The USB Drive Reinvented – that’s the bold claim of iTwin, a USB dongle for Mac and PC which allows remote connection of two computers without the need for the usual network headaches. Plug one iTwin into your first computer at home, the second into the remote computer, share files and folders. Remote file sharing for the masses? Sounds too good to be true? Let’s find out.
Swap €99/$99 for your iTwin courtesy of Amazon or the company’s online store, and it’ll land on your doormat in a matter of days. As seen increasingly nowadays, iTwin’s packaging designers have spent far too much time in the Apple store, as the product’s branding (and indeed name) leans a little too heavily in the direction of Cupertino – black and white? Check? Heavy use of Myriad Pro? Check. For a product that only recently announced support for OS X, then the brand design inspiration is a little cheeky.
Open up the pack, and you’ll find a Getting Started guide and the iTwin itself. At first glance, it looks like someone has glued two USB drives together at the bottom. Indeed, that’s almost exactly what has happened – except for glue, read a proprietary connector that looks a little like a fat SATA connector. iTwin is in fact a pair of USB dongles that connect snugly during initial configuration, and then pull apart easily for remote use. One side stays connected to your local computer, the other connects to your mobile computer. That’s the principle.
Previous versions of the device shipped exclusively with Windows software, although since September, both Mac and PC users have been supported with a plug and play experience. Connect the iTwin to your computer, and the device’s software will install with minimal input required from the user. Our review unit arrived without the Mac software, however. If required, Mac users can download the OS X installer from the company’s website and install manually, if required. It’s a little clunky, with a two stage process required to install the software, plus an automatic download to ensure you’re running the latest version, but donate a few minutes and the device should install without incident.
Once installed, the iTwin may need to be disconnected and re-connected to restart the device, after which it can be configured.
You’ll be asked to set a name for your iTwin Pair, and importantly, a code with which you can disable the connection – handy if you lose one of the iTwin connectors when out and about. Registering the device with your email address will ensure the kill code is sent to you.
Once configured, you’ll be presented a folder named iTwin Local Files, into which you place any file or folder that you wish to share remotely.
Detach one half of the iTwin, and connect it to your remote computer. It will automatically connect to your local computer and (after a short pause) present those files stored in the iTwin Local Files on your computer at home. No need for domain name setups, DNS configuration, port forwarding – it simply just works.
Any file you place into your respective iTwin folder whilst out on the road will then by synced back to your home computer.
File access speeds from that home computer are going to vary based on your internet connection speed at home, and of course, your remote network speed. Testing the connection over a (reasonably decent) 3G remote connection and a half meg uplink at home was not a great experience, in truth. That’s probably not the iTwin’s fault, but rather a product of the UK’s lousy Internet backbone (especially out in the villages).From plugging in the iTwin, it took about a minute for the file listing to be displayed, and about 50 seconds for a 6 Meg file to be transferred and opened. So, if you have a poor Internet connection (particularly the upload speed) then a cloud storage service like Dropbox may be a better option.
Over remote Wi-Fi however (for example, in a coffee shop or hotel guest network), iTwin works a treat – files were available within 5-10 seconds of plugging in and that same 6 Meg file was available in just 10 seconds. No quibbles on performance here.
Speeds aside, let’s be clear, the amazing this about iTwin is that it works without effort. It’s perfect for your non-geek friends and family who are looking for a remote file access solution – a couple of clicks to set up, then simply plug and play. For the security conscious, all data shared between the iTwin dongles is protected with 256-bit AES encryption, and where possible, compressed before transfer to optimise speeds. Each time the two halves of the iTwin are plugged into a computer, they create a shared random 256-bit AES key, which resides only on the two halves of the paired iTwin, and not on their host computers. Before allowing any data to be transferred, both halves of the iTwin are authenticated by iTwin’s own servers.