The Evolving Omni Sync Server

This week the Omni Group announced that the Omni Sync Server is officially out of Beta. Nearly two years ago I signed up for the Omni Sync beta for my OmniFocus database. At the time, it was a great alternative to the now defunct MobileMe. Specifically, it seemed to me the Omni Group found a way for its users to sync their databases without spending $100 per year with Apple or setting up their own servers. So it started life as an alternative platform for syncing OmniFocus. That made sense.

Throughout this beta, however, the Omni Sync Server evolved. I spent some time with the Omni Group’s president, Ken Case, at Macworld and he explained the vision for Omni Sync. Specifically, as users increasingly look at cloud based storage solutions, Omni faces a challenge. Their users are going to want to store documents on Dropbox (or some Dropbox-like service) and iCloud. In either case, Omni Group customers find themselves using Omni Group software with cloud storage by someone else.
For most companies, this is fine. Not for the Omni Group. The Omni Group attacks customer support with a near religious ferver. These guys really want everyone to love and use their products. I’ve witnessed this devotion to customer satisfaction and it is impressive.

Getting back to the cloud thing ,the idea of absolute dedication to the customer experience combined with file storage managed by someone else is the Omni Group’s equivalent of an unstoppable force against an immovable object.

It is not acceptable to the Omni Group to simply tell a customer, “Sorry, your file is lost on iCloud. Call Apple and good luck.” The mere possibility of having that conversation with an Omni Group customer probably gives the Omni Support Ninjas the cold sweats.

So what did the Omni Group do? They built their own sync server. The Omni Sync Server is not going to be the wallflower OmniFocus sync engine that I originally believed. It is going to become a fully independent, Omni controlled, backbone to file syncing for a host of the Omni Group apps. Specifically: Omni Outliner, Omni Plan, OmniGraffle, OmniGraph Sketcher, and OmniFocus. Think about it a moment. Start an outline on your Mac. Polish it at Starbucks on your iPad. Finish it back on your Mac without any folder syncing or other incantations. During our interview, Ken explained that the roll out has already started. Omni Plan for Mac and OmniFocus already use the Omni Sync Server more support on the Mac and iOS will continue throughout the year.

The Omni Group still intends to incorporate iCloud syncing where it makes sense (file based apps like Omni Outliner but not database type apps like Omni Focus) but the purpose of the Omni Sync Server is for the Omni Group to serve up it’s own soup to nuts solution for software and hardware. If something goes wrong, the buck stops in one place. The cost for this service? Free. The Omni Group explains that this is part of your software license.

I believe the Omni Sync Server is just one more manifestation of why I respect the Omni Group so much. They really do sweat the details and don’t see their future tied to the ability to “gotcha” its users but instead make really useful software. I’m in. To sign up for the free OmniSync service, click here.