Every now and then a free web technology comes along that profoundly changes the way we work. Often it’s the simplest that have the most impact. Where would we be today without Skype, Blogging or Messenger?
Over the last few months I’ve been testing Live Mesh Beta. Impressed with the results, I’m ready to evangelise in a bid to encourage adoption among our suppliers, clients and others who embrace tele-working. Put simply, it saves time and improves collaboration.
Synchronising files between multiple users and multiple devices is not a new idea, but never before has it been so simple (or free). Live Mesh is Microsoft’s response to Apple’s Mobile Me, proving competition really is a good thing. Although the strap line “Synchronising life” positions Live Mesh as a personal technology, after careful testing, I’ve come to believe that is has a firm place in business, particularly for virtual teams. The main benefit being that invited online members always have the latest version of a file on all their computers. Once installed, users are notified whenever someone adds/changes/deletes a file, making it a fantastic aid to collaborative working.
Personally, I think some of the main benefits are:
Convenience: I use a blackberry, Laptop at home and Desktop in the office so having folders that automatically synchronise across these devices is fantastic.
Simple to Share: Install Mesh then simply right click on a folder; invite members, input email addresses, set permissions and go. The invitation emails a link to install Live Mesh for new users on XP / Vista / Mac. There is no server technology; setup consists of adding your computers and devices, taking less than 5 minutes.
Improved Collaboration: Live Mesh integrates with Messenger and embraces collaboration, making it an excellent tool for dispersed or virtual teams. As long as they are online, as soon as someone saves a file all (previously invited) members are notified. Each project (folder) can have different members and there are 3 privileges (Owner, Contribute and Read). A full audit trail is kept of any edit, addition or deletion.
Efficient: Much quicker than network locations as all files are edited locally. When saved, only the edited parts of documents/files are synchronised. So synchronisation (upload time) is much quicker than manual upload of a whole file. What’s more, there is no need to manually upload or to attach files to emails. – This is a bit strange at first and takes a bit of time to get used to.
Thanks to auto-save it even allows remote members to see document editions (or project progress) as someone is working on it. For translation projects, this means that proofreaders can work more closely with translators and project managers have less admin, improving productivity.
Anywhere Access: As well as having access on multiple devices, it is possible to logon to www.mesh.comanywhere and through the power of Silverlight, you may access your Live Mesh desktop containing all up-to-date files and folders.
Security: Emails are inherently insecure (and email attachments consume space in your mailbox) whereas Live Mesh uses encryption to synchronise data.
Like many Windows Live services, Live Mesh is still in Beta and there are some drawbacks, for example it requires a Windows Live login, so within an office, network drives cannot be added to the Mesh (unless you go through the effort of creating a Windows Live account specifically for the server, which may cause some confusion when users try to communicate with it over Messenger). However from the Suggestion Forum and impressive wish-list, is does look like network locations will soon be added: (http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en/LiveMesh/thread/0a1d21c6-0d72-4b43-a6ac-1ad4257a9158)
There’s a 5GB limit, so it’s only useful for live projects. As a way of sharing files, it gets round maximum file sizes for email attachments, firewalls, FTP upload etc.
Will it be the next big thing in web technology? Personally I think so. It transcends the normal barriers and boundaries of networks and offices to give collaboration power to individual users without needing server technology. Is it here to stay? Again, as long as Microsoft keep it free, I think it’s only a matter of time until we see mass adoption, for business as well as personal use.
Install Live Mesh here: www.mesh.com
Amusing Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqfga2BMeUg
Live Mesh Blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/livemesh/
Does Mesh have a Business Future?: http://redmondmag.com/columns/article.asp?editorialsid=2694
Cynical Article: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/05/01.html
21 November 2008 14:58