OfficeTime allows you to track your time on your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Naturally, you want to keep these in sync. Here’s a brief overview of what’s possible now and what’s in the pipeline.
OfficeTime currently syncs wirelessly from your desktop to your iOS device. It does a pretty good job at this. Any changes you make will be automatically updated within a few seconds. It just works. You can sync your desktop to every iPhone, iPad, iPod that you have and it’ll sort itself out. Your computer doesn’t even need to have a wireless connection itself, as long as it’s connected to the same network that gives your iPhone, etc., wireless internet. (As of right now, you can’t currently sync via 3G.)
At the moment, you can’t sync from your iPhone to your iPad without your desktop computer being part of the action. (It gets lonely with all these newcomers.)
You can sync your home computer with your work computer with the help of your iPhone, but it’s just a little awkward. Your iPhone automatically syncs with the last computer you chose. You simply need to rechoose your computer when you go home or to work. Your work data will sync up to your iPhone and then down to your home computer when you get home. Handy but not the kind of magic we prefer. We’ve got plans to fix both of these. (See below.)
The desktop version of OfficeTime can produce reports of your team’s time, which are quite powerful. Alas, this currently requires everyone on your team to sync their time from their own iPhone to their own desktop. Their desktop file then gets combined on the team leader’s, who sees all the nice cross-team reports. Next up is an update that allows multiple iPhones to sync to one desktop copy of OfficeTime. We’re also got big plans for even easier team sync across everyone.
Well, the wireless sync is a good start. But it looks like a cloud solution would solve many of these shortcomings. What is Cloud Sync? It’s just a fancy way of saying that your data gets stored on a server somewhere and sent back down to all of your devices.
Let’s take a look at a few options:
Apple’s iCloud is the latest big thing. And it works pretty well. But it’s got some limitations. Firstly, there’s no proper Windows end. (At least not yet.) If we used iCloud, and you’re on a PC, OfficeTime would not be able to sync your data. That’s rather unfortunate. Secondly, iCloud is a personal sync solution. We’d never be able to sync teams together so you can get those nice cross-employee reports. Knowing Apple, this is unlikely to change.
Despite a few past hiccups, Dropbox is a good contender. It makes it quite easy for us to share all of your OfficeTime data across everything you own. Using DropBox’s Shared Folder’s, we can even sync a whole team together. A free account on Dropbox gives you 2 GB of storage and OfficeTime would take only a tiny fraction of that up. The disadvantage is you have to sign up for a third party solution and if you’ve got a team, everyone has to sign up and install Dropbox on their Mac’s and PCs. There’s nothing to install on the iPhone/iPad. You just need to know your login.
Roll Our Own
We could make our own custom cloud solution. Then all you’d have to do is enter your username and password on each device you own and bam, you or your team is connected. This has some potential for us accidentally introducing errors because we’re building it for the first time. Alas, custom baking our own solution doesn’t come cheaply and we’d have to charge a monthly fee for use. This is great for us but not so good for you. And in the end, I always think what’s good for you is better for us.
What do you think? Would you balk at installing a 3rd party app like Dropbox to sync? Would you rather pay a monthly fee? Do you have a clever sync plan you’re dying to share?
Time. The real commodity.
Stephen Dodd, Founder of OfficeTime.net