iTwin Plug n Play Remote File Access
Easy, simple, elegant and affordable
The iTwin USB sticks are
paired to each other, then can be used between any two Mac
or PC computers to share data.
Part 2 of a two part review
- please also see part 1.
The iTwin approach to remotely
accessing and sharing files is easy, simple, elegant and
Unlike most competing
approaches, it is limitless in capacity, and has no ongoing fees
associated with its use.
While it doesn't also do double duty as
a way of backing up data automatically into the internet cloud,
for remote file accessing, this may well be your best solution.
iTwin Compared to Cloud Storage
There are many different cloud
storage services available these days, including some that offer a
'teaser' amount of space for free (typically 2GB - 5GB) and then
sell larger amounts of storage for monthly/annual 'rental' fees.
reviewed the Sugarsync product a few years ago, and while we
originally liked it, we ended up not renewing the product after
the first year's fee expired, due to problems with Sugarsync
getting wildly out of control and messing up different versions of
the same file on different computers, with the result that
sometimes more recent versions of files were being overwritten by
older versions of the same files, and some files ended up with
many different versions, and we couldn't conveniently tell which
was the most up to date.
Probably these errors
reflected poorly on us at least as much as they did on Sugarsync,
but the fact remains that not only did they occur, but they
damaged our data files in the process, and that is unacceptable
with any type of program.
Cloud based products have
limits on how much data can be stored, and can quickly end up
costing more than $100 a year for realistic amounts of storage.
With iTwin, there are no ongoing costs at all, and no limits on
how much data can be shared.
Cloud based products also are
not quite as secure. Your data is protected only by your
password, and if a hacker can either bypass the password or guess
it (or perhaps access it from your computer) all your data can
then be read, copied, or even surreptitiously changed. With iTwin, you not
only have password protection but also have the physical device
protection - the properly paired iTwin USB sticks must be present
in both computers for them to be able to share any data between
Cloud storage is an excellent
way of creating an offsite backup of your data, protecting you
against fire or theft or whatever else. But it is both
expensive and slightly insecure. iTwin, on the other hand,
isn't so much intended as a backup solution, but rather as a
secure remote access solution.
iTwin Compared to 'Sneakernet'
and USB Flash Drives
Another way to remotely access
your files is to simply copy them from your main computer onto a
USB flash drive, which you can walk over and plug into other
computers as and if needed to access the data on it (hence the
This is an effective but
limited solution. It gives you fast local secure access
to the data on the flash drive - but if you lose the flash drive,
the data on it may then become compromised, and even if still
secure, it obviously is no longer available to you.
It also requires you to
correctly think of every possible file you might need and to copy
them all to the flash drive. In the past I've often had
problems with a file being stored in some obscure location that
I've forgotten to copy over, and with the main computer being
1,000 or more miles away, I'm then completely stuck.
It is also slow (to copy all
the files), runs some risk of generation mismatching (if you make
changes on the master file while someone else is working on the
older copy of the same file on the flash drive) and not without expense. A 64GB flash drive costs
about $100, a 128GB drive is more like $200; whereas the iTwin is
$99 and gives you 'limitless' sharing/storage.
The iTwin product works with
Windows based computers (Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7), and
with Mac computers (OS 10.6 and above).
Either computer can be Windows
or Mac based. It is not necessary the two computers share
the same OS for their files to be validly shareable.
It requires both computers to
be connected to the internet - and even if both computers are on
the same internal intranet, it still requires internet access for
the two devices to 'phone home' both to provide details of 'where'
they are (in terms of IP address) and also for the legitimacy of
the connection between the two units to be validated.
The Importance of Your Internet
Obviously, the faster the
internet connection at both computers, the better the remote
accessing experience will be. In this context, it is
preferable to have a fast connection not just for downloading but
also for uploading too - there will be a mix of both downloading
and uploading going on, and whereas many internet connections
provide a fast download speed, for whatever reason, the upload
speeds are often much less impressively fast.
If you're going to be using
the iTwin extensively, you'll want to check what type of upload
speed you have on the internet connection your main computer is
connected to. You can do this by using any one of a number
of different internet speed test type websites, although note that
not all of these services test all three essential parameters of
an internet connection - the download speed, the upload speed, and
the latency (the delay in information being exchanged).
This is a good website/speed test
service to use. It can be helpful to do multiple tests
at different times of day to see how consistent and reliable your
access speeds are. It is important to make sure your
computer isn't doing other tasks at the same time you're running
the speed test; if it is doing other things, the results may be
slower than they should be simply because your computer is too
busy with too many other tasks.
My network is currently
testing at about a 35Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload speed
(bigger numbers are of course better), with
a 6 msec latency (smaller numbers are better). Those are very good figures, if you get even half the speed numbers and twice the latency delay, you
can be very pleased indeed.
Note that if you have both
iTwins on devices within the same local area network, they will
attempt to communicate directly rather than routing the data out
of the LAN, over the internet, and back through the LAN again.
What happens if you should
lose one half of your iTwin device? Could the person who
finds it plug it into their computer and then get the same access
to your main computer as you could yourself?
Fortunately, the answer to
this essential question is probably 'no'. There are three levels of
protection available to you.
The first is sort of obvious.
Unplug the remaining half of the iTwin from the computer it is
connected to. That renders any possible remote connection
But, of course, when you lose
the other half, you are probably not at your main/local computer.
So there are two more options open to you.
The first is to require a
log-in password every time you connect through the iTwin service.
This obviously makes it much harder for an unauthorized user to
access your main computer and its files, even if they have the
iTwin device itself.
iTwin also provides the
ability to remotely disable the connection between the two halves
of your iTwin if you should ever lose one of the two parts,
although you can only do this if you're pre-registered the double
device beforehand (so as to establish your bona fides up front).
The iTwin company has offices
in both the US and Singapore. This means that you may get
email support answers over an extended number of hours each day.
That is the good news.
The bad news is there is no phone support capability, although
this is expected to be added in early 2012.
Summary and Recommendation
The iTwin is an easy and
elegant way of sharing data, securely, between two different
We vaguely understand that
future enhancements will add further to its current very useful
Priced at $99 and available
and probably elsewhere, it quickly ends up being
better value than other competing methods of sharing data, and is
simpler to understand and use.
Continued from part 1
Please click to
the first part of this article for
information about the iTwin and how to install it and experience
in using it.
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04 Nov 2011, last update
26 Aug 2018
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