Configuring the Synchronization of Offline Files

Most organizations have instituted backup processes, particularly for critical data. In some cases, they might use programs such as Systems Management Server or a third-party software product to perform this vital task.

In many cases, critical data files or file folders are shared among multiple users, such as a field sales force. Keeping current copies of all these files or folders can be a serious IT issue.

Windows 2000 provides Synchronization Manager, which makes it easier to ensure that critical files and folders on client computers and network servers are kept current and, in the process, helps ensure that vital data is backed up on a timely basis.

Synchronization Manager is particularly valuable to remote or traveling users who are connected to the network intermittently. Using Synchronization Manager, you can control when your offline users' files are synchronized with files on the network. This process is transparent to users, because they access their files in exactly the same manner when they are offline as when they are online. This ensures that they have the latest information from the network when they need it, while also helping to minimize the potential disruptions that would occur if the data on their local computer is lost.

Synchronization Manager compares items on the network to those that the user opened or updated while working offline, and makes the most current version available to both the local computer and the network. Among the items you can synchronize are individual files, entire folders, and offline Web pages. Synchronization Manager can automatically synchronize the information that is available offline:

  • Every time a user logs on or off the network, or both.

  • At specific intervals while the computer is idle but still connected to the network.

  • At scheduled times.

Combinations of these options and different options can be used for offline files from different shared sources.

Administrators can designate any share network folder as being available for offline use.

To mark a share folder for offline use

  1. In Windows Explorer, right-click the folder to be shared.

  2. Click Sharing , and then click Caching.

  3. Select Allow caching of files in this shared folder , and then choose one of the following settings and click OK :

    • Manual caching for documents. Users must manually specify the documents they want stored. All selected files will automatically be stored.

    • Automatic caching for documents. The entire contents of a folder can be stored. However, only the files that are actually opened by the user will be stored. This results in less network traffic than manual storing, where all selected files are stored, whether they have been opened or not.

    • Automatic caching for programs. Reduces network traffic because the network versions of the documents or programs are only stored once; after that, the offline copies are used. This setting is designed for folders containing documents that are read-only or applications that are designed to be run from the network.

Guidelines for Configuring Offline Files

Group Policy provides you with a number of ways to manage offline folders within your organization:

First, you can decide whether offline folders are available on a particular client computer by using the Sharing/Caching options for a folder. When you share a folder, the default caching mode is set to Manual caching for documents . To prevent users from caching a folder, clear the check box labeled Allow caching of files in this shared folder .

Similarly, you can use Files not cached to specify certain file types (by extension) that will not be cached. For example, you can use this option to prevent large .avi multimedia files from being transferred back and forth across the network.

By using the option DisableB> user configuration of logoffsynchronization you can prevent the user from manually changing the synchronization options described earlier.

Two other options, Automatic synchronization at logoff and Disable user synchronization of folders and files , allow you to exercise control over when synchronization takes place, rather than which files are synchronized. The first option indicates the type of synchronization-Quick or Full-to be performed when you log off. A quick synchronization synchronizes files individually selected by the user. A full synchronization synchronizes automatically cached files as well. Disable user synchronization of folders and files allows you to specify that synchronization will take place only when you log on and off.