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There’s nothing like a bold statement to get our attention, and Chris Graves, president of Mac-centric Internet host MacHighway, makes this one: His company is “presenting [its] services as an alternative to MobileMe, as opposed to a replacement.” We take his nuanced wording to mean that MacHighway Easy lacks the full features of Apple’s option, but could still serve the same purpose for some customers by providing email accounts, website hosting, and file-server storage. The service even includes a domain name and other features beyond MobileMe’s scope. But since MacHighway is inviting the comparison, we’ll have to ding it for the areas where it can’t match MobileMe: ease of use, and iCal and Address Book syncing.
MacHighway Easy matches some of MobileMe’s features--at a lower cost. You’ll pick a domain name at signup--or transfer over one you already own--beating Apple’s generic www.me.com/username approach. That means that both your website and email comes from your customized address, which tops firstname.lastname@example.org for professional correspondence. You’ll also get five email addresses, great for sharing with family and sticking an email@example.com address on the front page of your website.
You’ll get 10GB of storage space and 10GB of transfer bandwidth a month, which is plenty for personal or small-business email, site hosting, and file sharing. You can transfer files through MacHighway’s Web interface, an FTP client, or even the Finder, mounting the online storage on your Desktop. At press time, Finder-mounting only worked over an insecure connection, but MacHighway was working on a solution to the problem.
A typical but sometimes technical set of tools handles all of your Web-hosting administration. While MacHighway offers Mac-savvy tech support, the service resembles any other standalone host more than a MobileMe alternative.
It's déjà vu all over again; these tools are the same as those you'd find on most Internet hosts.
MacHighway Easy goes beyond MobileMe in a few key areas. You can set up an unlimited number of email aliases to instantly forward incoming messages to one of your real accounts. You can add temporary or permanent email autoresponders, telling customers that you got their note or alerting friends that you’re on vacation. MacHighway also includes 10 subdomains, such as www.subdomain.mydomain.com, to organize your site. And you can view basic details about your traffic and visitors. But instead of providing a way to sync a calendar and address book online--or with an iPhone--MacHighway merely supplies a few tutorials for setting up Google’s calendar and contact alternatives. Err… thanks?
MacHighway Easy tries to live up to its welcoming name with documentation and embedded videos throughout its online setup process. For example, when you create an email account, you can watch a video that walks you through the setup, and Mac-specific tutorials advise you on many procedures like publishing to your site from iWeb.
However, MacHighway often presents strange and confusing situations that will trip up casual users. During the setup process, you need to decide if you want to pay extra for additional spam protection or ID Protection, but the site offers sparse details about what you’re actually buying. If you don’t already know that ID Protection shields your personal address and phone number from public disclosure, you might regret skimping on its $7.95 cost. MacHighway even lacks a simple, obvious control-panel login at www.machighway.com.
If you do have questions, the Mac-savvy documentation and tech support will help. And most importantly, the service works well in practice. We’re not sure the comparisons to MobileMe are appropriate since crucial syncing features are missing, but MacHighway has no problems working with Mac standards like iWeb or Mail.