Friday, July 25, 2008

Spanning Sync vs BusySync for iCal gCal sync - with a clear winner

I dread the thought of dealing with Apple's MobileMess. Apple has amply demonstrated they can't do reliable cloud services; dotMac was an intermittent disaster for years. They had one chance to show they could do this, and they blew it.

Apple should have delayed the transition. Big mistake.

So I'm even more committed to a Google solution. I'd take a look at Yahoo!, but they're in a corporate death spiral. Heck, I'd take a look at Microsoft, but I'm pretty committed to OS X and they're not.

You can directly subscribe from iCal to a gCal calendar -- I'm going to see if I can fit that into my iPhone workflow. It's not a sync solution however.

Google has a tool to allow Outlook to gCal sync, but they haven't done one for iCal. Given how bad their Outlook sync launch has been (synchronization is hard, but Google has issues too), that's no great loss.

There are two commercial alternatives: Spanning Sync and BusySync. Missing Sync, which we licensed for Emily's Palm, and licensed again for her Blackberry, deals with device to machine sync, so they're not a contender. Too bad, they do pretty well.

BusySync is sold as a product, Spanning Sync is a service with a per user license. So for a shared machine BusySync may be less expensive, though that's probably not the licensed use.

Here's what made my trial decision easy however:
  1. Spanning Sync offers a 15 day free trial. The main page doesn't tell me what it costs.
  2. BusySync has a 30 day free trial. The main page tells me it costs $25
I distrust any vendor that hides their costs.

BusySync wins. I'll download their trial. If they fail, then I'll take another look at Spanning Sync.

Update: I gave BusySync an acid test -- and it failed. I reset a Google Calendar, then checked to see if BusySync would remove all the iCal appointments. It failed, instead I saw many ghosts. I'll give it another chance, but if they fail again I'll try Spanning Sync.

Update: Ok, BusySync failed completely. On to Spanning Sync.No - it was Google Calendar Sync that failed that time. So BusySync only failed the removal test. So it's not out of consideration.


Charlie said...


Keep in mind that with Spanning Sync, all upgrades--both major and minor--are included in your subscription, while BusyMac has explicitly stated that their customers will be required to pay for some upgrades to BusySync, but they haven't said how much those upgrades will cost or how often their customers will be forced to upgrade.

As a Spanning Sync customer, you know exactly what your yearly or lifetime cost is for the product--with BusySync you can never be sure.

If you have any questions, please let me know.


Robert said...


I use BusySync to keep my iCal in sync with Google Calendar.

In turn, I use Google Sync on my Blackberry to keep my portable device sync'd (I have Missing Sync, but I have the Calendar conduit disabled).

Google Sync pushes changes to and pulls changes from my Blackberry every couple of hours.

I use MobileMe to keep my calendars in sync across machines.

There are a lot of links in the chain, but so far it's working pretty well.

Giles Thurston said...

Hi John,

I to was also looking for a calendar synchronisation solution that would bypass the issues I was having with MobileMe, specifically that MobileMe wouldn’t synchronise Outlook calendars when linked to Exchange.

My set-up is probably similar to many people where I have a PC in the office (using Outlook & Exchange), a Macbook at home (using iCal) and iphone as my mobile device.

I’ve tried a variety of different solutions but without much joy. The worst appeared to Plaxo which seemed to move appointments around for me, not nice when they were with clients. Google's offering on the Mac didn't appear to be that stable and lacked the two way synchronisation support I was after. I was finally left with BusySync and Spanning Sync, with the later proving to the final cog in my solution.

I now use Google synch for Windows to upload my work calendar to Google every 15 mins. I then use Spanning Sync to bring this plus my personal Google calendars together into iCal. Finally I then synchronise iCal with my iphone through iTunes.

Sounds a bit convoluted I know, but it actually works really well and with both the Google Synch on my work machine and Spanning Sync at home working automatically, I don’t even have to think about it. Plus it provides full access at home, in the office, online and on my mobile. The added bonus of having Spanning Sync also update my contacts on Gmail, really sold the deal for me and I can highly recommend it.

The fact that they are selling the solution as a service didn't put me off, I have signed up for the annual service at the moment but if it continues to work as well as it does at the moment I will be signing up for the lifetime account at renewal.

Plus with the added bonus if $5 off using the code QY979S, $20 seems a small price to pay for this kind of functionality.

Just my thoughts :)

John Gordon said...

Hi Giles,

I've used something very similar to your setup.

Problem is that while there's a sort-of precedent for moving corporate data onto a phone or PDA by a cable, there's no equivalent precedent for moving it to Google Calendar.

In most corporations that's a termination offense.

I discuss it a bit more here:

Anonymous said...

I chose not to choose either BusySync or Spanning Sync. I've found a free app - SyncMate. It works fine for me. You can also try it.