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Review: AstraSync 4.0 for BlackBerry Smartphones

By Ryan Blundell on 8 Dec 2009 01:22 pm EST
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AstraSync

We all know that the BlackBerry Smartphone is the ultimate device for business use (well, any use to tell you the truth). Your BlackBerry is your most reliable personal assistant. Among its countless benefits, it keeps you in touch with your clients, informs you of important updates and reminds you of appointments. The only thing it can't do is bring you lunch - though you can actually order delivery using your BlackBerry. Overtime, your successful business grows and your team expands. As the BlackBerry users increase, communication and synchronization become critical. At some point, you may consider turning to a BES, but your budget may not be able to squeeze it in.

Before digging deep into your pocket, AstraSync should be considered as a cost-effective solution. This powerful synchronization application provides users with two-way syncing of your emails, calendar and contact information over-the-air. So, if you are using Gmail, Google Sync, Open-Exchange, Microsoft Exchange, or other Exchange ActiveSync servers that are compatible, this may be an excellent alternative to a BES. Read on for more information.

About AstraSync

AstraSync is brought to you by the good people at MailSite Software Inc. MailSite has been offering its clients similar solutions since 1995. On November 24th, 2009, they unleashed AstraSync version 4.0 upon the world (4.0.17 to be precise). According to the company, AstraSync currently works on BlackBerrys with OS 4.2 or higher; testing performed using the most recent of BlackBerry models. The ActiveSync application`s file size is 747.3 KB. As far as connectivity is concerned, the application will work on both cellular and Wi-Fi connections. After the initial installation, you should take heed of the following warning. If your BlackBerry is synchronized with your BlackBerry Desktop Manager, there is a chance that your data may be duplicated or lost. So make sure you disable the Desktop Manager`s sync option. Now before you begin, you need to correctly configure your server settings. For the review, I synchronized my Gmail account. Once your server credentials are verified, you are now ready to sync to your heart’s content.

AstraSync
Configuration settings

Luckily, you are given the option to synchronize which type of data, be it Email, Contacts or Calendar (or any combination of the three). I say luckily because, users who don`t need access to a particular feature, aren`t forced to sync it. Pre-existing data on your BlackBerry cannot be differentiated from data on the server and data duplication may occur. You are given the option to permanently delete device items. Depending on how much data you are dealing with, this synchronization process may take a few minutes. Please keep in mind that the application doesn`t offer the majority of its functionaility unless you choose to sync email. While attempting to sync my data, I did experience ``error 403: forbidden`` at times. I unfortunately had to reboot my device a couple of times, for some reason, before I could really get into the application.

AstraSync
Multiple options to personalize AstraSync

AstraSync does offer multiple settings to help you fine tune the application. I could decide how frequently I wanted to sync my data. This schedule can be managed by setting peak time and off peak time, peak time start end times and off peak time server check intervals as well as which day(s) of the week these are active on. For email and calendar entries, you can decide how far back you want to reach for data; ie- retrieve message from a month ago. You can also set how often the application checks your native calendar and contact data. AstraSync supports many of the functions we`ve grown accustomed to with our BlackBerrys, including; message deletion confirmation, address book lookup when composing and signatures.

AstraSync
View the status of your last sync
AstraSync
The application allows you to search for contacts

Once email data is chosen to be synced, you will have access to AstraSync`s Inbox feature. The AstraSync Inbox is very similar, in functionality and appearance, to the native inbox. In the inbox, an option called Company Directory allows you to find a specific contact. There is also a new and much welcomed Multi-select option, granting you the ability to select multiple messages, which are not listed in sequence. Other New options have been added in the latest version of AstraSync:

The application offers support for HTML - you now have the ability to switch message view from Plain Text format to HTML format.

Message Flags and Priority can be set and viewed. Once the flagged message has been dealt with, you can mark the flag as completed.

The application now supports Hotlinks. URLs, email addresses and phone numbers can now be selected while using either Plain Text or HTML formats.

Meeting Requests can now be viewed, as well as accepted or declined.

Attachment support has been greatly improved. Your files found on media card or device memory can now be attached to messages. Received attachments can be opened without saving to your device first (Documents-To-Go support).

AstraSync
The inbox. You can select multiple messages, flag and mark completed.

Conclusion

If it wasn't for the initial hiccups, I would have been absolutely impressed. I'm glad I didn't get overly frustrated at the beginning, as I think AstraSync is amazing. For individuals or small-to-medium sized businesses they would definitely benefit from this moderately priced BES substitute. Version 4.0 has many additions, which I was happy to see. For those of you who have used previous builds of AstraSync, you will be impressed with the wide array of improvements in this recent release. AstraSync is available for $49 annually. For more information, check out AstraSync.

