The State of Cloud Syncing and Collaboration

Last week Gabe Weatherhead wrote a post explaining how, for him, cloud syncing has become a non-issue. We discussed this recently on the Mac Power Users. It is remarkable how far we’ve come in the last five years concerning syncing data between multiple devices. At this point, I’m using two Macs, two iPads, and an iPhone and I spend very little time thinking about how or why my data is always in sync. As I am heading out the door, I will make my decision between an iPad and a Mac on a whim and no matter what I device I leave with I’ve got access to all the data I need provided there is an Internet connection.

It didn’t use to be that way. Just a few years ago, it required a lot of forethought before leaving and maybe running an application or two to manually sync data across devices. While Dropbox is the usual reason why this stuff works out so well, I’ve been using iCloud since the IOS 11 beta and had mostly the same results.

If there are any rough edges around syncing between multiple devices the days, it is application based. For example, I do a lot of work in iBooks Author, which is an application designed with little thought for synchronizing between multiple devices. While I store the iBooks Author file on iCloud storage, opening it up in two different instances on two different devices can lead to shenanigans. While users need to be aware of these edge cases, in large part the hardware and Internet backbone synchronization is all in place.

To me the obvious next step for technology companies after mastering synchronization is collaboration. Google is the front-runner in this space. Google documents and Google sheets synchronize flawlessly. Several elements of my MacSparky business are based on collaborative Google documents and Google Sheets, and it’s a service that I rely on every day. Apple is trying to up their collaboration game with iWork and Microsoft is doing the same with Office, but nobody has nailed this down as well as Google.

So one of the questions in my mind is whether or not collaboration is also something that will in the not so distant future become a solved problem. The necessary first step for all that is a reliable backbone synchronization engine. We have that. The next step is for software developers to take this problem seriously and give it the appropriate attention to make synchronization something that we can do without relying on the web-based applications. We’ve seen some steps in that direction, but I feel like we still have a long way to go.