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Syncing Outlook between Desktop and Laptop

Posted on 2009-03-29
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I often have the need to sync Outlook between a desktop and a laptop and have tried many different PSTSync and SyncPST type programs and have not found one that works 100%.  For example: One did fairly well except it did not sync groups in the address book, another did not bring over sub folders, another did not bring over the icon or info that shows that I had already responded to an email and many did not work if Outlook was open on either machine.  I even had the problem of one of the computers would download duplicate emails from the server for mail that I had already sync'd.  I am looking to sync Outlook from a Desktop to a laptop over the network and have then 100% exactly the same?  Any suggestions other than going to Exchange.
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Question by:waytron
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by:Quetzal
ID: 24012570
With the availability of hosted Exchange seats at very affordable prices, I would suggest that you see if one of these would suit the budget.  This has *many* advantages over a PST sync and you can get additional services (often at no additional cost) to sync with your phone.
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by:halejr1
ID: 24012768
I found this site http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/sync.asp you've probably already seen this.  

Have you though about or tried offline files and folders?  you can edit the local policy of your machine to include PST files.  
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by:waytron
ID: 24013086
I just might reconsider hosted exchange but I really hate to incure more monthly fees.
I thought about trying Offline files but I thought that I remembered reading somewhere that it would not work with PST files.
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by:Quetzal
ID: 24013102
MS does not support PSTs stored on LAN, which is how they would be configured to use offline files.  http://support.microsoft.com/kb/297019
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by:halejr1
ID: 24013123
will you ever access both PST's (laptop -- desktop) at the same time?
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by:waytron
ID: 24013225
Yes, both the Desktop and Laptop do have Outlook open at the same time.   Maybe I should explain myself further.  My email, documents and Act! database are critical to me and I can not be down for even a few hours.  So I have everything running in tandem on a desktop and a laptop.  Documents sync to each other, Act! is running on one and sync'd to a remote database on the other and I have Outlook running on both computers receiving the same pop email.  Everything backs up to a buffalo linkstation several times during the day as well as to Carbonite online.  I use remote desktop during the day from my truck to remote into my Desktop (or laptop) to check my sceduled appointments and read my email.  If either computer goes down, I can remote into or work on the other without interuption.  If my Tablet in my truck gets stollen, lost or damaged ... No loss because there is no actual data on it.  The biggest issue is Outlook, both computers read in the same email, but doing it this way leaves the the sent box and responses out of sync and I can't tell which email I have read and or responded to.  My goal is to have two computers running that always have exactly the same data in Outlook, Act! and Documents.  Sorry for the long story, but maybe someone have a totally different Idea?
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by:Quetzal
ID: 24013279
Because of your needs I would recommend the following:

1. DO investigate hosted Exchange.  This will be a much better approach for your needs.
2. If you are using offline files for syncing your documents, it has been my experience that the offline files cache can become corrupted and create a world of hurt at the worst times.  I have stopped using offline files and switch to Vice Versa Pro, which imho works better for a number of reasons.
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by:waytron
ID: 24013328
No I am not using Offline files to sync documents, I schedule a simple batch file that xcopy's only the newest document files each night to each computer.  My document files are the least critical and don't change nearly as much as my schedule or email files.
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Quetzal earned 250 total points
ID: 24013353
If you get a hosted Exchange account, you will be able to configure Outlook on any of your machines for RPC over HTTPs (now called Outlook Anywhere).  The hosted Exchange provider will even provide the lastest version of Outlook if you want.  Coupled with the ability to sync with Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and Palm devices, you will get the coverage and total up time that you require.
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by:halejr1
ID: 24013411
waytron -- if your RDPing into your desktop or laptop -- why don't you setup a virtual machine with outlook and they RDP into that whether your in your truck, in the office or at home on your laptop.  You won't have any duplicity -- It sounds like your life is too complicated (isn't that they way most techincal people are?)  If you have one Source and then you can get to it from anywhere.  You can even schedule backups of your virtual machine by taking a snapshot of the image daily and move it to another piece of hardware.... if a piece of hardware fails you've got a good image and restoration is a snap --- about the time it takes to open virtual machine.

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by:halejr1
ID: 24013420
By the way... vitrual PC is free -- you only have to own the license for the software you install on it... and the operating system.  Very easy to work with
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by:Quetzal
ID: 24013432
haleiri raises a good point.  But if your desktop is always on, there is no need for virutal PC.  Just enable RDP on the desktop, open ports in your router and you can RDP from your laptop whether at home or on the road (presuming you always have Internet access).
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by:halejr1
ID: 24013441
Good Point Quetzal.... the only thing I like about virtual PC is that it becomes hardware independent.  If you decide your going to upgrade your PC tomorrow... no pulling your hair out to manage or maintain the migration of all your current and legacy applications over to the new hardware.  And if your desktop hardware fails... your doomed -- or at least until you can recover the image.
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by:waytron
ID: 24014241
I have not really played with Virtual configurations as yet.  It seems hard enough to get everything to play and work together as is, why add another layer of potential problems?  However I do like the concept of not having to have the same hardware to use an image backup.  I use RPC over Http for many clients now and maybe that is the way I should go in the long run.  Although, when I looking into Hosted Exchange a year or two ago the cost was pretty high for the amount of storage I needed.  Plus I still have ACT to deal with.
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by:johnb6767
ID: 24016136
Logmein.com
http://www.logmein.com

Free for a basic account(worth the upgrade), up to 100 PC's. Fast remote control, anywhere you have an Internet Connection. No need to ope ports in the router as well.

From account signup to remote control, about 6-7 minutes.....
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by:waytron
ID: 24016886
johnb6767, why would I be interested in Logmein when for me, RDP works perfectly well for free and has for years.
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by:johnb6767
ID: 24020584
I simply prefer it, because theres nothing else to configure...No synching, No need for Offline Files, no costs for Hosted Exchange.....

