[REVIEW] Itwin, a new remote file access USB Device
Ever wanted to connect easily two windows base computer from one to another without the needs of cables and without much “networking” background? Well this is exactly what iTwin is suppose to do for those with limited tech skills or with limited time.
The iTwin was developed by iTwin Inc., headquarter located in Singapore with a department in the USA. Their product won the German Red Dot design award 2011 for most innovative design. The description of the product as mentioned by the Red Dot organization:
“iTwin facilitates data transfer and access between two computers connected to the Internet. The two identically designed parts of the device are plugged into the respective USB port of each computer. This permits files and folders to be exchanged independently from the location of the two computers, also allowing for reciprocal data processing from each of the devices.
The 256-bit AES encryption guarantees a secure connection. The housing is made of recyclable aluminum and carries a logo inspired by Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”. Its similarity to a USB stick conveys a high recognition value and promises easy operation. The unit occupies minimal space and can be carried along anywhere. For transport, the two elements are interlockable.”
As mentioned above, the iTwin requires both computers to have access to a broadband wired/wireless Internet connection. Do note that this product (currently) only works on Windows systems, respectively XP, Vista and 7. Both computers must be online (as in: connected to broadband internet, the PC itself can be in sleep mode to save power).
Things I liked
When extensively testing this unit, I must admit the installation of the product is easy like ABC. You just plug it into your PC/Notebook and the installer will pop up to register your account at iTwin.com (recommended, since you really want to be able to deactivate the product in case one of both sides gets stolen or missing. After registration the first time you plug it in, the 2 devices will be paired and can be used to share data from the one to the other and reversed. Just plug the other side into any other Windows PC and install the small application that will pop up, you get 2 folders: Local and Remote, just drag the files to whatever location you wish.
Local: The folder used for both making files available to the remote client, or for the remote client to send it’s files to your local disk.
Remote: The folder used for either transferring your data directly to the physical disk of the remote PC, or for you to search which files the remote pc has shared for you to browse through and transfer.
Further, the way it encrypts its data transfer with a robust AES-256 algorithm is really impressive. Unlike software encryption over VPN, I discovered the iTwin hardware performing better timings than moving the same files the old way (via software driven encryption). The units can be password protected too, so in case of stolen it will render itself fairly useless for the culprit.
Troubles in China
For test purposes I gave out one side of the iTwin dongle to a family member who was going to visit China. Before he left I explained how it works, and made him preinstall everything on his notebook. All good in the Belgian based HQ, connections were great and transfer speeds were terrific.
But… when he arrived in China in his hotel he tried to connect to the pc running the other side of the iTwin. Without success.
Unlike the notebook, which could make a direct connection when accessing the wireless Internet in his hotel room located in HangZhou, the iTwin dongle failed to connect to the PC running in Belgium. VPN services over software clients did work, but the hardware dongle itself could not connect.
Notice: He did tell us the iTwin asked to reinstall the software after it detected changes in proxy, an action he did not perform because he didn’t want to get any issues with the hotel’s Internet policies.
Probably the device can reconnect to the other PC when you reinstall the software and thus reinitialize the proxy setting, but this issue came slightly unexpected since the notebook in China got perfect internet access.
Should I get one or not?
Although this product is really inventive, I have doubts on recommending it to everybody out there. It depends a lot on your personal computer experience. I will break it down into 2 categories:
A) You are an average computer user, mainly using your PC to browse the web, play games, read your emails, edit some photos and office files?
B) You are a Tech geek or network admin who knows what VPN is and does; you have experience with hardware (though not essentially necessary) and know the basics of networking and networking
If you are an ‘A’, I would recommend you buying this product. It is the easiest way to get 2 Windows computers to connect and share files, even performing a remote backup. No hardware or software knowledge about VPN is required, just plug it in and it will work out of the box!
Are you the ‘B’ side? Well, don’t get too excited about this dongle. Software based VPN can be set up for free (if you know how to) and has many more options you can alter and test with. Obviously the manual way will require you spending some time on testing and searching for the proper settings to make things connect. So if you’re a B, it all depends on how many machines you wish to access your shared resources. The iTwin is a one-to-one connection with the ease of use of plug & play, manual VPN has the advantage of multi-to-multi, yet the disadvantage it takes more time and skill to set it up.
In the end it is a great product, it’s protected with one of world’s most secure encryption algorithms, has superb ease of use, and all that for just 99€/$. You decide.