install the desktop version(s). It does this by storing the software suite via OneDrive.
In order to utilize cloud apps in a way that is functional and beneficial, diversification and cross-compatibility need to be a part of the mix.
Diversification and Cross-Compatibility
This diversification and cross-compatibility come in many different forms and flavors. For example, Insync does an exceptional job of covering these aspects from different directions, perspectives, and from complete coverage of the needs presented by a question of diversification and cross-compatibility. To get an idea of what this means, check out the list of what Insync covers as a part of their data synchronization service:
- Platforms (like Windows, Mac, Linux) and Multiple Devices (even the same platform/OS);
- Accounts (like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive);
- Shared Drives (offline; workflow management; Google’s Shared Drives; Microsoft SharePoint);
- Peripherals (like the external drive to that Google Drive and/or OneDrive).
While it is true that one could synchronize data between like-minded devices and operating systems, what fun is there in that?
More realistically, how far would you get with only synchronizing data between the same type of machines (devices) and the same operating system? At some point, there is going to be a glitch. It makes more sense to open the floodgates and allow for cross-platform synchronization.
That would include Windows, Mac, and Linux, to name a few.
Compatibility with Other Drives
Example: OneDrive and Google Drive.
The ability to synchronize between multiple accounts is what really sets a data synchronization service apart from its competitors.
The ability to accept that the cloud is the cloud and that part of that is the very connection (synchronization) between different types of drives is what truly gives you the versatility that you want (and need!).
It is like the glue that helps the small business hold its data together and yet create workflows that keep it flexible.
The Benefits of Data Synchronization in Small Business
When it comes to the reasons, benefits, and uses for data synchronization in the small business realm, we are not talking about some once-in-a-lifetime event or something for the history books (or channel).
We are looking at the efficiency, collaboration, and security that are made possible because of technology like data synchronization in daily, regular use of business applications. After all, what benefit is there, truly, if the technology is not used and not utilized to its fullest, which includes daily, regular use in the business world?
And, when it comes to the business world, the widespread adoption of the technology is most readily met when it is introduced and extended through the small business realm.
Good Common Business Sense
There are good common-sense reasons for implementing a solid data synchronization plan in your small business. The problem is, sometimes we don’t see that common sense part until it is too late. So, let’s take a look at some potential issues that could happen when data synchronization (and specifically quality synchronization) is not a part of the overall small business strategy and why it makes sense to remedy that.
Personalized Service – Closing the Deal
How about the use of data and specifically, data synchronization, in offering superior customer service and support, like beyond the call of duty?
By way of example, West Coast burger joint, the In-N-Out Burger are known for offering exceptional service and in many cases, it seems that that can be attributed to their implementation of data synchronization.
When their drive-thru lanes become full and overflowing the employees will visit the drivers at their window and take their orders.
This information is entered into the employee’s tablet and synchronized with the restaurant kitchen as well as the order taker’s computer at the window.
This provides for an accurate, efficient order process; a very pleasant, personalized experience.
Efficiency and Ease of Use
Back in the day we liked the idea of being able to grab a floppy disk (back when they really were floppy) and inserting it into a computer, moving files onto it, ejecting it (or simply pulling it out), and taking it with us in one of those cool disk notebooks.
In this scenario, we had one thing going for us. We could transfer data from one place to another. In some cases, if the data was simple text, and in special circumstances, we could possibly move it from one type of device to another. For the most part, all we had was the ability to move data from one location to another.
Not only is there the ease of use, transferring data via the click of a button (instead of a floppy disk) but there is also such a thing as saving time.
What if we could calculate the amount of time saved?
The makers of PieSync, another cloud app, calculated that for the general public and come up with a quantitative measurement of time saved by using their cloud app. They calculated that 25 hours could be saved per month.
Granted, their calculation is their analysis and there are no guarantees but even if one day is saved per month, that is still money saved in your small business and that is an increase in the profit margin.
Good Clean Data
There are two general categories of data synchronization. They are functionality and governance (i.e. requirements by governing entities, meant to protect the data and the individuals and entities represented by and with the data).
As a part of fulfilling the needs for and with the data, within these two categories, there is a need to clean the data (remove the outdated and invalid portions of the data; replacing those portions with the updated, valid data).
