I’ve had the recent experience of helping a client synchronize his Entourage database between his MacBook Pro and iMac. There’s also a Blackberry in this mix. It goes without saying we used the sync services in Entourage to write his contact and calendar data to Address Book and iCal. It also goes without saying, for those who have dealt with this, how terribly frustrating this is.
I went through the standard protocol of making one primary database for iCal and Address Book and resetting the sync data and starting with a fresh slate. For the most part, everything was working. For the most part. However, when you’re syncing calendars and contacts you don’t want “for the most part”. You want the whole thing to work. Specifically, a contact’s preferred email address would keep changing. After spending about 1.5 hours working on all this and playing with the settings and going through this and the other, it seemed like it was all working. I told him to keep using it and let me know. It wasn’t until that night I received an email from him telling me that the data was changing again.
This email led me on a pained Google search for Entourage syncing with MobileMe. I turned up three or four of the same articles, or same styles of articles, without truly finding a solution. The only answer, which was not an answer, was that there were problems. Later, as I was setting up Daylite on my own Mac, I discovered it had syncing problems of its own when tying in with MobileMe. This has led me to the conclusion that MobileMe, in and of itself, when used with only Apple solutions, is pretty good. That said, once you start working in third-party databases that sync with Address Book and iCal you are only destined to run into problems sooner or later.
What then is the solution to this problem? How can one go about using Entourage and syncing the data across multiple Macs? The first answer is to set up an Exchange server. It’s a relatively inexpensive service and can provide syncing to Macs, PCs, Blackberries, and iPhones. There are other work arounds to this… you can sync with Google or Plaxo and use Nuevasync. But this can present its own unique set of problems too.
The solution I presented to my client was to stop using MobileMe. He was syncing with a Blackberry through Mark/Space’s Missing Sync and this was working fine. He switches between the iMac and MacBook Pro for months at a time, so there is no reason that both have to be kept continuously updated. He is going to use the Blackberry as the hub and let that do the syncing between the Macs as he needs to. Is this the best solution? I think there are better, but it is the easiest for him.
Because of the abundance of information on the web about this, and lack of solutions, if you have any input to syncing third-party database info through MobileMe via Address Book and iCal please leave it in the comments.