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Working on cloud documents in collaborative mode

Cloud CollaborationDocuments in connected or disconnected mode? Version control or simply drag and drop? Archiving or a hard drive open to all the risks? Working on documents in collaborative mode is perhaps not as simple as it seems.

Since the appearance of Google Docs a few years ago, views on working collaboratively have evolved, and hence needs have followed the trend. The most prominent example is the mobility of data on multiple devices; designed to promote working collaboratively in any situation, anywhere. This is where things get more complicated.

In 2009-2010, researchers from Inria who said that they had succeeded in having 200 users working simultaneously on the same shared document in Google Docs. They had previously attempted 3 users. The feat wasn’t so much the information that 200 people were able to transcribe in the document, so much as imagining 200 pieces of information being written simultaneously in multiple places within the document. In short, this worked on a traditional network. The older version of Cloud that didn’t permit editing without access to the internet.

Both simpler and more complicated

Simpler because you can have use of the system that allows us to edit documents when in disconnected mode. However, the device should be prepared to work with the terminal which you wish to use, and should also be configured to predetermine the effect working on the document in disconnected mode will have. Indeed, in this mode the document:

  • Must be editable in native mode with software preloaded onto the device, be it a PC, a mobile, a tablet, etc.
  • In theory, the document isn’t accessible to other users who also might want to edit at the same time

A number of questions arise: Is the disconnected document a copy, the original, or a version of the original? And what happens if you lose the original? What versions are left? Are the older versions archived automatically? Which manages the versions: the server or the terminal? Is there a bin for the older versions? And can you compare the different versions?

In collaborative systems such as Office 365 and Google Docs, there are some rules that are established upon creating a document and then with each modification; the “versioning” is an integrated tool. Nevertheless, the tool for creating and editing the document must be capable of working on the document whether in connected mode or not. Also, it can’t be essential to make modifications to the native format of the file between two versions or two editing programmes: the versioning would no longer be reliable or would complicate the management of documents.

For good document management in collaborative mode at a mobile user level, the choice of device and terminal to use is still a fundamental decision. However, we mustn’t forget the size of the shared documents; depending on network configuration and access, certain documents remain very difficult to use in collaborative mode.

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