Recently one of our customers had a question: What is the best way to share answer files within a team? He had a very valid concern about preserving data integrity in this situation. The solution depends on your requirements.
There are basically three scenarios for sharing answer files over a network:
- All team members have write access to the answer file.
- The file is marked read-only and no team members have write access to the answer file.
- Use system-based access control lists (ACLs) to determine who has read and write access to the answer file.
In the first scenario, the answer file is simply shared on a LAN without any restrictions. Because each user has write access to the file, anyone can modify and save the answer file. Fortunately AnswerTool agressively checks for file modifications, so whenever one team member saves over the file, everyone else will be notified and will have the option to reload the file.
The benefit of this scenario is that anyone can modify the file without going through a central authority, which means that everyone on the team immediately benefits from the changes. However the danger is that someone will opt not to reload a changed file, change it themselves and then save over the existing file, which would mean losing any changes since the previous change.
Even if team members always reload modified files, there is one other serious problem with this scenario. Keep in mind that anyone saving over the answer file will cause AnswerTool to display the modified file notice for everyone else on the team. With large teams, there is a possibility for frequent modification to the answer file, and therefore everyone on the team will be repeatedly asked to reload a modified file, which will quickly get annoying and reduce productivity. Therefore this scenario should definitely be avoided for teams larger than about three people.
In the second scenario, the answer file is marked as read-only on the file server so that all team members can access it but not modify it. This ensures that no one can overwrite changes made by someone else, but it means that some additional procedures will be necessary in order to put modifications in place.
This is a good scenario because it prevents random modifications to the file while still allowing team members to overwrite the file when necessary. In a shared environment, this is definitely better than the scenario where everyone has full access.
In the third scenario, the answer file is protected by using system-level access control lists (ACLs) available when using the NTFS file system on your server. This is the most secure scenario at this time because only the authorized team members will be able to make modifications to the answer file, and everyone else will have read-only access.
In future versions of AnswerTool we do plan on having more sophisticated access control systems, but we need to hear from you. Tell us how your team is organized, let us know how you would prefer to handle sharing, and we'll see what we can do. Please send us your feedback through the feedback form.
Author of AnswerTool