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Online, Offline, or Remote—SharePoint Comes Along - 11 Mar 2008

Companies today rely more than ever on the ability to share information with employees, partners, and customers, and solutions have evolved from simple fileshares and document storage systems, to more elaborate content management and collaboration applications. Microsoft's SharePoint platform has fast-become the leading contender in this space, providing a set of productivity and collaboration tools that let information workers access information and share it with colleagues. In fact, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, in his keynote at Microsoft Office SharePoint Conference 2008, stated that SharePoint is one of the fastest-growing products in the company's history. A robust collaboration platform is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity, and workers have become used to having ready access to all the information required to perform their jobs. This "I want it all, and I want it now," expectation gets a bit more difficult in environments with a mobile workforce and globally dispersed offices. When a worker in London, for example, wants information stored in a central SharePoint site in the main office in Houston, the low bandwith and high latency over the WAN provides an unsatisfactory user experience.

According to Jeffrey Wolff, Vice President of US Operations and Technical Director for Infonic, ( ), if the user-experience is horrible, then users will blame SharePoint (even though the WAN is the bottleneck) and instead of using SharePoint, will go back to emailing documents around. "To ensure the success of a SharePoint site and the happiness and productivity of your users," he stated, "you need to have a strategy for global replication." Infonics saw this need and developed a solution so that rather than have users come to a central location, companies could replicate SharePoint content and server farms to branch locations. With Infonics Geo-Replicator, the user experience is the same whether you're working in a branch office or in the home office. The underlying technology for this server-to-server solution is Epsilon, a byte-differencing technology that significantly reduces replication traffic by recognizing byte patterns and sending only the unique patterns.

Another benefit of a replication solution is that it allows for continuity of business operations, Wolff said. "If the WAN connection goes down between your satellite and main office, you have a fully functioning, up-to-date SharePoint site at each location.  Users can continue to access either site, and when the WAN is restored, the sites will automatically synchronize themselves when the WAN comes back up."

Geo-Replicator's Server to Laptop solution further enhances the user experience by providing the ability to take SharePoint offline. By creating a replica of portal content on their laptop, Geo-Replicator provides offlline users with uninterrupted access to crucial information.

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