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Synchronizing the Enterprise
By Chris De Herrera , Copyright 2001
Revised 11/24/2001

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So you have decided to offer Pocket PCs or Handheld PCs in your enterprise and you want to put corporate data on them? This article describes a list of applications and their features for synchronizing data. Also you will find tips for enterprise administrators who are defining what users are allowed synchronize on their devices.

Synchronization Issues in the Enterprise

Corporations need to decide how data on Pocket PCs or Handheld PCs will be used in their environment. The important questions prior to installing devices are whether or not the data on the device will be users, corporate and users or corporate only. In all cases, the enterprise needs to issue policies and guidelines explaining how the devices are to be used to store data. There are special circumstances for corporate and user data when on the same device. The catch 22 is how to make sure that the corporate data stays in the corporation and that the user data stays with the user. Issues like system backups require the administrator or the user to backup both as an example. Please keep these issues in mind when considering synchronization options listed below. Also keep in mind that the security of the data on device can be addressed via some synchronization clients as well.

ActiveSync - What's Available Out of the Box

With each Pocket PC and Pocket PC 2002, Microsoft includes ActiveSync to synchronize with your desktop. The latest version is ActiveSync 3.5, which is required for the Pocket PC 2002. Administrators need to pay attention to the prerequisites prior to installing ActiveSync 3.5 for issues like Windows 95, Windows NT and Outlook 97 are not supported. So if you are using these versions, ActiveSync 3.5 generally works with them however this is not supported or guaranteed.

The model that ActiveSync offers is to synchronize Outlook data with your desktop. It does not support a central server level of synchronization that larger corporations want. Server based synchronization will be covered later in the article. ActiveSync supports synchronization of one Calendar, Contacts and Tasks and in Pocket PC 2002, Inbox with folder support in the same Personal Folders file. Folders for Calendar, Contacts and Tasks are not supported. ActiveSync also supports rules to limit synchronization of data to selected categories. The concept that ActiveSync uses is that all data in the categories are synchronized to and from the device, in the case of other data; it is synchronized to the desktop but not back to the device if data is changed. Further, ActiveSync requires the same categories to be selected at the second partnership as well. So this option is not effective to make sure that only selected data is synchronized. Further, ActiveSync is limited to two desktop partnerships for synchronization.

Intellisync - More Flexibility

Puma ( www.pumatech.com ) offers a program called Intellisync. Intellisync requires ActiveSync to be installed and a partnership with the desktop. But that's where the synchronization ends. Intellisync works instead of ActiveSync to sync calendar, contacts and tasks with your desktop. Intellisync supports Outlook, Schedule, Exchange, Act!, Lotus Organizer, Lotus Notes, Novell Groupwise, and SalesLogix. Please visit their website for an updated list of the versions of the desktop software supported. Their approach is to allow the user to create specific rules for synchronization of data such as the ability to limit selected groups of contacts, or appointments or tasks. Further it allows you to specify what the default response should be when there is a conflict such as to take the information from the Pocket PC or the PC or prompt the user depending on what you want it to do. The advantage to Intellisync is that is allows the user to implement different rules or even different PIMs at home and work. Also, Puma offers Enterprise Intellisync to allow administrators additional control over what is synchronized from a centralized console.

CompanionLink -Multiple Simultaneous PIM Sync

CompanionLink ( www.companionlink.com ) offers CompanionLink Express or Professional. Express synchronizes with a single PIM while Professional allows you to sync multiple PIMs with your Pocket PC. CompanionLink Express and Professional supports Act, Goldmine, Lotus Organizer, Outlook, Schedule + and Telemagic. You'll need to check their website for the exact versions of the PIMs that are supported.

XTNDConnect - More Control

XTNDConnect from Extended Systems ( www.extendedsystems.com ) offers the ability to synchronize with your PC or a central server. It supports scheduled synchronization to Pocket PCs. Also, XTNDConnect offers administrative features to allow you to control what gets synchronized to your Pocket PC or Handheld PC. Further it also supports the ability to install programs when users synchronize their data. XTNDConnect supports Exchange and Lotus Domino as the data source to synchronize to your users. Also XTNDConnect supports other devices like Palm and EPOC in case you have more than one device that you support in your environment.

Mobile Information Server - Microsoft's Server Solution

Microsoft also offers a server based solution called Mobile Information Server ( http://www.microsoft.com/miserver/ ). The latest version called Mobile Information Server 2002, currently in beta, offers Microsoft Server ActiveSync with the Pocket PC 2002. Microsoft Server ActiveSync allows Pocket PC 2002 users to sync directly with Exchange via dialup, wireless or a VPN. Also, Microsoft includes administrative tools for managing the content that is synchronized onto their Pocket PC. Mobile Information Server also supports WAP based cellular phones as well.

Full Clients

An alternative to synchronization is using a client to your mail/contacts server like Lotus Notes. With a client the user has the ability to connect and use the system in a similar fashion to using the regular desktop client.

Cadenza - A Lotus Notes Client

Commontime offers Cadenza ( http://www.commontime.com/ProductsCadenza.htm ), a full Lotus Notes client for the Pocket PC and Handheld PC. It allows you to access your Lotus Notes server just like you do on your desktop. I believe that Cadenza offers more options than using a synchronization solution to work with Lotus Notes.

Folder Synchronization Options

Other companies offer solutions to synchronizing folders for Outlook. So you can synchronize public folders or additional calendar or contact folders. Examples of these applications include Pocket On Schedule from Odyssey Software ( www.odysseyinc.com ). Pocket On Schedule supports the ability to view and change multiple calendar, contacts and tasks that are synchronized to separate folders on the desktop. Also, if you can live with read-only copies of the folders, check out Pocket Lookout ( http://members.home.nl/cvonken/lookout/ ). It is a free utility that works with ActiveSync to synchronize the tree of folders that you select from your desktop to your Pocket PC.

Choosing the Right Solution

I recommend that system administrators consider multiple options before choosing the synchronization software that's right for their enterprise. I believe that a hands-on approach is the best approach to addressing what is synchronized how and when to your Pocket PC or Handheld PC users. Also, make sure you don't forget to write some guidelines or a policy on what content is allowed to be stored and used on the Pocket PC or Handheld PC.


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