WAFS Frequently Asked Questions
Which platforms does WAFS support?
Globalscape® WAFS Vault supports 32-bit and 64-bit Windows operating systems, including Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012. Agents can be installed on Windows XP professional SP3 and Windows 7, 32-bit and 64-bit. Local and network storage is fully supported in order to grow with your data needs. Full details of supported and recommended system configurations are available here.
Neither the Agent nor the Vault uses significant resources, however, if you have more than 250,000 files to mirror, we recommend a 3GB main memory system (for running the WAFS Agent), unless you are already memory constrained prior to installing WAFS. WAFS runs on an existing server, no matter what is already installed. Any PCs or other platforms (including Macintosh, Unix, Linux etc.) running on a LAN can access the data via network share. No extra software is needed on any computer—no restrictions or limits are imposed.
WAFS also provides automatic and secure browser access to files (and all past files and deleted files), from any location.
How can I use WAFS?
Deploying WAFS is simple. The most common way to mirror existing data is to select existing folders (on any local disk or an NTFS drive, such as a SAN or RAID). WAFS will keep it completely synchronized with a folder on any number of remote file servers at any distance.
WAFS ensures that all files are identical on all systems. No matter how rapid files change on any system, all other systems have the identical files. Files always open and users are always guaranteed the latest version.
WAFS supports native file locking in real time. No possibility of file conflicts.
What type of sharing does WAFS support?
Many users, whether on the same LAN or in remote geographical locations, can access the same files concurrently. The data is always fully synchronized; any change to a file at one Agent is immediately reflected at all other Agents. WAFS extends the LAN concept over the Internet and provides real-time disaster recovery.
What is the difference between WAFS and upload/download tools like FTP?
First, those tools are for scheduled or timed transfers. There is no real-time version coherence. Second, those tools do not support native lock coherence, so multiple users risk modifying the same file creating versioning issues. Finally, upload/download tools are not integrated with the Windows file system, so a lot of manual work is needed to get the data from the server, upload the data after it is modified, and to have users access the files during the day. The process is error-prone, because it is impossible to keep users in sync. Upload/download tools are inefficient in time and bandwidth utilization, and are usually not secure. Conversely, WAFS is just a series of normal folders on your existing file servers at each office.
My organization is using VPN to connect remote sites and to enable people to connect from home. Do I need still need WAFS?
Absolutely. Combining WAFS with VPN has many benefits, including dramatically increased speed (e.g., a large file will open at hard-drive speeds), reduced bandwidth needs, and off-line access. However, since WAFS uses HTTP for all communications, you do not need a VPN.
What should I know when reviewing comparable Wide Area File Services solutions?
Wide Area File Services solutions developed 10 years ago are designed specifically for Web applications—they are not well suited for today's networks with distributed servers and distributed files. Globalscape® Wide Area File Services (WAFS) accelerates performance, optimizes all communications, and mirrors data better that any other product on the market today. Data exists (100 percent current) simultaneously in multiple places 24 hours a day, with intersite traffic and chatter eliminated. No matter where the changes occur, all systems have instant local access performance, with 100 percent version coherence and cross-site native file locking. WAFS is 100 percent software and 100 percent transparent to both the WAN and your LAN—and costs 1/10th the price of appliance-based solutions.
Questions to ask when considering WAFS
- How does Globalscape WAFS handle files that change at multiple sites?
With other systems, accelerating access to static files is straightforward with a simple cache. Protocol acceleration can speed up Web applications, but what happens when the files change at other sites? Cache algorithms do not work, because transmissions occur at the worst possible time—exactly when the user accesses the file. Only Globalscape WAFS ensures that files open locally, from the local Agent every time the files are accessed, no matter how often, where, or when they are changed.
- How much bandwidth does WAFS need?
Globalscape WAFS needs only enough bandwidth to transfer changes to modified files, not the entire file, temporary files, or unneeded system files created by the operating system. Transferring a modified file repeatedly is bandwidth intensive; Globalscape WAFS transfers only file deltas (byte-level differencing) as the file changes at any location. Transferring data as the file changes is critical. Remember, the worst time to move data is when the user requests to open the file, which is exactly what the "accelerators" do. Those accelerators make you wait and cause a bandwidth spike. Globalscape WAFS acceleration protocols and differencing technology are ultra-fast and real time. Globalscape WAFS uses byte-level differencing and compression with all data transfers, so even an initial replication of files is extremely efficient. Globalscape WAFS includes bandwidth-throttling settings, the best "chattiness" elimination, and dynamically changes packet size and other parameters to ensure optimum performance and speed.
- How do other managed file transfer applications work?
Unlike Globalscape WAFS, most vendor claims of "byte-level differencing" simply do not prove true in practice. Such applications often transfer the temporary and unneeded system files created by the operating system, in addition to the working file. If you measure the traffic, you see that they actually send more bits than the original file size. Those applications are targeted for LAN-based deployments—using it on the WAN was an afterthought. Conversely, the so-called "network accelerators" are built for the WAN, but they perform only compressed file transfers, at the time of file open, which is very slow and causes network spikes. Some will also keep a limited local cache on an appliance at each site. That design is really optimized only for Web-based applications. For distributed file sharing, however, that design is quite primitive and unworkable. Relying only on Common Internet File System (CIFS) optimizations and a limited cache to speed WAN file access makes no technical or practical sense, unless your remote file access needs are quite minimal.
- Does WAFS operate remotely, as well as over the local network?
Globalscape WAFS shares data between desktops on a LAN, WAN, Internet, or VPN. It works over HTTP or HTTPS and requires no special firewall configuration. A VPN is not necessary. Systems can be located anywhere using any connection, at any distance. Globalscape WAFS customers share data and consolidate backups across continents.
