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When should I use global file locking in the cloud?

According to analyst George Crump, global file locking isn't required for single-office cloud users, but for multisite organizations it is a top requirement in a cloud service.

Global file locking is similar to the file locking mechanism that a network-attached storage or file server uses to make sure that only one copy of a file is being edited at the same time. Global file locking takes that concept and applies it to a cloud implementation. This means if a user in New York begins to edit a file, users in different locations will be notified that the file is in use if they attempt to access it.

For cloud solutions, the alternative to global file locking is versioning. Versioning allows the second copy of the file to be open, but tracks it as a new unique file. This means, at some point, changes between the two files need to be manually integrated. It should be noted that most solutions that provide global file locking also provide versioning, but not all products that provide versioning provide global file locking.

If you already use a file sync-and-share service but it doesn't have global file locking, an obvious next question is whether you can add it. Global file locking needs to be tightly integrated with the overall solution, so buying an additional utility to add the capability may be difficult, if not impossible. Some file sync-and-share products may add a "check in, check out" type of feature, but this requires that the users actually remember to check the file out and, more importantly, check it back in when they are done editing.

The final consideration is price. Products that provide global file locking more than likely are sold at a higher price because they are designed to be more comprehensive than a typical file sync-and-share option. Most solutions that include global file locking are part of a comprehensive replacement of the organization's file server or network-attached storage device with the cloud, rather than a feature of a file sync-and-share product, which is designed to help users get their data to specific devices or to share that data with specific external users.

For multisite organizations that want to leverage the cloud for file data, global file locking should be considered a top requirement of the solution. For single office locations or individual users it is less critical and versioning may be all that is required.

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