Mobile Working: Maintaining sync with our office file server.

This is another one of those posts that many regular readers will want to skip on past. It’s nerdy, and only interesting in a very specialised way :-) I’m based in office where we all keep our files on a central file server, which is then regularly backed up. As I mostly work on my laptop, often from somewhere that is not the office, I needed a way that would reliably keep the contents of a folder on my computer in sync with my folder on the file server. Ideally this would be done in a way that didn’t require me to remember to do anything.

A quick search led me (via Lifehacker, if I recall correctly) to ChronoSync, which when run compares two locations and keeps their contents in step.

ChronoSync background scheduler in the menubar

As far as having it done automatically, the best I could come up with was ChronoSync’s background scheduler which sits in the menu bar and can be configured to run a sync when a specified volume is mounted.

This worked well, but required to remember to mount the shared volume on the file server — essentially no different to me remembering to run the sync operation myself.

I then came across HomeZone, which can be set to carry out certain actions when you connect to a specified network. If I could figure out a way to trigger ChronoSync when I join the network in the office, I’d be set.

I tried setting it to open the ChronoSync file for the necessary sync, but I couldn’t figure out a way to get it to run the sync in the background. This offended me — I was after a totally background, inconspicuous operation.

Maybe I could get it to fire off an Automator workflow? No, ChronoSync doesn’t support Automator. Aargh.

But what I could do was get it to launch an Automator workflow that connected to the file server and mounted the share, which would then trigger ChronoSync’s background scheduler to run the sync.

Automator workflow to connect to server

And you know what? It worked. In an ideal world this could all be done with one or at most two applications. Maybe it can, but I’ve ended up using three. At least it works, totally unobtrusively.

HomeZone config screen

When I go into the office in the morning and bot up my laptop, it connects to the office wireless network. This in turn tells HomeZone to run the Automator workflow which mounts the shared volume on the file server. That then tells ChronoSync to run the sync operation — all without any input from me beyond turning on the computer. Exactly the way I wanted it to be.