Apple's iCloud service and Easy Books Sync

Apple's 2011 worldwide developer conference (WWDC) was held two weeks ago and started with a keynote from Steve Jobs announcing publicly the changes in iOS5 and the next generation of the Mac OS, called "Lion".

I was on a family vacation the same week and could not attend, but I followed the live blog at the time and I could tell there were some really exciting things to look into. Not least, iCloud.

iCloud is a new service built into iOS that allows for developers to transfer documents or key-value data into the service for storage. It also allows the developer to query for updates to the documents and to download these to the device. In essence, this service can be used to keep information such as word processing documents in-sync across all your iOS devices.

We will be following the iCloud system as it matures, and one day we may be able to move the Online Backup & Sync service over to the iCloud, which will save us (at Geode) a lot of money in bandwidth and server costs. But here are a few reasons why we will continue with the Sync service for now:

Trust I trust Apple with my credit card details, but I don't really want Apple to have access to my personal and business financial history. Our Online Sync service was built with privacy and security in mind. All data is encrypted between the iOS devices and the service, and the database is not available on the public Internet. A possible solution to the trust issue might be to encipher the data at the application level, so the data stored online is only readable by the app using a pass-phrase.

Merging Updates iCloud works at the document (or file) level, whereas Online Sync works at the lowest level of individual records and fields. This means that Online Sync can merge together changes that were made by many users. iCloud would update each device to the latest copy, so some people's changes may be lost in favour of a later copy. With some big changes to the Easy Books code, we could probably add the merge functionality back in, but this would be at a big development cost.

Sharing your Accounts The Online Sync service allows you to share your accounts with another user. This can be useful if your accountant has an iPad because you can share your business with your accountant, giving them live access to your books. This solved the problem of exporting a copy of your accounts, emailing them to your accountant and waiting for them to come back before importing back into the accounting package.

It also works well for business partners who work on (some of) the same businesses together. Each will most likely use a different Apple ID, but they can still share updates to the business accounts using Online Sync. There isn't a way to share your documents using iCloud as far as we know.

Apple Only Currently the app is only available on iOS and soon to be available on Mac. But we don't want to create an application that can only sync between Apple devices, and one day we may develop Easy Books for Android, or to run on Windows. Our Sync service is written to work on other platforms, when the time comes.

We will continue to support the Online Sync service for as long as there is demand for it. Meanwhile, we will keep track of updates Apple make to iCloud, and if it becomes practical to move over to it, we will.