Frequently Asked Question

Sensible use of remote files over slow links
Last Updated 8 years ago

When using remote file services via VPN or SAS usually over slow(er) links than the LAN, there are issues especially when using Microsoft office which has no consideration for slow links. 

Firstly, its important to understand how Microsoft Office open's files; When you select open from the menu, or double click an office document, office (once loaded locally) will attempt to open the file thus;

1. Open the source file, read as much as possible into memory. 
2. Open any linked files, read as much as possible into memory. 
3. Create a temporary file (IN THE SAME LOCATION) as the source file to hold changes. 

During the operation of your office document, office may well go back to the network to retrieve more from one or more files, and periodically write back to the temporary file with changes. 

When you save the files, office first writes all the changes back to a temporary file, then removes the original and renames the temporary file to the original file name. 

This all works fine when on the LAN, but over a slow link this can be painful especially with large or linked files. 

There are three options to remediate this; 

1. Use something other than office, like Libra office that is smart and aware of slow links. However, Libra office/Open Office/Star office etc may not be fully compatible with excel 2013 files. 

2. Use cloud based services such as those provided by GEN to synchronise work files between the network and the client over the VPN/SAS circuit, or over an encrypted tunnel outside of the VPN/SAS circuit. 

3. The most simple and easiest way is to copy the files you need to your local document folder and work on them there without any issues. When your done, write them back to the network. This solves all the issues and has none of the problems. 

Note: When writing linked files back to the network, and having office open can cause write issues. Always close office completely before copying back to the network. 

Best Practice; When using linked spreadsheets, its best practice to have them in their own folder (i.e. all the files that are linked live in the same folder and only those linked files). This makes it far easier to know what to copy offline and what to replace. 

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