What’s the deal with the Omni Sync Server, anyway?

by Derek Reiff on January 12, 2012

Here we are

Almost two years ago, we opened registration for a brand new service: the Omni Sync Server. It was introduced slowly, of course, shared via email to folks who had trouble with MobileMe sync conflicts or setting up their own WebDAV server. Next, we invited users via Twitter and our OmniFocus forums to expand our base a bit more. (We survived that!)

At that point, we didn’t know whether the service would be free. We announced publicly in December of 2010 that it would. It isn’t free for us—about five or six folks here have had their hand in the design/implementation/upkeep/engineering of OSS—but definitely worth it. But! it’s reasonably fair to say that OmniFocus paired with OSS makes for the best experience.

So, in the past two years, it’s been pretty great — with a few exceptions. We’ve taken it down to physically move our servers to the next rack over; we’ve had a few cases of the early-morning Mondays (I’m so sorry I said that) because of I/O difficulties when sign-ups started ramping up. (Technical note: we were also using our first Mini to redirect everyone to the appropriate machine; it was overwhelmed.)

We’re now fine-tuning the system and preparing for worst-case scenarios as much as we can be:

  • What if a Mac Mini jumps off the rack at our colo facility?
  • What if a drive dies on each Mac Mini at the same time?
  • Other relatively bad thing.

Soon, after we get all of that figured out, we’ll be taking the Sync Server out of beta. Edit: It sounds a bit like we’re not currently backing things up; we are! We’re also finalizing our EULA — we want something that we like and which our lawyers will tolerate. (We’ve removed the beta badges in our apps in preparation for this; the site’s warning remains.)

What’s next?

We definitely have some ideas for a great new OmniFocus feature or two involving OSS. We also have plans to use it more and more for all of our document-based apps (see: everything else), and will move away from importing/exporting and over to syncing of documents.

Twitter-folk can stay up-to-date here with news and announcements.

We really like iCloud, but there’s still a lot we, as developers, just don’t know. Hopefully we’ll find out more in the coming month(s).

Some data from sync clients

We tweeted yesterday that exactly 31,500 users were active on our servers in the last 8 days. The most interesting bit, I think, is the most popular OS X machine: the 2011 Macbook Air. 10%, with 7% of the 13” and 3% of the 11”.

Five folks do their OmniFocusing on an Xserve. (There’s nothing wrong with that!)

Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper, occasionally shares some of his iOS statistics. I’d suggest heading there for a better breakdown of what it actually means for developers, but this is interesting:

  • 92% of the devices using our Sync Server are completely up-to-date on iOS 5.0.1.
  • Because of rounding, we can say that nearly 100% of our users are running at least 4.2.1
  • 68 devices of 38,741 are running something less than iOS 4.

And finally, for the OmniFocus geeks:

All 3592119%
Desktop only544417%
iPhone only372812%
iPad only20697%

Keep in mind that these are active devices in the last 8 days. In our latest versions of OmniFocus, we decided to up our minimum OS version to 4.0, so users that are less likely to upgrade their OS might also be less likely to explore syncing.