December 19th, 2011
OUR jargon-free series on file collaboration technology continues with WAN optimisation.
Current products available are Blue Coat PacketShaper, Cisco WAAS and – wait for it – the wonderfully named Riverbed Steelhead. Surely there’s a band gigging round Texas with that moniker.
So what do these fellas do? ZZ Top and Aerosmith covers?
Seriously, WAN optimisation products adopt a different approach to improving the efficiency of distributed teams, using techniques like compression and data de-duplication to increase the size of the pipes between locations.
Plus points are:
- WAN optimisation products are incredibly versatile, helping with all types of network traffic including conventional files, voice and video traffic. They also allow a set of network links to support teleconferencing sessions and more file transfers.
- All of this boosts productivity and reduces networking costs as fewer T1 and T3 connections are needed.
- WAN optimisation can support a centralised file structure – but files must be small. They can be kept in a central store and sent to remote offices, which simplifies storage management and version control.
Now for the weak spots:
- These products are often too expensive if your company has many offices in far-flung locations.
- They are at risk from unreliable WAN connections. Employees might have to stop work altogether when network interruptions prevent access to remote files.
- This isn’t an ideal solution for sharing large files. They must be requested from a central location and, although compression cuts down the time needed to collect remote files and re-save them centrally, the process can be sluggish. And that’s not ideal when you’ve got deadlines to meet and clients’ needs to satisfy.
If your organisation has a small number of large offices, and improving the efficiency of voice and video traffic is near the top of your wish list, then WAN optimisation could suit you.
But don’t rush to conclusions before making your investment. Call Rob and Jan of Purple Rage Software on 01684 576343 or email email@example.com for other file sharing options available including Wide Area File Services, which will be the subject of our next blog.
December 12th, 2011
LIFE is full of key decisions, like selecting the right file sharing option for your business or organisation.
Get it wrong and you’ll have wasted time, money and effort.
And your employees certainly won’t thank you for something which makes their job more difficult.
Our last Purple Prose blog checked out the pros and cons of Content Management Systems (CMS) – this time we’re reflecting on file replication and mirroring.
These products, which include Microsoft DFS, move copies of files to different locations where they may be needed.
Let’s examine the strengths and weaknesses of this method, starting with reasons to buy:
- The license cost is low or nominal.
- Users can find and save files locally or from the nearest server, rather than having to wait for them to be retrieved from and saved back to a central store. That will cut down on cries of ‘just off to make my third cup of tea while this file opens’.
- File replication technology usually includes techniques that conserve bandwidth and reduce network times at busy times. File copying can be scheduled for off peak hours.
- Thumbs up from employees, who need little or no re-training. They can easily find what they want in familiar file shares using standard browsers or explorer interfaces.
And the reasons to look elsewhere are:
- Basic file replication products lack file checkout and remote locking, which means that two or more people can work on the same file at the same time. Important changes may be lost or employees could be working on out of date or incorrect versions, which in turn could lead to an unhappy office and costly errors.
- They lack the detailed, real-time monitoring needed to help administrators to tackle persistent problems or bottlenecks and view which files have been replicated or if replication has failed.
- Some products are single-threaded or allow only a few threads, which could lead to delays if the number of files and locations goes up.
To summarise, file replication and mirroring products are a straightforward, low cost option for businesses that do not require version control and have a small number of locations.
For expert advice on file replication and other file collaboration systems, including CMS and WAN Optimisation – which we’ll explore next time – call Jan or Rob at Purple Rage Software on 01684 576343. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org
December 5th, 2011
LIKE a morning cuppa when you’ve logged on and the 3pm chocolate run, distributed teams are a common feature of 21st century office life.
All over the world, teams work in close harmony to develop products. And employees in offices hundreds of miles apart manage day to day business processes in a giddying array of professions.
Sounds blissful, doesn’t it? Well, ask any IT specialist dealing with collaborative teams and he or she might run off holding their head and screaming.
The list of potential pitfalls is as long as a list of Michael Caine films – and that’s only the decent ones.
Top of the list is crashing the entire network by emailing a mammoth file to all company staff, rapidly followed by tiresome waits to receive large files – when you could have a game of Monopoly AND stick a Led Zeppelin LP on – and lack of version control, leading to duplications, mistakes and wasted time.
In short, it’s a disaster waiting to happen which is exactly why some very clever people have devised technologies to help IT departments improve file sharing for distributed teams.
First up in Purple Prose’s five-part series on file sharing is Content Management Systems aka CMS or Enterprise Content Management (ECM), such as Microsoft SharePoint and EMC Documentum.
Let’s start with the plus points:
- CMS can be used to manage hundreds of thousands of documents for thousands of users;
- Version control ensures that employees work with the latest versions so that nobody’s changes are ignored or over-written, reducing the risk of unnecessary and morale-sapping arguments;
- In-built controls offer flexibility in determining who can create, view, alter and delete documents.
And a big Family Fortunes “eurgh – eurgh” goes to:
- Each file is stored centrally so files requested from another office must be checked out, moved to the remote location, then saved and returned;
- File open and save times can be sluggish;
- Staff training is required, which can lead to increased costs and “I’ve got better things to do” type grumbles among busy team members.
So would CMS suit you? Its best fit is offices where most files are used within one location and ones working with complex documents which need rigorous management, e.g. website and publication content.
Call Rob and Jan of Purple Rage Software on 01684 576343 or email email@example.com for more details about CMS and other file sharing options.