iPhone, Gmail, and Exchange sync nirvana

For the past year or so I’ve been syncing my iPhone exclusively with Gmail for email, calendar, and contacts. I finally decided it would be nice to have a full sync of my work email and calendar from the corporate exchange server, but did not want to lose the ability to access my contacts in Gmail, which also serves as my primary repository for phone numbers on the iPhone and contacts in Google Talk. I also did not want to manage those contacts through Outlook going forward.

After researching a couple of options I finally landed on a great setup using gSyncit, which is $14.99 but well worth the price for the hassle it eliminates. The trial version is fully capable of syncing one entire calendar and up to 20 contacts which is sufficient to verify that it will meet your needs. gSyncit runs as an Outlook plugin, so it will definitely be most useful on a machine that is constantly – or at least frequently – connected to the the internet. Since I have a desktop at work that remains on with Outlook always open, I installed it there.

The number of options you can configure and tweak are impressive, but for my needs I simply set up two profiles, one for syncing calendar (with Outlook as my primary), the other for contacts (with Gmail as my primary), and set it to automatically sync every hour. The default sync range of 365 days in both directions was a little slow for my calendar so I changed it to only grab 30 days prior and 365 days in the future, which easily synced my calendar and several hundred contacts in under a minute.

I did back up my contacts and calendar first in case anything went wrong (and would recommend you do the same!), but surprisingly on first sync it correctly reconciled everything in both places, no duplicates, and most importantly no corruption of the web of recurring meetings, exceptions, live meeting info, etc. that fill my corporate calendar in Outlook. It’s one of the most error-free two-way calendar syncs with Outlook I’ve ever seen. On the contact side, I was also impressed that it brought over all of the fields correctly (even pictures) from Gmail into Outlook.

Finally, with my exchange account and Gmail happily in sync I converted my iPhone to sync exclusively with exchange. This consisted of simply deleting the Gmail exchange account on the iPhone and then configuring one for my corporate exchange server. Afterwards, I did re-add an email-only account for Gmail so that my iPhone can still pull personal email directly.

The final result is that my iPhone is continuously synced in both directions with my corporate exchange server (via push) for work email, calendar, and contacts, and with Gmail for my personal email. In addition, those contacts and calendar are synced periodically (currently every hour) with Gmail so that I can continue using that as my master contact repository. Note that gSyncit allows syncing as often as every 5 minutes but I didn’t find this necessary since I change contact information infrequently, and if it’s an urgent change I’m probably making it directly on my phone anyway rather than through Gmail.

Definitely give gSyncit a shot if you’re looking for a painless way to keep an Outlook calendar and contacts in sync with Gmail so that you can sync your phone exclusively with the exchange account!

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