Yes I was one of the apparently few people still using Windows Live Mesh near the end of its life cycle. Now that it’s gone for good, I miss it. It was one of the few peer-to-peer file and folder syncing services available at the time and best of all, it was free. It was convenient, automatic and easy to set up to keep my files synced across numerous computers. I used it to keep my documents, music, photo and videos synced across multiple computers, without having to worry about working around cloud storage limits or migrating my files to the designated syncing folders employed by just about every cloud storage service ever. But, alas, that’s gone now. Windows Live Mesh has been discontinued as of February 13th and I’m really disappointed that it’s gone.
As an alternative, Microsoft has encouraged users to move to SkyDrive, their new and improved cloud storage platform. The problem? It’s not as good and quite frankly, I hate the idea of migrating to a functionally inferior alternative when a perfectly good service had been up and running for years. Great.
But here’s my problem. I don’t like living in the cloud. I vacation in the cloud, nothing more. It’s handy to have, but not a substitute for simple peer-to-peer sync, where I determine which folders are synced and where. I don’t like moving all of my files to SkyDrive’s designated folder or Dropbox’s designated folder or any cloud service’s designated syncing folder. That’s not how my preferred file system works.
The cloud certainly has its uses. I use it daily to keep documents synced between my computer and Nexus 7 and iPhone and it’s quite useful in that respect. But for keeping several gigabytes of files synced across multiple PCs, the cloud just doesn’t cut it for me.
With Windows Live Mesh I could pick and choose files and folders to sync between computers, beyond documents without digging into cloud storage space. Beyond documents, I used the peer-to-peer syncing to keep my music collection updated across my desktop and my laptop automatically, so I didn’t have to worry about manually moving new tracks over. I used it to keep videos and pictures up to date across computers as well, and the process was automatic. All I had to do was turn both computers on and Mesh would take care of the rest.
But now that’s over. Windows Live Mesh is dead, replaced by a functionally inferior cloud service. I wouldn’t mind if Windows Live Mesh features were integrated within SkyDrive but they aren’t. The remote desktop feature, which I admit I didn’t use much and don’t really miss, was handy to have and while it’s still there, as it’s built into Windows itself but it’s much more complicated to access now. But what I miss is the peer-to-peer syncing.
LogMeIn’s Cubby offers something similar, in that you can choose which folders to sync and where but unfortunately, that’s leveraged against your 5GB free cloud storage, meaning your files are stored in the cloud and are synced between devices that way. Now, this is fine for just syncing documents, as those don’t tend to take up a lot of space but all you have is 5GB of storage so music and picture syncing is likely out of the question for a large number of users.
But Cubby does offer true peer-to-peer syncing as well, which doesn’t count against your cloud storage! Great, right? Well, sure, as long as you’re willing to part with about $85 a year for the privilege of accessing it. Yep, that’s right, peer-to-peer syncing on the level of Windows Live Mesh, or direct sync, as they call it, is locked behind a pay wall.
And that’s a common thread that I see in just about every similar service I’ve looked up as an alternative to Windows Live Mesh (a true alternative, not just another cloud storage service). They all cost money or have incredibly small quotas limiting the number of files and folders and the size of the files within those folders. I understand this as this kind of service is obviously costing someone money but that doesn’t make the loss of a completely free alternative any easier to swallow.
But, as I wait for a suitable alternative to pop up, I guess I’m going to have to stick with Cubby. I like the fact that I can make any folder a Cubby but I don’t like leveraging that against my free 5GB of storage. Admittedly, that’s a decent amount of storage to play with but it’s just not the same as Mesh’s direct syncing. My current best hope lies with AeroFS, which is still beta and invite only. I signed up but I’ve yet to hear back from them. Maybe my dreams of free peer-to-peer syncing are bygone but I guess only time will tell.