- Is it true real time?
Globalscape WAFS operates in true real time. Files update instantly, and files open from the local hard drive of your existing server, for local disk performance. Compare that to other products that operate on a schedule, only upon a system scan or when a file opens. Worse, their products may detect a change immediately, but take a noticeably long time for the change to open on "the other side." Or worst of all, a change at one location does not move all the way to the other location until a user clicks to open the file at the remote site. This is how caching works, which is an old technology that is impractical for critical distributed file use. Globalscape WAFS is the only application that performs end to end in real time from any number of sites, on files in any state. With Globalscape WAFS, there are no stale versions of files. When you open a file, you are guaranteed that it is the latest. Of course, if you want to replicate on a schedule, Globalscape WAFS supports that too, but it never re-syncs.
- What about data coherence between sites?
Can users at different sites open and modify the same file at the same time, ever? Will they overwrite each other's data or cause data corruption? With Globalscape WAFS, file conflicts are eliminated. It operates in real time with the application's native file and data lock status. This is true regardless of where the users are, even if they are separated by an ocean. For example, only one user can open a PowerPoint file (PPT) in read-write mode. When others open it at the same time, the PPT "read-only" message appears. All users see the very last change, no matter how far apart the servers are. Only Globalscape WAFS offers this guaranteed real-time coherence. It is so real time, it even supports Excel's online "share workbook" feature. No other product comes close. And it is not possible for a user to open an old version. Even if the file was changed a split second earlier, only the latest version is opened. (Administrators can access old versions of the file, if necessary.)
- Can it scale?
Globalscape WAFS scales to support any number of users per site, any data set, and any number of sites. For continuous backup, you can configure many remote Agents to use the same central backup Vault. True data sharing between sites often needs multidirectional data transfer among all N sites. Globalscape WAFS is the only product fully supporting real-time, 24 x 7, multi-directional WAFS between any number of sites, with any number of files, and any file size. This is radically different than N sites simply broadcasting to each other. Globalscape WAFS is multi-directional, absolutely real time, with coherence.
- How are open files handled?
If a file is open at any site, does it update? Does the ability to handle open files mean real time no longer works? Does this "feature" cost extra? Globalscape WAFS supports 100 percent use of open files at all locations at all time, such as an Excel file that is modified and saved, but is kept open, or files that were left open on a user's desktop at a remote site while they went to lunch. The file updates everywhere in real time, no matter what. No other product can operate in real time on open files in use at N sites.
- What is the interface? How transparent is it? What changes are needed at user workstations?
With Globalscape WAFS, you do not need to learn a new interface, you do not need to install an appliance, and you do not need to change user profiles. The IT manager simply selects the folders on the various fileservers at the different sites. Users and applications change absolutely nothing and just keep working as they did before. You do not need to change the desktops and no user training is needed. You can share the folders over the LAN and leave all permissions and sharing exactly the same as before. Users access the files the same way, such as in Windows Explorer, a Web browser, or an Open/Save As dialog box.
- Can the product handle CAD data with XRefs?
What happens if you want to include a very complex drawing with many external references? Globalscape WAFS handles it all transparently, and even works with Autodesk's Revit Worksharing Monitor.
- What is the setup like?
Deploying a WAFS, sharing, or continuous backup solution does not have to be painful. It does not need an appliance that requires hours of setup by skilled technicians and reconfiguration of user connections. It does not have to involve writing scripts or navigating complex dialog boxes. With Globalscape WAFS, deployment takes 5 minutes per site, can be done remotely, and needs no changes to workstations or user settings. It sets up and fully deploys on your existing Windows server, and the software download is small, about 4 MB.
- What is the end-to-end performance?
Globalscape WAFS provides instant end-to-end performance. If a user in the Tokyo branch of your company creates a 50MB file, the file is instantly accessible in the London branch or in the NYC branch. Data is accessible even before it finished replicating, thanks to Globalscape WAFS' streaming technology.
- What is the overhead? What platforms are supported?
Globalscape WAFS is a software-only solution that uses negligible CPU time and a very small memory footprint. Load it on any computer, with any other applications. It is supported on 32-bit and 64-bit Windows operating systems. Local as well as network storage is fully supported in order to grow with your data needs.
- What happens if any remote site is offline or there is a failure at any point in the system?
With Globalscape WAFS, users have 100 percent local access at every site, even if a line is down or if any component is down. What happens when it comes back? Are all the files the same again? Globalscape WAFS switches automatically from online to offline mode and back, if the network (or any resource) is down. In offline mode, the data is still fully accessible locally and changes are recorded. When the system comes back up, it reconnects and automatically continues and handles any offline conflicts. Compare that to all other systems on which data file replication can be missed forever if a system goes offline.
- Can WAFS recover past versions and/or deleted files?
Globalscape WAFS can automatically keep past versions of each file. Whether you want to rollback a document to its state two weeks or two hours ago, or even retrieve a file that was deleted a month ago, with Globalscape WAFS, it can be done with a single click, using a browser to access the files from any location securely. Never pull tapes again.
- How secure is the data access? How secure is the communication?
Globalscape WAFS supports all Windows security (NTFS permissions - ACLs) and share settings. You can even replicate the security settings between all your sites. Plus, all communication between sites is fully encrypted.
- Last but not least: Is it affordable?
After comparing Globalscape WAFS features and capabilities with other alternatives, you'll be surprised to learn that it is 1/10th the cost of other systems. There are no hidden modules, no hardware to buy. It is inexpensive to purchase, inexpensive and fast to deploy, and inexpensive to maintain.