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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

3 key WAFS features for effective collaboration

Here are three key features that every decision-maker should look for when considering potential WAFS options.

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Today's businesses are more disparate. Workforces have become exceedingly mobile, with employees frequently working from home and satellite offices, as well as on the road. What's more, these workers must be able to effectively and easily collaborate with one another if their firms are to remain competitive in increasingly difficult industries. Those organizations that cannot enable a high level of collaboration will almost certainly fall behind their better organized, more agile rivals.

Wide area file services (WAFS) can play a critical role in this regard. WAFS is a system for distributing and accessing files regardless of physical location. However, not every WAFS option is created equal. And if a business chooses an inferior option, its employees' collaborative abilities will be compromised.

Here are three key features that every decision-maker should look for when considering potential WAFS options.

1. Security
Data security should be seen as a priority for every business, regardless of size or industry. The consequences of experiencing a data breach can be devastating, to the point that some businesses never fully recover from these incidents. If sensitive customer data is revealed, the organization will lose both existing and potential clients, hurting its ability to thrive. Additionally, regulatory agencies may impose strict fines or other sanctions on firms that are found to have taken insufficient steps to protect consumer data.

Furthermore, a data breach may result in the exposure of invaluable intellectual property. Intellectual property, after all, is not limited to trade secrets. It includes any and all information that, if revealed, can hurt a company's ability to compete in some capacity. This can include marketing strategies, inventories, consumer demographics, pricing plans and other other data that affects business operations. If competitors gain a hold of this information, they may use it to undercut the affected company.

Considering that employees must send and receive a tremendous amount of sensitive information, including consumer data and intellectual property, in order to collaborate effectively, data security is essential for any effective WAFS option. Business leaders need to know that the data employees send and receive via these programs remains protected at all times.

To this end, it is imperative that decision-makers perform their due diligence to ensure that whichever solution they select has a proven track record and features sufficiently sophisticated technology to guarantee data protection. Business leaders should not hesitate to ask WAFS service providers to explain what means they have in place to protect consumer data. If a given organization is not willing to offer this level of specificity, it is probably best to look elsewhere for a WAFS solution.

2. Data latency
Data latency is another major issue which firms need to consider when pursuing WAFS. After all, effective collaboration is largely dependent on enabling workers to share files both easily and rapidly. Any delays will compromise employees' ability to work together, undermining their effectiveness and efficiency and harming the company's productivity.

Data latency is a large factor in this regard. After all, latency concerns the speed by which data moves through a given network. If a program has not been optimized, large volumes of data may cause delays. This means that workers may wait for long periods of time for files to arrive or to be received by their colleagues.

By choosing a WAFS program that has been designed to minimize latency, firms can avoid this issue and maximize employees' ability to communicate and collaborate with one another. Specifically, firms should look for a WAFS solution that syncs locally at each agent, as this will greatly cut down on the potential impact of latency.

3. File locking
One additional factor to take into account when considering WAFS solutions is the ability to automatically lock files when they are in use. This feature, which is not present on every WAFS offering, is vital for optimizing collaborative efforts when workers need to access a single shared document. With automatic file locking, a given document can only be altered by one person at a time.

This allows businesses to avoid the "too many cooks spoil the broth" problem without compromising data access, as the updated file will be available to all other personnel as soon as the original worker is finished with it.