Bonjour sync with three macs (and iDevices)

I would like to experiment with Bonjour sync. [I have been syncing via a dropbox sync store, and although sync works fine, Devonthink Pro keeps crashing. Apparently this may be dropbox related. So I’d like to try Bonjour sync].

I’ve done quite a bit of reading about DT and Bonjour, including:

But I’m still unclear about how to use Bonjour in my situation:

I have three Macs (all Apple Silicon if that matters):

  • (A) home mac studio;

  • (B) macbook air

  • (C) work mac mini.

  • And (D) an iPhone running DTTG.

I am wondering which Mac to use as the bonjour server.

The two non-laptops are the ones that can be set to always on. But the laptop is the one that is always with me both at work and home.

My specific questions:

  1. Can I set up Mac A (Mac Studio) to be a bonjour server that Mac B (MBA) will sync from and to, but also set up Mac B (MBA) to be a bonjour server that Mac C (work Mac Mini) will sync from and to?

  2. If the above setup is inadvisable, then is Mac B (the Macbook Air) the one that makes most sense to use as the bonjour server?

  3. Given that the MBA and the Mac Mini at work may not be able to see each other via Bonjour (work network policies may prevent – never tried Bonjour at work) – what kind of cable methods will work for M1 Macs?

  4. (a) Can both bonjour sync and dropbox sync be running simultaneously for the same database? (b) If yes – does this not create sync conflicts?

Thaks in advance for any information/help!

  1. I think technically yes; I’d prefer DT to weigh in on whether it’s advisable. I’m not sure what the advantage would be though - whilst you could sync your iPhone to Mac A in this configuration, you’d not be sure Mac A was up to date without syncing with Mac B, which might have been synced with Mac C. So why not make Mac B the master, seeing as whatever you do, A won’t be guaranteed to be up to date before you have synced with B?

  2. To me, yes.

  3. Thunderbolt, I would assume; this Apple support document confirms what I have previously used is still possible: IP via TB.

  4. Yes they can and no it doesn’t.

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You can use any of them as the Bonjour server.

  1. Yes.
  2. Typically the machine most used or the one where the databases were created is used as the server.
    3, A Thunderbolt connection would work between two Macs.
  3. Yes, this is supported.

Haha, @Blanc - slow day ? :wink:


@Blanc and @BLUEFROG – thank you very much.

I guess I will try with Mac B as the traveling bonjour server.

Thanks again.

@dayknito I agree with what @Blanc and @BLUEFROG said, but I’ll add here a practical use observation.

I sync with several devices (Macs and iphone) using only bonjour. It works well, but there are a few things to take note of.

  1. Stale data.
    1a) The other instances of DT will not be current until they are served. So need to remember to serve the data. (For me this isn’t much of an issue since I’m not working time sensitive data.)

  2. DT needs to remain open and on the same network.
    2a) Occasionally I forget to leave DT open on the server laptop, or a restart closes the program, and the other devices do not get served.

  3. Automatic Sync
    3a) It’s helpful to make sure automatic sync is enabled, so that the devices will auto serve/receive when connected via bonjour
    3b) the Automatic Sync works well between macs, but I sometimes find with DTTG I have to manually sync to grab the most recent data.
    3b1) The DDTG app needs to remain open. If the app is closed or put in background the sync may fail.

In sum, the only-bonjour sync method does work, but there are chances of stale data or imperfect sync. So if you need to be 100% certain the data is simultaneously current on all the devices, this is an additional consideration.
(My setup may not be perfectly implemented, but that’s the way I’ve been using it. Hope this helps!)

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@Cali310 – many thanks for pointing out these considerations/caveats.

I think I was aware of most of these – and for that reason, I have considered cloud sync to be preferable, at least for me – it feels more “set it and forget it” as compared with more deliberation being needed for bonjour sync. (Knowing myself, I worry that if using bonjour sync, I will forget to open and thus sync a portable device before changing physical locations – and so that has made bonjour sync feel, for me, like it has more “friction”).

Thanks again for the thoughtful reminders!

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