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Wide Area File Services

Wide area file services let your remote users access centralized data as if it were local, while accelerating the speed at which those drives--and the data on them--can be accessed. Remote users can get at that data even over low-bandwidth, high-latency lines, letting your team pull file servers out of branch offices and letting remote offices share data with corporate headquarters more easily. Most important, WAFS provide lightening-fast file access.


We tested three WAFS devices--from Expand Networks, Juniper Networks and Tacit Networks--in our NWC Inc. business applications lab in Green Bay, Wis., and evaluated how well they hastened our access to critical files in the data center (see "How We Tested Wide Area File Services" ). We also spent time in the lab with Signiant Software's product, only to determine it was not a good fit for this review.

Test Setup

All WAFS products require two appliances: one on the client side and one on the server side. In addition to performing decompression and caching, the client side box compresses data on its way to the data center. The products we tested use two different architectures (see diagram below for a comparison of setups). Juniper and Expand support an inline implementation that lets you set up a route through the two boxes to get to data. This way all traffic between the sites is cached, routed and accelerated automatically. The appliances typically come in two sizes: The smaller units emphasize low cost and is intended for remote offices, while the larger is built for performance and is intended for a data center installation.

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