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New for ECM: mobile, sync and offline access

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Standalone CFS tools make sense for many scenarios. However, for more complex and “enterprisey” use cases, customers will increasingly expect their existing enterprise vendors (DM or collaboration) to provide capabilities for advanced file sharing, including cloud and hybrid cloud-based services. Most tools do that by providing a sync app for your desktop/laptop, which then syncs your files from the cloud-based storage to your local machine.

There are some differentiators here. Most tools want you to create a dedicated folder and move your files to that dedicated folder, which is then synced. A few tools like Syncplicity allow you to sync from any existing folder on your machine. A dedicated folder can be better managed and seems to be a cleaner solution; however, it does mean that you need to move files around, duplicate them and so forth. The other approach of using any folder as a sync folder allows you to keep working on files in their usual location. That is convenient, but if you reach a stage when you have too many folders scattered around on your laptop and other synced machines, you might have some manageability issues.

Some tools allow you to selectively sync. Rather than syncing your entire cloud drive, you can decide which folders to sync. That is useful when you are in a slow speed area or you have other bandwidth-related constraints. In some cases, you can also decide whether you want a one-way sync or a bi-directional sync. Once you have the files synced up and available locally, you typically can work offline as well. When you go online, your changes are synced back to the cloud.

Assessing options

Most tools that provide a dedicated mobile app can also sync files on your mobile devices. However, mobile syncing is usually tricky due to the closed nature of mobile device file systems; test this as well.

As with most technology marketplaces, mobile and cloud are driving the next generation of capabilities in ECM and document management tools. The key capabilities that are relevant in this context are the ability to access documents via mobile devices, ability to sync documents across multiple devices and the ability to work in offline mode.

While most ECM and DM vendors provide some varying capabilities for mobile access, not all of them can effectively offer file sync across multiple devices. Assess your options accordingly.

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