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Quickaccess - More than remote file access Print E-mail
Written by SymbianOne   
Tuesday, 01 July 2008
As smartphones become a common part of business life, ensuring the right files are available when out of the office is a challenge. Quickaccess is designed to eliminate that problem. Richard Bloor look at how this solution measures up.

The enterprise market is awash with solutions that enable remote synchronization and access to network files. These are, however, often neither practical nor affordable for individuals and small businesses, because of the infrastructure these solutions rely on.

For individuals and small businesses, desktop PIM synchronization is often more than adequate to ensure a smartphone contains current appointments and contact details. For file access, it is a different story. The folder synchronization feature offered by Nokia PC suite provides one method of loading files onto an S60 device. Given the large number potentially useful files any PC contains, this style of desktop file synchronization can be both time consuming and unreliable.

This is where Quickaccess steps in. It enables both on-line and off-line access to the content of a desktop PC. However, this service is about more than simple remote access.

The technology behind Quickaccess comes in two parts. The first is a desktop client. This provides access to files on a running PC and uploads files to a server for off-line access. This technology is provided by Soonr. Soonr has been providing remote access services for some time, primarily targeted at portable PCs. The second part of the solution is the Quickaccess S60 application. This provides access to content on a running PC or synchronized files stored on the central server.

The Quickaccess desktop client installs as a standard Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac application. Once linked to the user's Quickaccess account the desktop client synchronizes selected folders with the server. Initially the desktop client defaults to synchronizing the PC's My Documents folder, but this can be modified to synchronize any specific set of folders.

In addition to synchronizing folders, the desktop client provides a mechanism to access any file using either the Google or Windows desktop search applications.

The Quickaccess S60 client then provides the means to access the synchronized files. The application opens to a file browser offering access to My computers, Shared with me files, the phone memory, memory card, a demo, and Quickmanager. The interface is slick, using a slide transition as the folders are navigated.

Opening My computers lists all the computers using Quickaccess. Then selecting a computer opens a list of shared folders.

For common office files - Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or PowerPoint presentations - Quickaccess offers two ways of using the synchronized files; viewing or downloading and opening the file.

The viewing capability is possibly the most significant benefit offered by Quickaccess. Rather than downloading what could be a multi-megabyte file, Quickaccess reads the document on the server and delivers it to the phone as an SVG file. For a PowerPoint presentation this can save a significant amount of data traffic. In the case of PowerPoint file conversion retains the complex transitions available in presentations. This is a quick and inexpensive (depending on the user's data plan) way to access files where viewing rather than editing is required.

For files in formats that Quickaccess cannot convert, the option exists to download them to the phone. All files that can be viewed can also be downloaded. Once downloaded the files are opened in their native viewing or editing application on the S60 device.

If downloaded files can be edited on the S60 device, Quickaccess has another trick up its sleeve. Once any editing is complete, the file is uploaded back to the server and then returned to the computer. This happens immediately if the computer is on or, if the computer is off, later when the Quickaccess desktop client next comes on-line.

There are two other features that ease the data burden of dealing with large files. The first is that synchronized files can be email directly from the server, eliminating the need to download and email them from the phone. The second is a facility to share files with others. It is even possible to share files with people who are not Quickaccess users. For those who do not have a Quickaccess account the sharing is done through a URL emailed to that person, whereas Quickaccess users access the file through their Shared with me folder. When a file is shared it is also possible to send an SMS alert so others know the file is available. There is also an option to allow the file to be re-shared, enabling viral distribution. Sharing is an excellent method of distributing files when the recipient may also be mobile, as it allows them to access the file when circumstances permit.

However, what if the file needed is not in one of the synchronized folders? As long as the PC is on and running either Google or Windows desktop search, it is no problem. After a search term has been entered a list of matching files is displayed and any of the listed files can be downloaded. There is, however, no feature for viewing the file or uploading it back to the PC after any editing.

Quickaccess also offers features for viewing and uploading images. For any synchronized folder that contains images, Quickaccess can generate a slide show or allow files to be browsed using a scrolling gallery.

As might be expected, images are optimized before they are downloaded to the phone.

Images can also be uploaded by Quickaccess to the server and then onto a computer (immediately if the computer is on or later if the computer is turned off.) There is, perhaps obviously, no optimization of file size in the upload process. This could have a significant impact on data usage, particularly on a device such as the Nokia N95 with its 5 mega-pixel camera. However, as the S60 client can use any available connection, including WiFi, it is easy to managed the impact on any chaged data traffic. However, it should be noted that the upload of images happens in the foreground, preventing other use of Quickaccess while uploading is underway.

So how does Quickaccess measure up? There are an increasing number of options available for remote access to files. There is the vanilla Soonr service and other similar services are available. Another option is offered by Network Accessible Storage (NAS) devices, which are becoming available within the budget of individuals and small businesses. While these solutions offer the same basic remote access provided by Quickaccess, none provide the smartphone optimization. The ability to visualize content on an S60 device, without first having to download the complete file, helps minimize data usage. Even with the increasing availability of unlimited data plans, viewing offers a more practical solution for smartphones. The automatic synchronization of modified files with the host computer is another significant benefit, eliminating the overhead of manually managing updated files.

Quickaccess is a natural extension of the Quickoffice application and provides the missing document link between smartphones and computers. Anyone who has suffered the inconvenience of needing to access a file that is back at the office, will immediately recognize the benefits of Quickaccess. The assurance that key files can be made available and, if the host computer is on, all files, is likely to significantly outweigh the annual subscription of $20 USD for 10 Gb of synchronized storage.

Quickaccess is one of those applications that could rapidly become an essential for almost any S60 user.

More information on Quickaccess can be found on its dedicated Web site www.quickaccess.net.



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