Microsoft Live Mesh is a fantastic tool for sharing data and connecting to remote computers with an Internet connection being the only requirement. Mesh will allow you to easily manage and share up to 5gb of data as well as providing reliable remote desktop connection to any system that you include in your “mesh”.
Microsoft has been busy creating their take on cloud computing and blurring the lines between computer and web applications. Among one of their handy offerings is what is called Live Mesh. Mesh is a web based service that you manage using your Hotmail or Live account. You install a client on each system that you would like to include in your network, and that’s about it.
You can install Mesh on both Windows server and desktop platforms. Mac support is just coming out in limited capabilities, and work is being done on support for mobile devices. I doubt Linux devices will be included any time soon, if ever. 😉
At the core of it, Mesh allows you to create folders and share the contents of them among the computers that participate in your Mesh network. With 5gb of storage, there is a lot you can do with this feature. I think of it as a 5gb USB thumb drive that is automatically backed up and one I don’t have to carry around from place to place. I use a lot of different OS’s and sometimes connecting between physical and virtual machines is a problem. I also have a few machines that are connected to work VPN and the only way to directly access machines on my home network has really been to disconnect from VPN or use a USB drive.
Another advantage of Mesh is the ability to use the remote desktop protocol (RDP) to remotely connect to a computer in your mesh. I found this extremely useful in connecting to my home office PC’s while I was connected to my work VPN. This allowed me to use one keyboard and mouse to use all of the PC’s in my network at one time, no matter where they physically reside.
I accidentally stumbled upon another reason why I love Mesh so much – I bought a new home PC and it came with Vista Home Premium. I didn’t realize that remote desktop is not allowed in this version – which is extremely stupid in my opinion. Rather than installing Vista Business or using GoToMyPC, I figured out that because it was in my Mesh, remote desktop worked through that. It is the same web based RDP that has been used for years now and I have had relatively few stability/connection issues.
Mesh only requires an Internet connection and the Mesh software. Once you install the software, that machine will be visible and can share files with the rest of the machines. The online page that holds everything together is called the “Live Desktop”. It allows you to see which machines are online or offline, as well as managing files and folders.
The Live Desktop view shows the status for all devices in your Mesh –
You can see the shared copies of all files and folders that synchronize with the devices in your Mesh –
I have Mesh folders set up so that each PC in my ring has a folder called, “Files” on the desktop. All I need to do is drag/drop a file to that folder and within minutes it gets replicated/synchronized to the rest of the PC’s. If a particular machine isn’t currently logged in, it will get the new files the next time it connects. I have found this very useful for maintaining single copies of documents as well as a very efficient was to move and backup important files. This is fantastic when you have PC’s in multiple geographic locations. You can configure Mesh to start up with the OS, so you will be able to maintain hands-free control in the event of a reboot of the remote machine.
Speaking of geographic disbursement, I have even set up a ‘Support’ account that I can have friends and family use that will give me access to their PC’s and allows me to easily share files without having to talk them through the FTP process or worse yet, using snail mail.