Using iTunes to sync files between your Windows based laptop and your iPad / iPhone is an almighty pain in the USB port. These tools are the holy trinity that I’ve discovered through testing a whole bunch of different tools:
- DropBox – this has a mobile app version and a desktop version. With this free online file backup software that I touted before, you can drag files to the “My DropBox” folder on your desktop and bingo! they’re visible on your phone and tablet using the DropBox app. It’s free for the first 2GB of files.
- Carbonite – I know I wrote about this file backup tool before, I just realized they have an iPhone / iPad app. Irritatingly, I found this out through an advertisement embedded in Pandora, which unfortunately means that advertising does work. I use Carbonite to backup everything of any significance on my laptop. Including my DropBox folder. This might seem redundant – having my files backed up twice, but if you wear a belt and braces, you’re less likely to find yourself without trousers at any given time. Also, the Carbonite iPhone/ iPad app allows you to browse all your files (123,083 of mine) when you’re on the go if you have a data plan, so I’ll never be without a file again. This runs about $55 a year for as many files as you can upload.
- GoodReader to sync files between your DropBox folders and your iPad. This is useful if you don’t have an iPad data plan and want to access files on the go. Certainly you could just run DropBox on your iPad and open the files, add them as starred favorites and save yourself $5 for this app, but GoodReader allows you to sync and manage files and folders in a more streamlined way. So once you start managing a few hundred files, this becomes invaluable.
Of all the tools I’ve tried, these make my life the easiest. Carbonite took a few days to upload all of my files to its server when I started, and I’ve been using it for the last 11 months with no issues.
My goal is not to actively manage files – they should just be available. If my iPad had a data plan, I wouldn’t need to actively sync anything, and wouldn’t need GoodReader. In that case I would just use Carbonite since it’s cheaper than DropBox. DropBox is $20/month for up to 100GB and Carbonite is $55/year for as much as I want to upload.
DropBox does however allow me to sync files automagically between different PCs, so I’d keep the free version around, and so that my most volatile files can be backed up with two different services. And I think if you sign up using my link to DropBox you get an extra free 250MB of storage just out of interest.