Software recreates network environment on the road | GCN





Nobody wants to pack up and lug around a network server, but mobile users who forget an
essential server file have probably thought about it more than once.


Network Unplugged from Mobiliti Inc. does well at backing up needed files for road use
and at maintaining the same look as on the host network, as if the mobile computer is
still docked at the desk.


Network Unplugged installs from a CD-ROM under Microsoft Windows 9x. It resides only on
the client side and adds nothing to the server. A Network Unplugged icon on the screen of
the mobile unit shows whether it is connected to the network or not.


The software is for a mobile computer that periodically docks and undocks, so all the
necessary client software should be installed to run the usual network applications. For
example, if you have never installed Microsoft Word on your notebook but suddenly need to
process a Word file, Network Unplugged can’t help.


With Network Unplugged running in background, you continue working at the docking
station as usual, and the program notes which server programs you use. It also scans the
file transfer record to see which files you have used in the past.


When you’re ready to undock and go on travel, click the key telling the software
you are about to disconnect. It creates a temporary folder on the notebook that will hold
all the documents it estimates you will need. Network Unplugged also suggests other
documents you might want to pack based on recent use and overall history.


At your destination, the mobile desktop will look exactly as it did before you left.


If you and the program packed everything necessary, you are able to work as if you were
still back in the office. You pull files off the simulated network drives as usual, and
the program maintains the illusion of a network connection.


Whenever you redock the notebook, the remotely processed files will update on the
server.


Things can go wrong, naturally, but Network Unplugged does handle conflicts well. Say
you might not have every file you need, or you have not looked at a network drive for a
long time and suddenly need it.


If neither you nor the program thought to bring it, you can’t access it. Network
Unplugged will offer to dial into the office network and download it.


What if someone at the office is working on the same file? When you reconnect, you will
overwrite the other person’s work, or your work won’t be saved.


Network Unplugged can’t resolve the conflict, but it will alert you before such an
error occurs. Then you can save the file under a different name and compare the two
versions later, overwriting the file on the server or just keeping your copy locally.


If you back up only the files in your personal folders on the server, you can have
Network Unplugged delete copies each time it synchronizes with the host network. I
don’t recommend this if you share folders with others, however.


Network Unplugged is the first network backup program I’ve seen that attempts to
duplicate the office environment on a mobile platform. I had to check a few times to see
whether I was really connected or not.


The only real danger is that Network Unplugged users might get too accustomed to
working outside on beautiful days and forget to come back to the office.  

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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