WebDrive Offline File Access and Synchronization
File syncing is a common phenomenon in cloud-based storage today. There are pros and cons to keeping data in the cloud and syncing it (essentially copying it) to your local devices. WebDrive does not sync files by default. Instead, the client accesses the files you want to open from the cloud, when you want to open them, live, using secure data transfer protocols. A temporary cache of just the files you have accessed is kept. The choice to enable syncing or offline mode caching of large portions of remote data should be managed with a balance of security and workflow in mind.
In the mobile environment, you want fast access to all of your data from any device. The fastest way to get this is to keep all of your most up-to-date data synced. This also allows you to unplug your computer from the Internet and still access files.
However, this carries a security risk in an enterprise environment. Data transferred unsecurely to a device, or even data transferred in a secure way to a device which is unsecured, or a device that is stolen, is a breach of defenses. Also, corporate accounts are likely to store a very large amount of data, which could bog down or overwhelm a local device during sync. WebDrive provides configuration options to mitigate this risk.
How does it work?
Every file contains a set of metadata. Depending on where and how the file was saved (on which operating system, for instance), more or less metadata may be collected. This can include everything from the date and time the file was created, when it was last modified, what user last opened or modified it, to a host of other bits of information. The protocol you use to send the file makes a difference, as well. FTP, for instance, only holds on to a small subset of metadata.
During the synchronization process, WebDrive will check the date, time, and file size of the local and remote versions of the file. If the server version of the file has not changed since the local copy was used, the local copy will be uploaded and will replace the old version stored on the server.
Provided that the folder in which these files are stored has been marked for offline access, new files that are created locally while working offline will be transferred to the remote server. Existing files deleted locally while offline will be deleted from the remote server during the synchronization process.
Selecting which files you want to work on offline keeps WebDrive from using resources to sync more data than necessary. This also keeps your data secure; if a mobile device with synced data is stolen, no one will be able to access your entire directory of data.
Set Up Syncing
Configuring WebDrive for offline access and synchronization is straightforward. Simply enable the offline/synchronization features in WebDrive, then select one or more files/folders that will participate in the process.
Enable automatic synchronization features:
- Launch WebDrive. If you have not yet configured a site profile to access your server, click on the New Site button to launch the Site Profile Wizard used to create a new site profile (if you need instructions, this topic is covered under a separate document located on our website).
- Select the site profile and click the Site Properties button. This will open the Advanced Properties dialog for the selected site profile.
- The synchronization properties are located under the General tab. Enabling Synchronize Offline files at Connect time allows WebDrive to synchronize all offline files with the remote server each time you connect to the server in Online mode.
- Click OK to save these settings and return to the main Site Manager dialog.
Marking Files & Folders for Offline Access
After enabling offline file sync, connect to the remote server and select one or more files and folders to be available when working offline.
- Connect to a site in Online mode. The site should state if it is Offline below the site name. To change modes, right click and select “Go Online.” Alternatively, you can go to the Site Properties, select the Connection Settings tab, and make sure Set initial state to Offline is not checked. Disconnect and reconnect your site to reset your settings. On a PC, you can also put WebDrive in offline mode by finding it under Computer in your Windows Explorer and selecting Webdrive > Work Offline.
- When Windows Explorer opens, the contents of your server will be displayed. If there are no files in your server, Windows Explorer will not display anything.
- Right‐click a folder or file you’d like to appear offline, open the WebDrive subfolder, and select Make Available Offline.
- A dialog box will ask if all subdirectories (and files in those directories) should also be made available for offline access. If you would like this, enable, click Apply to Subdirectories, and click OK to save the changes.
Once connected in offline mode, Windows Explorer will open your directory. Only those files/folders that have been marked for offline access will be accessible when running offline. The rest of the files are still on the remote server, but inaccessible in offline mode.
At this point, WebDrive will function exactly as it does when you are online. You can use your applications to edit, create, and delete any available files. All changes will be stored locally until you reconnect in online mode, when all changes between the local and remote server will be resolved during synchronization.
While the most common clients are configured to synchronize automatically, you can also manually synchronize with the remote server at any time.
Open My Computer, right‐click your WebDrive, and select WebDrive from the context menu. Click Synchronize Now.
For some installations, mainly where the computer will always be connected to the Internet and thus able to connect to WebDrive, offline access may be unnecessary. In this case, leave it disabled; the synchronization process could use up large amounts of local disk space.
In the case of syncing conflicts: If the local file has changed, but the remote file has also changed, WebDrive will rename the file on the server before uploading the local copy. If this happens, a message box will be displayed to the user to manually check for differences in the local vs. remote versions. The WebDrive client does not perform automatic merging of changes between local and remote versions, to protect you from overwriting important file changes.
Before entering offline mode, ensure you have ample disk space on the client computer for the cached files. For example, if a folder containing 2GB of data is marked for offline access, and you Go Offline, WebDrive will cache the entire 2GB locally on the user’s computer, usually under My Documents\WebDrive\Cache\. Set the WebDrive cache size large enough to handle the necessary volume of information.