Connecting multiple offices together

Posted on 2012-03-22
Last Modified: 2012-04-06
Dear Experts,

I have a project, and I would need your help in order to implement it.

I have five different offices in three different countries, and one web application.

All the offices needs to access this web application that is a form of a workflow for all the departments.

I'm planning to use one server in the main headquarter, and allow a connection to it for all the other offices.

The problem that I will have is that I'm in need to constantly upload and download files with large size. All the users in the offices needs also to have access to all the files that exist on the main server at any given time.

I need also to have the ability to share some folders that exist on the server, and allow users in other offices to have access to them (Same technology as dropbox).

I need a way that would allow the users to keep on working even if the internet is down.

I would highly appreciate any suggestions that you have.
Question by:jmhabis2
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Expert Comment

ID: 37752295
For large-scale programming and application development, SVN, CVS and Git already implement all the features required for this type of distributed workflow, and allows users to keep on working even with no active connection (though if two people work on the same file during that downtime, you'll obviously have more trouble re-merging them afterwards).

For your particular problem, the most viable solution I can think of would be to allocate cloud-like drive space for the entire server or at least often-used files in at least one copy per office, so that if the internet goes down at any time each office has at least once copy of any given file somewhere in their local network. After that, it's a question of figuring out a good system for centralizing these cloud-like local copies for user access - it might require custom network indexes keeping track of all files and a custom user-interface to access those files. My knowledge of cloud networks is limited, but there might already be some software out there that does this (and/or more).

Keep in mind that SVN-like setups need to create "working copies" for each user, which could make the initial network load pretty heavy, but afterwards it only syncs file changes (for most filetypes relevant to coders, that is...).

Author Comment

ID: 37752367
Just to elaborate more what I have is a workflow solutions based on a web application that is already developed. It is a form of a centralized system for the users where they can interact with each others. They will have to always upload  new and different types of files: PDF, Indesign, Images... that would be used and downloaded by users in all the offices.

Expert Comment

ID: 37752404

In that case, it seems to me like the only viable solution is to have cloud-like distribution for each localnet as above, and make the webapp able to be used locally as client even when internet access is down, switching to an alternate indexing mechanism retrieving files from the distributed local network "filesystem" instead, and when a user attempts to upload register in the localnet index and list the file for later syncing with the master server.

If you can't modify the webapp at all whatsoever, then there really is no solution I can think of other than pure cloud storage or having duplicate synchronized servers in each physical location. Any alternative I can see would mean constant updating and re-synchronizing of all files across all clients continuously, which is obviously bad news for your network.
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Expert Comment

ID: 37755641
Your workflow manager software should perform most of your functions. It should have a file sharing and compression utility built in to compress the files and send them easily between offices.

If your workflow management software doesn't offer this, may I suggest another alternative. Akamai uses this software to improve workflow management on their cloud computing:

With that said, if this is pretty much a windows server environment, you can use the built in 2008 server and Win 7 BRANCH CACHING... This form of caching is used for file and print sharing between sites and you can also configure it to be used in the event of a downtime between sites.
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Expert Comment

ID: 37755642
Also look at Signiant technology.

Author Comment

ID: 37756411
@ChiefIT Our application is an in house solution, so changing to another workflow solution is out of the question.

I was thinking about the suggestion of doing a cloud-like drive space that would be similar to what dropbox actually does.

It is a windows environment using a windows 2008 server, I never tried the banch cashing. I will check the document, and check if it would do me any good.

I did a little research, and found out that we can VPN connections, or Remote desktop. What do you think ?

Accepted Solution

OOsorio earned 500 total points
ID: 37757129
With a service like DropBox the information exists in three places, a dropbox folder in  your server, in the cloud and a dropbox folder at the remote location.  The information is mirrored so that when your server is down the information is available in the cloud and at the remote location.

Think about this; a change made to a document on the local server is mirrored to the cloud and the remote server. A change done at the remote server is mirrored to the cloud and to the local server.

VPN and RDP require a live internet connection and the data is residing in only one place.
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Expert Comment

ID: 37757772
Save yourself the grief of using excessive traffic to remote into a site. Host your files/data locally using branch cache at each site.

These are the features you should look at:
Caching data to all sites=== Branch Cache
Data Compression for smaller file transfers===Build that into your software app
A quick folder for file transfers==Build that into your workflow using the AD browser as a point of contact for forest computers.

These types of features are build into third party applications that are used for workflow management. Then, Akamai takes that one step further by hosting their own cloud environment for networking that they have control of.

Your web developers can develop an intranet web page that uses a SQL database and queries the AD database to communicate and drop data between computers and users. Don't ask me how they do it. I would rather shoot myself in the foot that program a simple batch file.

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