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Currently our documents are all hosted in a Windows 7 box. Users can access the files using Windows share and the documents are available offline (windows 7 feature). The documents are being backed up daily by Windows 7 backup and restore utility. Users can access previous versions of the file (from the backups) using Windows Explorer "previous versions" feature.

This setup is currently working well, except for the following:

  • We would prefer to have access to hourly versions of the file, not daily.
  • The previous version mechanism is tied up to the backup mechanism. Windows 7 performs a full backup every week and incremental backup everyday. The previous versions of a file is actually what are the available in the backups. If you 20GB documents and want to maintain at least three(3) year history, you will use at minimum 3 years * 52 weeks * 20GB or about 3TB even if there are few changes in the documents. Its pretty inefficient use of space.
  • Looking up previous versions of a file is very slow (tens of minutes). This is probably related to the previous issue - Windows has to traverse its all of its backups.

I am considering using SVN + autocommit/autoupdate tortoisesvn. It will have the following advantages:

  • Backups are easy and will also backup the whole history of each documents. (Just backup the repository).
  • Creating previous versions can be frequent. I think svn commit / update can be done every two minutes or so.
  • Users can sync over the net.

However, I can see the following issues:

  • More conflicts than the original setup because both multiple users can now edit the same file even both are online, i.e. can connect to the SVN repo. The users can off course lock the file first before editing, but that would mean they have to adjust.
  • Delay on propagation of file changes. On windows 7 file sharing, changes made by one online user will be instantaneously available to other online users. With the SVN setup, changes will only be propagated when the users execute the svn add/commit/update sequence. Delay will be probably a few minutes. This workflow will no longer work: "Hi, I just edited document X, can you have a quick look?"

I would like to ask the opinion of the community for alternative setups, or improvements on the above setups to work out the kinks.

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What type of files are we talking about here? Text files (e.g. .txt, .htm, .odf) or binaries (e.g. .psd, .doc, .png, etc.)? And how are editing conflicts handled right now? – Lèse majesté Mar 30 '12 at 10:19
Variety of files, text or binary. Conflict can be handled the same way as Windows - give an option to the user to save under different name and it will be up to him to merge / choose. – Herson Mar 30 '12 at 11:00

If you don't mind paying for greater than 2GB of storage, Dropbox is a very convenient and low maintenance/easy setup solution. When conflicts arise, it automatically names the conflict *(computer-name's conflicted copy yyyy-mm-dd).*. And their backups are likely more redundant than your local solution (and doesn't count as part of the storage quota).

Dropbox also has an API (I haven't used it, but it's probably comparable or superior to SVN's commit hooks) and a very user-friendly online file browser. Not to mention the collaborative and file sharing capabilities are built in and more convenient/secure than Windows'.

If you're doing development, I'd suggest SVN or similar SCMs since it has a lot of development tools that integrate well with it (project managers, issue trackers, code review platforms, etc.), but for general purpose backup and version control, Dropbox is probably more convenient—especially for non-developers.

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I'll look into this. Though I don't see how it solves the increase of conflicts and change propagation delay issues I raised for SVN + tortoise + auto scripts setup. – Herson Mar 30 '12 at 11:40
@Herson: Dropbox changes propagate automatically. I haven't timed it, but I haven't noticed any significant delays. Also, that's why I was asking about how you currently handle conflicts. If Dropbox handles it the same way, then it shouldn't increase conflicts. – Lèse majesté Mar 30 '12 at 11:44

I know this is an old question but I have been pondering over the same question recently.

I cannot find anyone anywhere using svn and Windows 7+ offline folders at the same time and I cannot imagine it is a good idea! You may loose your latest changes in case the offline folders gets lost.

Unfortunately this mean that you either have to have your files on the local drive (in which case the current changes don't get backed up) or on the none-offline network folder - which makes it inaccessible in case of network problems!

Recently one of my network drives where moved to a new server but unfortunately the people doing it forgot about the offline folders so they moved some old versions of my files because the offline folders had failed to sync - without warning! Fortunately I spotted it as svn told me that my files where out of sync (several months old) so I could clean up the mess.

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