How do I keep the field updated?
September 27, 2006 12:57 PM   Subscribe

In a Windows environment, what's the best way to keep a folder with large files sync'ed across multiple pc's?

On one of our servers we keep a folder with all of our AutoCad design prints in it. It's roughly 2.75 GB, and growing. Currently when an engineer updates a print, he burns it to a CD and then distributes that to the field techs. Is there a better way to do this? I tried using SyncToy, but that didn't seem to work. The field techs just need one way updates as they don't change the prints. I want them to be able to log on, click an icon or something along that line and have any changes to the folder be sync'ed with their laptop.

Any thoughts?
posted by alightfoot to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Best answer: Would Windows' "Offline files" feature work for this scenario?

Otherwise, you could call a simple batch file (which you could invoke with a single click to a shortcut) to copy a folder's contents on the server to a local folder.
posted by misterbrandt at 1:03 PM on September 27, 2006

Depending on your needs, the windows XP client comes with the offline folders option. Share the Autocad design prints as a network share, then have the clients set to make that folder available offline (just right-click the share and choose make available offline).

There are other options to tweak you'll see in the Tools -> Folder Options -> Offline files folder, but what this means is when the laptops are connected, they will keep themselves automatically synchronized with the remote share, and the clients can access that share even when not connected (because it's being cached locally). Offline folders allows for two-way updates (where someone can edit an offline copy and have it merge back to the 'master'), but just make the share read-only and I think you'll fine.
posted by hincandenza at 1:04 PM on September 27, 2006

Damn you and your fast-typing brevity, misterbrandt!!!
posted by hincandenza at 1:05 PM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: I think that would work. I looked completely past the easiest solution.

Due to the size of the folder, is this sync going to be a lengthy process?
posted by alightfoot at 1:15 PM on September 27, 2006

Foldershare? May be slow though. Should work across internal/externam networks.
posted by GuyZero at 1:21 PM on September 27, 2006

alightfoot: Due to the size of the folder, is this sync going to be a lengthy process?
Only the first time, unless the 2.75GB of files change significantly each time. It sounds more like new prints are added, and only occasionally edited, but on the whole the changes aren't that frequent or large. So the syncs would be just a quick "Are there new files, and are the existing files already in my offline copy now a new size/updated timestamp?", which is a lightweight and quick check of existing files in the share.

In any event, any solution would have to deal with the size of the folder- no shortcuts there. :)
posted by hincandenza at 1:55 PM on September 27, 2006

I need a button to say this for me...
Handy backup will do what you want.
posted by seanyboy at 4:58 PM on September 27, 2006

Don't forget the Windows XP powertoy called "Synctoy" - it's pretty efficient.
posted by disclaimer at 5:27 PM on September 27, 2006

Best answer: I support about 600 laptops all using offline files daily. Apart from some weird problems that crop up occassionally (been on the phone with Microsoft a few times for offline files) it works fairly well. It might not be a good solution for you though since you only want to copy files one way.

There are some things you should be aware of for your situation:
1. CAD files tend to be very large. These could take a long time to sync depending the speed of your connection. I beg my users to plug in to the gig port beside their desks but they ignore me and use wireless (usually under 1 mbps) and then bitch because "our network sucks". And hincandenza was right; the initial sync will take forever.
2. In general, syncing shared folders is a really bad idea. This is what happens: User A syncs the Drawings folder and go home. The next morning you update some drawings. Then User A connects but he gets a warning. The files he's trying to sync are different than the version he synced with last night and Windows wants to know which version to keep - his or the new server version. Unless your users are very savvy, make sure your backups are working properly (and do they ever?).

It's been a while since I've done an initial sync (our techs set up the laptops and I only get involved when stuff breaks) but you might have the option of selecting Always keep the server version and checking a box for Don't ask me again. This might work for your situation.

I like misterbrandt's idea of using a batch file. I would look into using the replace command instead of copy so the older versions are automatically overwritten (depending on which switches you use with replace). I haven't used replace recently, but you might be able to only copy new versions. Of course, the size of the files is still going to be an issue.
posted by bda1972 at 8:33 PM on September 27, 2006

I wouldn't use Offline Files. It's Dark Magic, it Does Things without being told to Do Things, it makes files appear to be in places where they aren't really, and it's more complexity than you need.

Put this in "update.bat" inside the shared folder with the Autocad files:

xcopy /d /e /c /i /f /k /y /z "\\server\share\folder" "%allusersprofile%\Documents\Design Prints"

When a user connects to your network and double-clicks update.bat, it will copy all files and subfolders from \\server\share\folder to a "Design Prints" folder under Shared Documents on the laptop, provided those files don't already exist there with the same or newer modification timestamps.

It will show you the full pathname of every file it's copying as it does so, it will overwrite older files without prompting, and it will never even attempt to delete anything from your server.

It also won't propagate deletions; if you delete a file from the server, the laptop copies will remain in place. If this is more of a bug than a feature for you, post back here and we can add a couple of lines to the batch file to do the deletions required.

Open a cmd window and type

xcopy /?

if you're curious about what all those switches do.
posted by flabdablet at 10:49 PM on September 27, 2006

Whoops, sorry; that should have been

xcopy /d /e /c /i /f /k /y /z "\\server\share\folder\*" "%allusersprofile%\Documents\Design Prints"

Without the wildcard, xcopy would make a subfolder inside Design Prints, which is probably not what you want.
posted by flabdablet at 11:16 PM on September 27, 2006

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