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Coping with the Mobile Laptop User

Another administrative challenge in current environments is the laptop user, often a roaming road warrior who connects anywhere and anytime he wants through a variety of media. He could be at his desk using that docking station with the 100MB 3Com card, or out at a remote office using the slower 10MB PCMCIA card that came with his laptop. He might even be in the hotel suffering a terrible case of insomnia and dialing in over that 56K modem you gave him last week. You never know where, when, or how he will connect, but you know one thing: He always expects his documents to be available and not corrupted.

When this user is working at the office, he might create or edit documents and save them to his My Documents folder. After saving the documents, he logs off, unplugs the PC from the docking station, and takes it home. That night, the troublesome insomnia hits again, and he stays up late editing those documents. The next morning, he returns to work and plugs the laptop back into the docking station, powers it up, logs on, and is greeted with a dialog box that tells him that his local cache is being synchronized with the network.

To accomplish this miracle, you need to use a combination of folder redirection (Group Policy) and offline files. You use folder redirection to redirect the user's My Documents to a network location. Then you designate the network folder for offline file usage, and the contents of that folder are copied into the local cache, along with the corresponding security settings. All of this is accomplished transparently to the user.

Redirecting folders has many benefits, including centralized backup and management of user data, access to user data by roaming users from any computer on the network, and protection of data from failure (or loss) of a user's computer. After all, what if our roaming road warrior left his laptop on top of the car when he pulled out of the driveway the next morning on his way to work? It could happen—after all, he didn't get much sleep.

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