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Online Versus Offline Synchronization

Many people have asked us how the Nasuni Filer is different from products like Dropbox and Jungle Disk. Detailing all the differences would require far more than a post. We want to focus here on the difference between their approach to synchronization and ours.

First of all, Dropbox and Jungle Disk are great tools. They are free to inexpensive ways to backup and share your files over the Web.

Jungle Disk began as an easy way to backup to S3. Dropbox started as a file sharing and synchronization tool. Both tools have been converging around backup, sharing and synchronization. Their model starts from a directory in your local file system and mirrors its content to the cloud. If a user happens to be offline, changes are stored locally and reconciled later, once the user is back online.

Dropbox and Jungle Disk allow multiple users to share documents, so that two co-workers can open and alter the same file even when they are offline. Any changes made by one user are then synchronized to the other members of the sharing group.  This can be useful so long as people keep track of who is working on what. The person to save first effectively wins—the other user’s changes, when saved, are preserved as a second version or given a new name, depending on timing. Nobody loses any changes, but there will be a need for reconciling the different versions.

In a business scenario, this is untenable, since these two or more users would have to reconcile that data by hand, merging all the new changes.

When it comes to synchronization, the Nasuni Filer behaves like a traditional NAS appliance. All users must be online to access their data. The IT environment has evolved in such a way that most applications deal with contention issues behind the scenes.  Users can avoid having to manually merge two conflicting files later on because most applications do not allow more than one user to modify a file at the same time. This is the traditional NAS environment and it has been keeping business users from stepping on each others’ work for decades.

We have been posting regularly about the Nasuni Filer’s many novel features, but to handle synchronization, we rely on the tried-and-true NAS method.

Jungle Disk recently announced a new release designed in part to address synchronization issues. And Dropbox does do a few things that we can’t do. Currently, the Nasuni Filer does not allow people to share files over the Web. You have to be connected to the same file server to access the same data. But as we move forward, we will consider adding this capability, since there will likely be scenarios in which companies have multiple Filers in different geographic locations. In these cases, we will add sharing, but, when we do it, we will do it in a way that makes sense for business users, and does not create synchronization issues.

At Nasuni, we are in the business of eliminating IT headaches. We are constantly trying to think a few steps ahead, and warding off these synchronization nightmares is just one example. Any questions? Send us your thoughts at feedback@nasuni.com.