The Palm handheld computer and other palm-size PCs are popular devices for people on the go—but they can create problems for the IT department that has to keep track of the devices used in their organization. Palm looks to change all that with the Palm HotSync Server.

What is the HotSync Server?
The HotSync Server is a multiuser, networked version of the Palm HotSync desktop software. It allows an IT department to set up a server that can monitor and support all the Palm handheld devices in a company.

The software installs on a Windows NT 4.0 Server machine and can be used with Palms and any other Palm-like devices that use the Palm OS version 2.x or higher.

Why use the HotSync Server?
The HotSync Server enables users to synchronize a handheld PC with information on their desktop machines and network servers. This allows a company to incorporate into personal handheld devices the e-mail, database, and application services shared on the company network.

Users can access information on the network from any room in the company, as long as a networked PC or Palm Ethernet Cradle is available. Executives can grab important information while in a meeting, or the IT department can access critical server data while in the server room. Figure A illustrates how the HotSync Server can be accessed throughout the company.

Figure A
With the HotSync Server, users can access data from any place in the company that can access the network.

In-house developers can also take advantage of the HotSync Server. After writing custom applications, they can place the applications on the HotSync Server and easily distribute the software to everyone who uses a handheld PC with the Palm OS.

What about other handheld operating systems?
Palm realizes that the Palm OS isn’t the only handheld operating system in use, so it’s developing a version of the HotSync Server that incorporates support for devices running Windows CE 2.0. However, Palm hasn’t mentioned support for the Blackberry or other personal handheld devices for the HotSync Server.

How can the Palm HotSync Server help your IT department?
Palm believes that its HotSync Server offers an IT organization these benefits:

  • It provides an open platform for PDA management.
    By using the HotSync Server, an administrator can implement standard OS versions on handheld devices, track PDA usage and configuration, allow for a centralized backup service, and distribute custom applications to every employee in an organization.
  • It provides an open platform for PDA integration.
    Palm offers a software model that allows for added functionality to Palm-based handhelds, which can be accessed by using the HotSync function. At the time of this writing, Palm provides the Microsoft Exchange Conduit that allows for synchronization of Exchange e-mail and calendar information. Other third-party applications will be available in the near future.
  • It provides an open platform for PDA development.
    The HotSync Server has an API that is compatible with the Microsoft COM standard. Developers can use Visual Basic and Visual C++ to build new applications for handhelds.

Does your company need HotSync Server? Do you think the IT department should be forced to support handheld devices such as the Palm? Do you believe the Palm will change the way the IT department delivers information? Post your comments or send us a note with your opinions.