In today's fast-paced, always-connected environment, there's no shortage of solutions for accessing our data files remotely. Cloud services get the most attention. There's also the option of copying files onto a USB flash drive and taking it with you, or of emailing files to yourself. Remote access software is also an attractive possibility for many people. But which of these methods is perfect? Regrettably, the answer is none of them. They all have their drawbacks. However, the diminutive iTwin may be just the solution for many individual and business users.
The simple, familiar design of iTwin belies its inherent functionality. At first glance, it just looks like a USB flash drive. You quickly notice, however, that it has identical USB plugs on both ends. So what does this quirky accessory do, and how can it possibly help me stay connected?
Take Your Hard Drive with You
The iTwin allows you to easily share files and folders that are resident on one computer with any other computer via the internet. The process couldn't be simpler. Indeed, it's so easy to use that when we first tried it, we thought we must have been missing something. To get started, you plug the device, with both pieces connected, into a USB port of a computer whose files you want to access from elsewhere. This starts the brief installation of the iTwin application and pairs the two halves so that they recognize one another. It also creates the encryption key for secure data transfer.
Once installed, an iTwin icon appears in the screen's tray. Clicking it provides access to Local Files and Remote Files. If you wish to share a given file from the local computer with the remote, you simply drag and drop it into the Local Files box. If a file or folder isn't placed in the Local Files box, it won't be accessible remotely. You can add or remove files any time you like, and there's no limit to the number or size of files that can be made available for sharing. Separate the two halves of the iTwin device and you'll perform the same procedure on any other computer, PC or Mac, that you wish to use for sharing.
When you're set up on two computers, you can access any file on the other computer that has been designated for sharing. There's no difference between these files and the ones that are on your local hard drive. You can copy, edit and upload, or do anything else you'd do with a file. In our test, the device worked flawlessly. Data-transfer speed is dependent on you internet connection. For this product to work, both computers must be turned on and have internet access.
But I Can Do That in the Cloud
The reaction of many people to the iTwin is that you can do the same thing with a cloud service. That's true, but with some caveats. You can accomplish the same thing with free services like Google Docs or Dropbox. However, they impose a limit on the amount of data that can be uploaded and shared. With iTwin, your only size limitation is the size of your computer's hard drive. There are, of course, paid cloud services that may provide unlimited sharing, but a monthly subscription fee is required. With iTwin, the $99 purchase price is the only cost.
Cloud computing allows you to grant file access to any user to facilitate sharing and collaboration. The new iTwin Multi feature allows you to share with multiple users by plugging halves of the device into a USB hub. This also gives you the option to share select files with individual users. Using iTwin also frees you from having to entrust your information to a third party.
Another Dimension in File Sharing Security
Among the most appealing features of sharing files with iTwin is nearly flawless security. When the two halves of the device are paired, they share unique 256-bit AES encryption. Additionally, the system affords a hardware security in that you must physically possess one piece of the device in order to access files. In the event that one half is misplaced, you can disable the system with a remote access code. No data is stored on the iTwin, so it's of no value to anyone who might have unauthorized access to it. You have the option to create a password for more safety.
If the device has been disabled and you then find the lost half, you can restore functionality by pairing them again just like in the beginning. On the other hand, if half is really lost, the manufacturer will provide a new one for $50.
No single system is best for everyone, but the iTwin is an elegant, inexpensive way to share files on your office or home computer with your laptop. Security is exceptionally tight, and the only limit on file and folder size is the size of your hard drive.