Preparing to Make Resources Available Offline

Part 1 of the series, Working Offline in Windows 2000: How to use caching to make network resources such as files, folders and even entire Web sites available to mobile users offline.

By Brien M. Posey | Posted Dec 14, 2000
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I've always heard the saying, You can't take it with you. Whoever came up with this phrase obviously wasn't talking about mobile computing in a Windows 2000 environment. Today, notebook computers have more hard disk space than desktop computers had only a year or two ago. For example, the 18 GB of hard disk space on my notebook was unheard of just a short time ago.

The vast quantities of hard disk space on today's notebooks, and the power of Windows 2000 make it possible for mobile users to take network resources such as files, folders, and even entire Web sites with them when they're on the go. Mobile users can work with these resources while offline, just as if they were connected to the network. When mobile users return to the office, any changes that might have been made are synchronized between online and offline copies of the resources when the mobile user reconnects to the network.

In this article series, I'll discuss the procedure for making various network resources available offline to mobile users. As I do, I'll also discuss some serious issues that you'll encounter when doing so, such as those related to synchronization, performance, and security.

Do You Have Sufficient Space?

Before I discuss the procedure for making network resources available offline, let's take a moment to discuss what's actually going on when you do so. As I mentioned, the process is greatly dependent on adequate hard disk space. Therefore, it should come as no big surprise that the process involves creating a cache on the notebook's hard disk. Windows 2000 is designed to access files and folders from the cache when the user is offline, but to make it appear to the user as though the files and folders were being accessed directly from the network.

This process sounds good in principle, but there are a few things that you'll have to consider. The first issue that you'll have to consider is space. For example, as I mentioned, my notebook has 18 GB of hard disk space. Even though the Windows 2000 operating system and my applications consume some space, let's assume for the sake of simplicity that I have the entire 18 GB available for caching network resources. Now consider that my primary file server contains 180 GB of hard disk space. Needless to say, my notebook would only be able to cache about a tenth of my server's total capacity. Therefore, you can't simply cache an entire server or an entire network. Instead, you need to be selective about which files and folders you plan to cache.

Not only do you need to make sure that you're not downloading too much content to mobile users now, but you also need to plan for later. For example, suppose you have a rapidly growing directory that needs to be made available offline. The growth rate of this directory should be taken into account so not to overwhelm the offline cache.

What Resources Should be Made Available?

Fortunately, capacity planning isn't entirely your responsibility (of course, in the world of systems support, everything is ultimately the administrator's responsibility). It's up to you to designate which files and folders can be made available offline. However, it's up to the individual user to decide which of the available files they actually want to use offline. Even though the user decides which files to use offline, don't take your part lightly. I've known a couple of administrators who simply make everything available offline. However, you might think twice about making confidential or other sensitive data available for offline use.

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