Monday, 7 March 2011

Review of Peer Software's PeerLock - A Lightweight DFS File Locking Solution

Hello Everyone,

Today I am reviewing Peer Software's PeerLock Server.

Overview: Microsoft DFS is a great solution for corporations to synchronize files in remote locations with their own file servers. One of the biggest draw back to using DFS is that it does not support file locks with multiple remote file servers. Due to this limitation, 2 or more users in different branches can open the same synchronized file and can unknowingly clobber another users changes to a file causing all kinds of complications during synchronization. PeerLock server is a real-time file locking solution that works in conjunction with Microsoft DFS to eliminate this issue.

The Competition: There aren't many other software solutions for this problem. The only other program I was able to find was WAFS (Wide Area File Services) by Global Scape. WAFS takes it one step further and actually does the replication for you without the need of DFS, where PeerLock only does the file locking and requires DFS to work. PeerSoft does have a solution similar to WAFS called PeerSync, but it just seems unnecessary to replace DFS with a paid product that does the exact same thing.

First Look: Peer Software offers a free fully functional 14 day trial of PeerLock Server (Only download it when you are ready to install, your trial starts from the day you download the setup). Weighing in at under 3MB, this is a very light weight application that can also be run as a service. You need to install PeerLock on all of your syncronized file servers running DFS. Once installed, you simply just create entries for all the folders you want to watch for open files. Once configured, you can also install the PeerLock service and run the application as a service. Once you open a file on Server A, almost instantaneously the file lock is replicated to all other partner servers in the DFS group. If another user tries to open the same file at a remote site, they are prompted with a standard Windows file lock message indicating that the file is in use. We have been running PeerLock for almost 2 months now and the software has worked flawlessly. Gone are the days of users complaining that their changes didn't get saved, and different versions of the same file on multiple file servers. Annual Maintenance agreement is required when first purchasing the product which covers you for support and new product version upgrades. The cost of the maintenance agreement is 25% of the purchase, with additional years cost being 25% of the current value of PeerLock due within 30 days before your contract is expiring.

- Lightweight application takes very minimal resources on the file server
- Quick, easy straight forward setup and configuration
- Compatible with all versions of Windows, a UAC compatible version for Server 2008/2008 R2 is also available
- File locks on remote servers are created almost instantaneously

Cons:- Licensing runs at about $1400 (USD) per server. This can get quite costly if you have a large number of servers.
- You can only run 1 instance of Peer Lock running on a machine. Either the application itself or the service. If you are running the service, and you want to view the application to see what files are in use, you have to stop the service (which will release all file locks), and then run the application manually. There is no utility included to see what file locks PeerLock has issued. There is an add-on you can purchase for this functionality from PeerSoft, or use the file share manager in Computer Management.
- No central management of the application. If you add a new DFS share on one server, you need to manually update each server you are running PeerLock on with the new DFS share to watch.

Final Thoughts: I think this is a great product for any small to medium sized organization with remote file servers running DFS. The best thing about this product is that it just works. I have not yet had to call support once, nor have I seen any degradation of performance on our servers after introducing this application. Although from a price point it does seem expensive, but the integrity of the data you will protect and the frustration to yourself and your end users you will avoid is priceless.
Written By: Amardeep Juneja