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The iTwin approach to remote file access and sharing is better than most others.

It gives you both convenience and cost effectiveness in a secure and simple package.

 
 
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iTwin Plug n Play Remote File Access Device

Easy, simple, elegant and affordable
 

The iTwin USB Remote Computer Access Stick

The iTwin USB sticks are paired to each other, then can be used between any two Mac or PC computers to share data.

Part 2 of a two part review - please also see part 1.

 

 

The iTwin approach to remotely accessing and sharing files is easy, simple, elegant and affordable.

Unlike most competing approaches, it is limitless in capacity, and has no ongoing fees associated with its use.

While it doesn't also do double duty as a way of backing up data automatically into the internet cloud, for remote file accessing, this may well be your best solution.

iTwin Compared to Cloud Storage

There are many different cloud storage services available these days, including some that offer a 'teaser' amount of space for free (typically 2GB - 5GB) and then sell larger amounts of storage for monthly/annual 'rental' fees.

We reviewed the Sugarsync product a few years ago, and while we originally liked it, we ended up not renewing the product after the first year's fee expired, due to problems with Sugarsync getting wildly out of control and messing up different versions of the same file on different computers, with the result that sometimes more recent versions of files were being overwritten by older versions of the same files, and some files ended up with many different versions, and we couldn't conveniently tell which was the most up to date.

Probably these errors reflected poorly on us at least as much as they did on Sugarsync, but the fact remains that not only did they occur, but they damaged our data files in the process, and that is unacceptable with any type of program.

Cloud based products have limits on how much data can be stored, and can quickly end up costing more than $100 a year for realistic amounts of storage.  With iTwin, there are no ongoing costs at all, and no limits on how much data can be shared.

Cloud based products also are not quite as secure.  Your data is protected only by your password, and if a hacker can either bypass the password or guess it (or perhaps access it from your computer) all your data can then be read, copied, or even surreptitiously changed.  With iTwin, you not only have password protection but also have the physical device protection - the properly paired iTwin USB sticks must be present in both computers for them to be able to share any data between themselves.

Cloud storage is an excellent way of creating an offsite backup of your data, protecting you against fire or theft or whatever else.  But it is both expensive and slightly insecure.  iTwin, on the other hand, isn't so much intended as a backup solution, but rather as a secure remote access solution.

iTwin Compared to 'Sneakernet' and USB Flash Drives

Another way to remotely access your files is to simply copy them from your main computer onto a USB flash drive, which you can walk over and plug into other computers as and if needed to access the data on it (hence the term 'sneakernet').

This is an effective but limited solution.  It gives you fast local secure access to the data on the flash drive - but if you lose the flash drive, the data on it may then become compromised, and even if still secure, it obviously is no longer available to you.

It also requires you to correctly think of every possible file you might need and to copy them all to the flash drive.  In the past I've often had problems with a file being stored in some obscure location that I've forgotten to copy over, and with the main computer being 1,000 or more miles away, I'm then completely stuck.

It is also slow (to copy all the files), runs some risk of generation mismatching (if you make changes on the master file while someone else is working on the older copy of the same file on the flash drive) and not without expense.  A 64GB flash drive costs about $100, a 128GB drive is more like $200; whereas the iTwin is $99 and gives you 'limitless' sharing/storage.

iTwin Requirements

The iTwin product works with Windows based computers (Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7), and with Mac computers (OS 10.6 and above).

Either computer can be Windows or Mac based.  It is not necessary the two computers share the same OS for their files to be validly shareable.

It requires both computers to be connected to the internet - and even if both computers are on the same internal intranet, it still requires internet access for the two devices to 'phone home' both to provide details of 'where' they are (in terms of IP address) and also for the legitimacy of the connection between the two units to be validated.

The Importance of Your Internet Connection

Obviously, the faster the internet connection at both computers, the better the remote accessing experience will be.  In this context, it is preferable to have a fast connection not just for downloading but also for uploading too - there will be a mix of both downloading and uploading going on, and whereas many internet connections provide a fast download speed, for whatever reason, the upload speeds are often much less impressively fast.

If you're going to be using the iTwin extensively, you'll want to check what type of upload speed you have on the internet connection your main computer is connected to.  You can do this by using any one of a number of different internet speed test type websites, although note that not all of these services test all three essential parameters of an internet connection - the download speed, the upload speed, and the latency (the delay in information being exchanged).

This is a good website/speed test service to use.  It can be helpful to do multiple tests at different times of day to see how consistent and reliable your access speeds are.  It is important to make sure your computer isn't doing other tasks at the same time you're running the speed test; if it is doing other things, the results may be slower than they should be simply because your computer is too busy with too many other tasks.

My network is currently testing at about a 35Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload speed (bigger numbers are of course better), with a 6 msec latency (smaller numbers are better).  Those are very good figures, if you get even half the speed numbers and twice the latency delay, you can be very pleased indeed.

Note that if you have both iTwins on devices within the same local area network, they will attempt to communicate directly rather than routing the data out of the LAN, over the internet, and back through the LAN again.

Security

What happens if you should lose one half of your iTwin device?  Could the person who finds it plug it into their computer and then get the same access to your main computer as you could yourself?

Fortunately, the answer to this essential question is probably 'no'.  There are three levels of protection available to you.

The first is sort of obvious.  Unplug the remaining half of the iTwin from the computer it is connected to.  That renders any possible remote connection impossible.

But, of course, when you lose the other half, you are probably not at your main/local computer.  So there are two more options open to you.

The first is to require a log-in password every time you connect through the iTwin service.  This obviously makes it much harder for an unauthorized user to access your main computer and its files, even if they have the iTwin device itself.

iTwin also provides the ability to remotely disable the connection between the two halves of your iTwin if you should ever lose one of the two parts, although you can only do this if you're pre-registered the double device beforehand (so as to establish your bona fides up front).

Support

The iTwin company has offices in both the US and Singapore.  This means that you may get email support answers over an extended number of hours each day.

That is the good news.  The bad news is there is no phone support capability, although this is expected to be added in early 2012.

Summary and Recommendation

The iTwin is an easy and elegant way of sharing data, securely, between two different computers.

We vaguely understand that future enhancements will add further to its current very useful capabilities.

Priced at $99 and available from Amazon and probably elsewhere, it quickly ends up being better value than other competing methods of sharing data, and is simpler to understand and use.

Recommended.

Continued from part 1

Please click to the first part of this article for information about the iTwin and how to install it and experience in using it.

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 04 Nov 2011, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
 
 

 


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