There is also the need to ensure reliable synchronization of data across the network (whether it is the local or the more global/cloud network). The method of synchronization does vary but accomplishes similar goals.
Collaboration and Flexibility
With cloud apps that allow for two-way, real-time synchronization, there is much more flexibility and real-time collaboration than there ever was before.
Applications (and people) can interface with other applications, other languages, platforms, devices, you name it. Now it is about connecting, and more importantly, synchronization, between the cloud apps and what is available via a wireless connection.
A Few Must-Have Data Sync Features and Provisions
There are some things that we should require when looking for a data synchronization service solution.
Reliable hosting is essential for effective and reliable data synchronization. We are not talking about your simple freebie web hosting here but the actual hosting of the server that handles the software and the networking between the sub-servers and other computers that handle the functionality of the cloud.
If the hosting of these computers and servers is not handled properly and if it is not reliable, there can be interruptions in the transfer of the data, the data synchronization.
The small business owner can check online reviews, HostScore and recommendations to find out about the data synchronization service provider and how reliable they are as a service.
Security is something that is very important when it comes to data. As Talend states, “How data moves through your system needs to meet certain regulatory standards as they relate to specific industries as well as to privacy laws.”
In order to ensure that data is secure, at the source where it is/was created as well as in its synchronization process, the data needs to be encrypted and that is something that is handled via a secure server.
The key thing (no pun intended) is that you need your data to be secure and in order to ensure that your data is secure, you need a system administrator who knows what he or she is doing, when it comes to secure data, data encryption, etc.
Or, a more direct route is to ensure that the service that is providing your data synchronization service employs people who know what they are doing and have this part of the equation covered for you so you don’t have to worry about it personally.
Nice-To-Have Data Sync Features
In addition to the must-haves when it comes to data synchronization, there are also nice-to-haves that we may want to add to our list(s).
Choosing What to Sync – When and Where
Insync calls this service, this ability to select what to sync, Selective Sync 2.0. That makes sense when you consider how the process is carried out and how the files, folders, etc. are chosen.
This feature allows the user to select which files, folders, etc. should be synced with each service. For example, if a person is syncing their desktop computer (a.k.a. desktop), a cloud storage service (a.k.a. drive), and their laptop computer (a.k.a. laptop), they could select which files show up in which locations.
Ability to Open Documents in Different Software Solutions
Due to the variety of software packages being used, there is a greater need for documents to be able to be opened in multiple software packages without any delays or hiccups.
Granted, this may not be an absolute requirement when it comes to data synchronization service but it is certainly a nice-to-have feature to have a service that provides automatic document conversion. And, with virtual teams and collaboration and efficiency being high on the list for small businesses, this conversion opportunity becomes that much more essential.
Easy Filtering Capabilities
What if, by typing a word or two, you could direct your data synchronization process to do what you wanted it to do and it only took seconds? Sure, you could use the selective process to choose which files or folders would be synched and when but wouldn’t it be much simpler (and quicker) to come up with a keyword or phrase that tells the system to ignore a particular file?
Insync employees the process of using a filter to handle the heavy lifting for us and apply a variety of Ignore Rules.
The process involves setting up a filter that tells the synching process to ignore any file or folder with a particular keyword present. All you need to do is add that keyword to the filename and the synchronization process will automatically ignore it.
By choosing the right data synchronization service provider and utilizing the service appropriately, small businesses can see the potential for improvements in the following areas:
- Sales information that helps clients to make informed decisions.
- Customer information that helps the small business to properly and adequately serve their customers… in a way that is both beneficial to the customers and the small business.
- Product and service information that helps the small business to learn about areas for improvement and improving their services, moving forward in their own business while also serving their customers and clients in a meaningful manner.
- Vendor information to help negotiate meaningful transactions and relationships between companies, aiding in the improvement for all entities involved.
- Upper management, as well as investors, having a thumb on the workings of the small business in a way that helps them help the small business and vice versa.
With time, data synchronization has the opportunity to improve and to offer that much more when it comes to functionality, efficiency, and the effectiveness of the small business. The technology has already moved the business industry forward and we have a positive future in front of us, thanks to data synchronization.