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I work in a small (6 employee) web/design shop. We have a file server that we use to store large design documents (photoshop files, flash source files, indesign etc) and other work-in-progress. The server is just a basic windows machine with some beefy hard drives and file sharing enabled. (We're in the process of moving to a solution using FreeNAS instead).

The owner/lead designer of the company loves to work directly on the files on the server (as opposed to making a local copy and working on that). This of course leads to all sorts of awesome file corruption and file access issues. I've shown him the support articles on Adobe's website explaining that his workflow is a terrible idea. He remains convinced that the problem is actually just a 'permissions issue' and if we just switch to using NFS instead of Windows shares/Samba, everything will be fine.

My question is: Can you recommend any other resources that might help me change his mind? Alternately, can you recommend any resources that might help to change my mind? He uses a Mac, so if there is anything specific to that OS, it might carry more weight than general information.

Currently I know about:

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That adobe article is from a pretty old version, and was last updated about 3 years ago. I would look for a more recent recommendation from adobe given how tech has changed in the past 3 years. And your NFS article is from 2000. Today with the right network setup you can reliably work on large files across wans. –  Zypher Jul 30 '10 at 16:58
    
That's one of the main reasons I posted here. I know that they are old, but I haven't been able to find anything more recent that attempts to address this issue. Actually, the adobe support article I have for flash says the same thing, and is from 2009, and the support article I have for indesign is for CS5, and says the same thing as well. –  Johrn Jul 30 '10 at 17:07
    
Poking around some more, it seems that NFSv4 is stateful, which will eliminate most or all of the problems listed in the 'considered harmful' article. But I don't think that eliminates the default problem. –  Johrn Jul 30 '10 at 17:30
    
I can tell you that Adobe CS3 applications over NFS are pretty horrible, at least on OSX. In fact I was forced to switch over to afp (former Appletalk) and samba to be cope with these problems. –  Jasper Jul 30 '10 at 20:00

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

File corruption can't be due to permission problems. As soon as you have more than one user potentially working on the same file at the same time, corruption will occur unless the application locks the file while it's open (so that only one user at a time can open the file) and the lock works over your file sharing system (NFS/samba/…). Using NFS instead of samba might help with the latter, but that's moot since according to the references you cite, the applications your group works with don't take locks.

Some places try discipline, whereby everyone has to ask permission before working on a file, and reports to the permission manager when they've finished their work. Murphy's law guarantees that it fails (especially the day before the deadline, when everyone is in a frenzy).

A version control system is the right solution: checkout, work, commit; if two people worked on the file at the same time the commit operation will fail and the second committer is told that he must merge his work with the first committer. Version control systems have the additional benefit of keeping a history of changes.

Sadly, you're facing a social issue rather than a technical issue. You can try showing your boss articles extolling the virtues of version control (google something like “why version control” and filter away anything that focuses on developers), but chances are he'll just dismiss them. It may be that the best you can do is make sure that when screw-ups happen, they involve him, and he knows why they happen. Good luck.

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+1 for suggesting a version control system. This is one of the many reasons version control system exist. –  NitroxDM Jul 30 '10 at 19:48
    
Yeah, unfortunately the response from him on all of this has been "this is 2010, we should be able to do this" or "you're obviously setting it up wrong" (even when we called in a consultant who told us to respect adobe's support docs). I'll try to push the VCS option, but if he's averse to just copying stuff to his local drives, I can only imagine the resistance to a checkout system. –  Johrn Jul 30 '10 at 20:43

I read the flash 2009 article and agree that this is ridiculous. A single user accessing a file over the network should work similarly to local storage.

NFS is not an answer to the problem and neither is iSCSI. iSCSI will present a drive to a system but once that drive is mounted, you would need to "share" it, and thus would be in the same predicament that you were in before.

If the goal is to have a central repository and you are going to respect adobe's ridiculous restriction that "Use of Flash files across local networks is not supported in any context", you will need to use some sort of system that checks out files to you. Not sure of the details, but subversion or another cvs system could fit.

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If the problem was just that adobe says "don't do it", then there wouldn't actually be a problem. But in fact, we do regularly run into errors when attempting to save remotely accessed files. For example- one of our developers was working on a remote flash file and was unable even to do a "Save As" to his local drive. I don't think the complexity of a VCS is the right answer either. We don't have multiple developers working on the large photoshop etc files, just the code (for which we use git). –  Johrn Jul 30 '10 at 17:37
    
from one of the adobe articles that you linked appears an answer from adobe : Version Cue "a file version management feature in Adobe Creative Suite that makes files available to everyone in your workgroup or team in a single workspace." is this tool available to you? –  johnh Jul 31 '10 at 5:05

I think working on large file on the server is perfectly ok and I use that without problems. They are files of different type, from photoshop to outlook personal folders comming close to 2GB each and never have corruption problems if the network (or the server's disk of course) don't fail. You must ensure file locking works and your network has to be reliable. I use both NFSv4 for the linux desktops and Samba for windows desktops (on the same files). Before I was using everything via samba but as I am moving all windows to linux I installed nfs4 too and everything is working fine.

Anyways, copying the file to local while editing is absolutely not a solution! What will you do with two different silmutaneously modified copies? To do that, you don't need a file server... You'd be more secure with each file on a defined computer and you have to seat on it to edit the file like in the pre-network times. The owner of your shop is perfectly right in this.

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The problem will continue and get worse and not be resolved until you either change the way that you work (the social engineering mentioned above) by moving to a brutal regime of check-in/check-out or you move to a solution that's more forgiving of the way the lead designer wants to work and -guess what?- that means finding a modern AFP implementation for your fileshares. [We're moving from 'vanilla' Windows shares (SMB, connected via ADmitMac) to Windows shares presented by ExtremeZ-IP. Our tests show that InDesign behaves with a little more grace when opened across the network (you can't, for example, open AND EDIT the same document on two Macs simultaneously with AFP!)]. However, you'll still have the problem that you're working beyond Adobe's design parameters for the InDesign application which include (I am paraphrasing here) "immediate, frequent, random access to fast LOCAL storage".

Good luck!

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iSCSI sounds like a solution.

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can you provide some resources for me on how an iSCSI solution would eliminate the uncertainties when working directly on large files on a SAN? –  Johrn Jul 30 '10 at 17:00
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It does not. ISCSI is remote device block access - and has it's own issues on the file system level with multiple clients using it at the same time. Needs special file systems. –  TomTom Jul 30 '10 at 18:27

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