Pros

  • Less costly than a BES
  • Ability to sync email, calendar and contact data
  • enhanced attachment support

Cons

  • Application initially buggy

More Info

16 comments

Boise IT

I am using BPS to sync 3 devices at this time. Is Astra Sync a good replacement for BPS? The only thing I see I would gain is HTML Email but I would lose push from what it looks like. What about syncing my folders. Can it do that as well? We are on an Exchange Server.

TheLorax#CB

mIQLive.com offers a much more compelling and robust service for FREE. The mIQ service includes things in addition to what AstraSync does like calls and photos. Not sure what these guys are smoking. Save your $50.

shawn.wood

So how does this sync with my exchange server? It looks cool that I can sync all my phone info to this and check it from the web. But I need 2 way sync with exchange email, contact and calendar.

ArgonNJ#CB

How is $50 a year for something the BB should include from the get go, cost effective. Hey RIM, just license Active Sync and stop living in the past. Not everyone wants, needs or can afford BES

CurlyFatAngry

I've been using AstraSync for almost a year now, and I can say that although it's still buggy it's come a long way. As a consultant I don't have access to the client's BES and it has saved me in many situations although the calendar sync got me in so much trouble i don't sync calendars anymore.

It's a good product if u can't get to BES like me.

shackk

For the most part I agree with the review however there are still glaring issues with this program that I have noticed. First there is no message indicator on the homescreen, should not have to open the program to see if you have new email or not. Second, vibrate feature only works if you have it set to open the program, again should not have to open the program for this functionality.

As for attachments, I really do not use so I cannot comment on that. Default mail audible alert is extremely soft on its highest volume and using your own alert is a bit buggy.

Overall for not having a BES at my office this solution does work well, but would be much better if the above could be resolved.

CurlyFatAngry

One of the main problems with this application is what you just mentioned no blinking LED no integration with the profiles and no changing icon. After nagging their support turns out that RIM has refused that AstraSync use the native BlackBerry API which would give them access to native features of the phone.

Makes financial sense to me RIM wants you to buy a BES license after all.

netwerx1

^ This.

We just tested it on a few devices, and nobody likes that you can't get message alerts in the same way as other alerts, and having an entirely different interface for accessing messages and setting the tone than other messaging accounts. Until they can access RIM API's, it's too restrictive in it's own sandbox, and we'll probably stay away.

pgrtag

Installed and uninstalled. I have 3 google apps accounts and couldn't get the trail version to setup or sync with even one.

skid_

I have just set up 4 phones with this and yes if you don't know or understand certain settings it can be a bit tricky getting started. I have had no problems syncing with Microsoft exchange and Hotmail etc, contacts and calender works perfectly. I think instead of just downloading and messing with settings, try reading the help or forums before saying a product is no good.

A BES server is fine if you have 50+ employee's, but a company with 10+ this software is brilliant.

RIM does need to play fare with its software as similar products are allowed access to certain parts of its OS which allow Mail notification etc.

john119

pgrtag - Have a look at
Google Setup Instructions http://www.google.com/support/mobile/bin/answer.py?answer=138740&topic=1...

Follow the same steps as setting up an iPhone.

jastop

I am just about ready to kill my BPS installation and was considering Funambol and also looked at this program. On the surface Funambol seems to have all of the same features but costs $0.

Has anyone done a comparison?

Gav508

Will a program like this work with Outlook and a comcast.net email address ?

BMoney1

I am a consultant. My firm and client both went to Office 2010 which kills syncing between the device and Blackberry Desktop Manager. RIM has yet to update Desktop Manager to work with the NOW COMMERCIALLY RELEASED VERSION OF THE MOST POPULAR PRODUCTIVITY SOFTWARE ON THE PLANET. So I went looking for an over the air solution and found AstraSync.

Sure, anyone can set up a pop3. I want a solution that provides BES type functionality. At least before I dump my Tour for an Android phone (ActiveSync is built in - get it RIM?). I really need a functional mirror and aggregation of my client, firm, and personal data.

Warning: If you use this product, you run the risk of having multiple/duplicate calendar invitations go out to anyone you've booked appointments with in the past two weeks. It WILL send out outdated appointment requests. There are no warning messages. Tech support pointed me to a knowledge base article buried in their online support. There is no way to limit backdated data sync. The correct answer is to delete the service books. However, this information is lacking during the product set up.

If you choose to sync the calendar, this product will burn you eventually. Please be careful.

SteveStrike

Having to pay $50 per year (per user I assume?) is redonkulous! RIM does need to get with the program and get Active Sync out of the box--the iPhone does this and my clients who use Exchange are leaving BB in droves to get it. It's simple, easy, and doesn't require any further setup on the Exchange side.

Also, there is a free version of BES for small companies. You still have to install and configure it, but it does provide OTA sync for no-cost. It's called BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express