Synching PDAs with a Central Server

In this issue of Wireless & Mobile UPDATE, I'll address two questions that several readers have asked. First, how can users synchronize multiple Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) with a central server? In particular, readers asked, how can they share access to a central list of contacts and shared appointment calendar?

Assuming that you use Outlook on the desktop throughout the organization, you can provide shared appointments using a back end, such as Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server, that supports meeting requests. To share contacts, establish the central contact list common to all users on one workstation, then export that list (using File/Import and Export) as a .pst file that other users can import. Email it to other users (or put it in a shared directory and send an email notice). When the data's available in Outlook, you can synch it to a PDA (Palm, Pocket PC, or other types) in the usual way.

The procedure outlined above doesn't suit organizations that deal with rapid change because it involves email and imported or exported files. Ideally, PDAs should be synched *directly* with a server. Palm designed the Hotsync Server to be hosted on Windows NT Server and to use Exchange 2000 as its back end. Consult Palm for details.

Organizations that use Pocket PCs must look beyond Microsoft, which doesn't provide a similar product. Microsoft does, however, provide information about third-party solutions.

Fair warning: I haven't worked with Hotsync Server or the third-party solutions, so I can't vouch for how well they work; I'd be delighted to hear from readers who have used them. I'm setting up a test-bed so that I can try these products myself. Stay tuned!

Second, some readers have asked how to find Wireless & Mobile UPDATE back issues on the Windows 2000 Magazine Web site. Go to the Windows 2000 Magazine Web site. There you'll find a link to "Previous Issues." Click on that link for a drop-down menu from which you can pick the desired issue.

I hope this information helps—and please keep the email coming!

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