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You're traveling somewhere, and realize you left an essential file behind on your main in-office computer.

That's not a problem if you're using the iTwin device.  You can easily access the file you need.

 
 
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iTwin Remote Computer Access Device

A new secure way to share and remotely access data
 

iTwin USB Remote Computer Access Device

Put one half of the iTwin pair of USB sticks in one computer and the other in any other Windows or Mac computer so as to be able to share files between them.

What could be easier than that?

Part 1 of a two part review - please also see part 2.

 

 

Remote access and file sharing is an increasingly important part of modern and mobile computing.

There are various ways of achieving this, most relying on software or internet 'cloud' storage of some form or another.

The iTwin approach is different because it allows you to remotely access files on one computer from pretty much any other computer, while using a robust security process to protect your computer privacy.

Simple and easy to use, fairly priced ($99), and with no ongoing monthly costs, the iTwin product is well worth considering.

iTwin - What You Get

The iTwin remote computer access device comes attractively packaged in an easily opened box.

Inside is the device itself and a Getting Started guide.  Nothing else is included, presumably because nothing else is needed.

When I say 'inside is the device itself', I perhaps should better say 'inside are the devices themselves' because the iTwin, as its name sort of implies, is a two part device.  There are two USB stick shaped devices, which can also be connected to each other (from the other end of each USB stick, not via their USB interfaces) so as to create the electronic 'pair' link between them that subsequently authorizes them to access each other's computer.

So, what next?  I reach for the Getting Started guide - a tiny 2.5" x 3.8" booklet with 16 pages of content, and quickly discover how easy it is to get this device up and running.

There is no warranty statement on the box or in the booklet or on their website.  The company advises that the warranty is for 3 months, which is somewhere between average and below average for such devices.

But with no moving parts, there's not a lot to go wrong, and if you get through the initial 'infant mortality' period (some solid state devices tend to fail early in their life) you'll probably not have any issues for years to follow.

The iTwin is priced at $99.99 and can be purchased direct from the supplier (with shipping also charged extra) or from Amazon (for 'only' $99 and probably with free shipping included).

If you should lose either half of the iTwin double device, you can buy a single half (very fairly priced at half the $99.99 price for both devices, too); you do not need to buy a complete new double device.

Installing the iTwin on the First Computer

Could it be this simple?  You just plug the double device into the first computer you want to use it with, and it self-installs.

So I do exactly this, and the product does exactly that.  The installation process is quick and easy.  I have to name the iTwin, which seems somewhat unnecessary, then enter my email address to be sent a 'just in case' disable code (in case I subsequently lose one half of the device) and then am presented with a screen where I can nominate what files and folders I share with the other half of the iTwin.

Within a couple of minutes an email that clearly explains the disabling procedure has been sent to me.  So far, so good.

Back to the new screen that opened.  This screen is a bit confusing, and what I see on the screen doesn't look like what I see in the Getting Started guide. Hmmmm.

But after closing this down and then opening up iTwin's program, I get a different program that is as expected and easily understood.

If this is a computer that I then wish to share files from, I can specify which files or folders I want to be shareable with the other iTwin enabled computer.

There seems little reason not to share almost anything and everything, so as to most robustly guard against unexpectedly discovering something was overlooked and forgotten.  In the past, I've had problems with programs that store their data in nonstandard places that I forget to synch or copy over.  So to guard against that, it is best to simply share everything.  That way you'll never be stuck.

On the other hand, if you're sharing some files not just with yourself when you're away from your main computer, but instead sharing with some other person, you might then have a valid reason to seek to limit which files you give them access to.

Installing iTwin on the Second Computer

I split the iTwin device into its two halves.  I leave one half in the first computer, and put the second half into a second computer.

It quickly installs itself on the other computer, and then almost immediately discovers its remote twin and allows access to the other computer's files.

Installing the device on the second computer proved to be as easy, simple and problem-free as it was to install the device on the first computer.

Using iTwin

Usng the iTwin service is easy and simple.  You simply click on the iTwin icon in the system tray to select if you wish to see the remote files on the other computer, or if you wish to see the local shareable file settings on your local computer.

One of the great things about iTwin is that it is fully symmetrical.  You can share files in both directions, from either computer to the other computer.  There is no formal master/slave type setup, both computers can access and share files from the other.

Most of the time you'll typically be wanting to access files from your main computer onto your remote traveling computer.  But there's a major benefit in the bi-directional nature of the file sharing.  You can use it as a way of backing up your files - for example, if you're traveling with your laptop, you can backup new files onto your main computer back home as and when you feel the need.

Another use could be if you're traveling with a digital camera, you could transfer the photos you take back to your main computer, then clear your memory cards and reuse them again and again.

You can also use iTwin to remotely access and work on a file on the other computer, without needing to copy it to your local computer, work on it, then copy it back again.

iTwin simply creates another virtual drive on your local computer, with the contents of the virtual drive being the files/folders you've designated as shared on the other computer.

You access the shared files through the same Windows Explorer program that you access your local files.  And if you're trying to access/open a file through a program's File -> Open interface, the iTwin 'drive' appears in its interface, the same as local drives and other networked shares do.

Mac and PC compatible

When first released, the iTwin worked only on PC type computers.  A subsequent beta release of Mac software was not without some beta problems, but an official Mac release came out on 19 September 2011 and seems to now be trouble free.

The PC software we tested gave no problems at all.

Share Everything

I'd earlier recommended sharing everything on each computer (assuming there are no security reasons not to do so - ie, you are wanting to access your computer yourself, rather than allow some third party to get access to your computer).  This is the easiest way to configure the computers, and also means there is never a danger of a file being unlocatable on the distant computer.

You can even share network connections, which is a great extra feature.

If you haven't shared everything, you can't remotely add extra directories to be shared.  This makes sense from a security point of view.

Firewalls

Most firewall products will allow iTwin to work through them with no problems.  Some may require you to specifically allow iTwin access.

LAN Connections

If you have iTwin connected computers on the same Local Area Network, they will attempt to communicate directly through the LAN for more efficient data transfers.

If the direct connection is not possible, they will fall back to a standard connection externally via the internet and iTwin's Amazon powered servers.

Standby and Sleep/Hibernate Modes

When a computer goes to sleep, it usually can not then be remotely woken up, and so to protect against this, the iTwin product keeps any computer it is plugged into awake and able to respond to remote iTwin access requests.

It will allow your screen monitor to blank, and your drives to stop spinning.  But it keeps the processor awake and listening for iTwin access requests.

The only possible exception to this is if Windows decides to do an auto-update and reboots itself at the end of its auto-update.  If that occurs, you're stuck until someone can restart the remote computer for you.

Security

All data that is shared between the two computers is first encrypted using a state of the art AES256 standard encryption technology.  Unless you're the NSA (and maybe even if you are), this means the information sent between the computers is close to totally secure and unreadable by anyone else.

You can also use iTwin safely on someone else's computer, because when you unplug the iTwin device, it automatically deletes any temporary files which have been created on the computer.  Only files you specifically copied to the remote computer will stay there; anything/everything else you have done will disappear.

Continued in part 2

Please click on to the second part of this article for comparisons between the iTwin device and other types of remote file access and sharing services.

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 04 Nov 2011, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
 
 

 


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