Was just a simple suggestion.....
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by:halejr1
ID: 24020780
Waytron,

logmein.com has a free version that does everything you need.  
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by:waytron
ID: 24022656
I must be confused.  My problem is not with my remote connection to my desktop.  I am trying to syncronize a desktop to a laptop so that they always have exactly the same information in Outlook.  How does logmein help me do this any more effectively than Remote Desktop?
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by:halejr1
ID: 24022719
Wayton... as I suggested in going virtual,  you have only one desktop to manage, no need for sychronization... you would always work remote.  At that suggestion, Quetzal suggested hey forget virtualization, just RDP or LOGMEIN.COM to you main machine and then no need for synchronization.  Not a bad idea and no more sync issues / concerns.  And you can backup your PST remotely to your other systems, laptop truck laptop etc.
 
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by:waytron
ID: 24022851
I understand the possible benifit sof going virtual but I am not sure how that really eliminates having the second machine standing by that is always sync'd to the desktop.  Right now if I wake up in the morning and something has gone wrong with my desktop, I can go to my laptop and my Act has my sced and outlook has my email.  I am up and running without any delay.  But even if I ran a virtual desktop and it failed, I would have to stop everything, setup a new virtual computer, grab my most recent image, update data that has changed since the image was taken. And now I have lost most of the day, missed all my appointments and responded to none of my emails.  Am I missing something here?
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by:johnb6767
ID: 24023520
My original suggestion of logmein, was for the purpose of ELIMINATING the need for synching, and Virtualization altogether. All you need for this is a dumb laptop to connect to teh properly configured desktop, and all you will ever need is avaialble to you IN REAL TIME.

Thats why I was suggesting it.... Not to correct a problem with Remote Access...
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by:halejr1
halejr1 earned 250 total points
ID: 24023971
How rapidly is your information changing?  i.e. if you have a backup that copies the VHD file daily (one file) you can be up and running in less than 2 minutes.  Also if you setup some scripts to synchronize that file at different times during the day your backup could be much less than 12 hours old... If you setup virtualization or logmein.com -- you only manage one PC with one set of applications and make sure your backup and failover plan is good.  

In the logme in scenario -- you backup your data, and OS (if you choose)
in the virtual machine scenario -- you backup one file

both scenarios you reach a single host... no more sync. no duplicate applications, etc.

Now If your getting so much information and things are changing that rapidly you probably should look for a real-time hot image -- something like this: http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/tut/p/id/6594 --

It sounds like this is being made more complicated than it needs to be...

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by:waytron
ID: 24024634
I am sorry johnb6767.  I must not have been clear in my writing.  I currently use several "dumb" computers that have nothing on them (not even antivirus software) to Remote into my desktop.  I use a tablet PC in my truck to connect to my desktop while I am out on calls and another at my kitchen table that I use whenever I am home.  I hardly ever actually sit at the desktop and always remote into it.  It has worked perfectly for years.  The syncing that I am talking about is having another computer as a backup to my desktop that always has an exact duplicate of all my data so that at any given moment, if my main desktop fails, I can switch over to another computer and keep going.
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by:waytron
ID: 24024778
My data changes rather often.  Syncing can take awhile because of large PST, Act and quickbooks Database files.  Outlook usually takes about an hour to sync.  You are correct in that it does seem more complicated that it should be but I had a taste of panic a few weeks ago when I was updating Act and lost my database before I had printed my Scedule for the day and I had no idea where I needed to be.  I lost one new customer for good and lost $$ in appointments for the day, not to mention upset customers.  Fortunitly, I solved the problem but if I had lost the database altogether, I would be in big trouble seeing as I would loose a month or two of scheduled billing.
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by:halejr1
ID: 24025589
Waytron,

from what you have described, do you really need synching... could you just have a simple backup strategy for critical files...  One method I used in a previous life was "robocopy".  You would have to establish a simple process, however you can have your PST and database files robocopied off to a remote file share at predetermined intervals -- if you are talking about simple file copies.  You can determine the frequency and it will run in the background based on that frequency....  The only requirement would be to have a procedure, i.e. database backup of act to local drive in a directory that is sync'ed.  Also PST located on a local directory that is sync'ed.  Whether or not the outlook needs to be closed, that may be a requirement, but if you close it when your not in it... then maybe this is not such a bad idea...

here is a link... it's free by the way.  And if you don't use it for this, take a look at it anyway, it's huge value for doing local and remote support-- and in a lot of cases doing system migrations.  Great tool.

It's on the windows server 2003 resource kit:  http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=9D467A69-57FF-4AE7-96EE-B18C4790CFFD&displaylang=en

I've attached the syntax "robocopy /? >robotxt.txt"
robo.txt
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by:Quetzal
ID: 24029529
Your original question started out as to what the best way was to sync Outlook between 2 machines.  Given the critical nature of your information, I stand by my original recommendation to look at hosted Exchange (it obviates the need for "syncing").

The evolving discussion regarding RDP, Logmein, VirtualPC, and robocopy are interesting.  But you've basically already said that you are comfortable with RDP and have an xcopy backup procedure for everything else that is working for you.

You might consider adding an additional backup method because your data is so critical.  Consider an online backup (like mozy.com).  So long as your files get closed on a regular basis, the online backup will happen at night, happen automatically, and provide one more level of backup.
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by:waytron
ID: 24067008
Thank you all for your input.  I have continued to try a few other PST syncing programs and none of them seem to work 100% so I think I will follow Quetzal's suggestion of using hosted exchange.  I really appreciate all the comments.
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by:halejr1
ID: 24067155
Waytron -- Good luck!

cheers!!!
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