Monday, March 04, 2013
Collaboration without conflict requires the right tools
It has often been said that the world has shrunk in recent years. The rise of relatively fast, easy and inexpensive intercontinental travel and, even moreso, access to the internet has made it possible for groups and individuals to work together like never before.
The development and spread of cloud computing has taken this trend to a new level. Now, authorized users can access a given file from anywhere in the world at any time. This makes it possible for employees to collaborate on projects even if they are traveling, at home or stationed at branch offices in different countries.
However, there are a number of potential hiccups that can undercut the effectiveness of such arrangements. Without the right tools and strategy, conflicts can emerge.
Among the most important resources that companies can leverage for this purpose are wide area file services (WAFS).
Lock in files
WAFS is a particular type of file collaboration software designed around the concept of a central vault. All of a company's data can be stored in this location, which can be either on-site or cloud-based. The central vault can be easily accessed by anyone within the organization who has the proper authorization, regardless of location.
In this sense, WAFS operates much like the cloud, but optimized for corporate collaboration. The key distinction and value from the resource comes in the way data is handled once it reaches the central vault. With a WAFS deployment, older versions of data will remain retrievable in the event of file corruption or inadvertent deletion. Additionally, files can be shared at LAN speeds, making collaboration on work sets easier than would otherwise be possible.
But there is an old saying that could potentially apply to this situation: "Too many cooks spoil the broth." This expression is generally taken to mean that too many people trying to work on a given project could potentially undercut the endeavor. When it comes to collaborating at a distance, this is a serious risk. Say, for example, that the company's files include a large, expansive spreadsheet which is relevant to numerous employees throughout the organization. Now imagine that one worker is going through this spreadsheet from the company's New York office, making additions and alterations based on data to which he has exclusive access. However, at the same time, an employee working from London is accessing this spreadsheet because she needs to adjust some tallies and other figures.
The result of this situation could be that one employee's work is negatively affected by the other's, as some of the figures used could be altered without notification. Calculations could result in inaccurate reports, as the raw data will be in conflict.
WAFS counters this potential problem by featuring automatic locking technology. Once a file is opened by a user, it is locked down. Others can view the file, but not alter it. No matter how many individuals access a file, their efforts will not undermine one another.
This ensures that the data viewed by different employees is consistent, and therefore collaborative efforts maximize synergy.