Offline Files is still a crock under Windows 7

Offline Files is a technology that was introduced in Windows XP. We used it for a time then but found it troublesome.

I have often wondered why Microsoft needed to use a special folder in the local computer instead of doing something like a straightforward automated sync between a visible local copy of the data and a server based one. Instead they use the special folder called CSC in Windows with the filenames specially changed etc. Then they use a complex system built into Windows that has to be configured through Group Policy setting and lacks functionality as well as the difficulty of getting this complex system to work properly.

The result is that Offline Files is difficult to configure and problems are difficult to solve. Currently I am getting a laptop that stops syncing after about a minute with “The specified network name is no longer available”. There is not any documentation on this problem that I can find out about.

There have been many times when I have thought there must be a simpler way to synchronise staff laptops when all you need is to have a script running on the server using one of the freebie programs like rsync or whatever that just syncs every so often. Another option with say Backup Exec is to look at automating backup of a share on each laptop using VSS. Best to avoid having to purchase and install the expensive BE agents as the cost soon stacks up and I am hearing that they have to be upgraded regularly. At the moment I am having a play with rsync guis on our backup server, customised only to back up specific file extensions (truly documents only *.doc *.xls etc etc) and seeing how it might be able to cope with the remote laptop going offline partway through and other considerations. Robocopy can cope with this (it can be told to retry or wait forever) but I don’t know how it would manage if the remote file had changed in the meantime.

I have now discovered Windows Mesh which can sync to Skydrive (5 GB free space) so I’m playing with that as well.