Today, I hope to answer some of the questions surrounding “offline lease” and “offline synchronization” settings within the LiveCycle Rights Management ES server configuration. Here is a screenshot showing several settings within our Admin UI:
and within our end-user-facing policy-edit UI:
What are these settings for? The “offline lease period” and “offline synchronization period” are interrelated settings that dictate how and when clients can be trusted to access (view, modify, print, etc) “offline”. There are varied casual definitions of “offline” depending on the scenario: when an executive needs to view confidential documents on an airplane without network access; when a field service technician is on-site at a customer location repairing a device but not entitled to “network guest access” due to security concerns. Both are supported with our solution and in fact are exceedingly transparent to the end user because they “just work” when the client is unable to “phone home” to the LiveCycle Rights Management ES server to authorize access in real time.
Customers appreciate that this offline access mechanism works transparently for users when they need it to most – but only when the author (and administrator) want it enabled. Not all organizations are willing to enable offline features for their most sensitive documents because while they retain complete access to revoke content or change authorization rules at any time, they are not guaranteed that these changes will go into effect immediately for all users world-wide. This is because the users and clients who are physically unable to “phone home” to the server will not receive an updated set of authorization rules while they remain disconnected.
In other words, by introducing offline access, authors retain complete control over protected intellectual property, however they introduce some latency before authorization rules are implemented.
This latency is the period of time before the clients can “phone home” to get the latest set of authorization rules. So we offer customers the ability to set a “ceiling” on the amount of latency they are willing to tolerate between an authorization rule being changed and when it will go into effect worldwide.
The maximum tolerated latency can be configured by document author/owners on a per-policy basis. This offers our customers the greatest flexibility because an internally-targeted policy covering executive “Insiders” may be very different from information classified for external use by customers. So how does this work? Each policy can set the "auto-offline lease period" – refer back to the second screnshot. This is how an author sets the maximum latency associated with one policy (and all documents associated with it). Since not all authors will want to set the latency, we give the administrator the ability to establish a default global latency: see screenshot one, where the administrator can set the default maximum latency – which is the value that is copied into each policy when it is created.
When discussing the feature, customers ask what happens if a disconnected user has access to two different documents with different policies, and different latency thresholds (that offline lease period). An example may help – say we have document A which allows three days of offline access, and document B which allows 15 days, and the client last phoned home to the server on March 1. Through March 3, the client will be authorized to view document A and document B, and from March 4-15 will be able to view document B only. If on March 8 the client phones home again, the clock is reset so document A and B will be viewable until March 11, and B will continue to be accessible until March 23.
Back to the March 1 example. What if somebody gives the offline client document C with 10 days of maximum latency on March 6? Because our system tries to be transparent to the user, and we do not require offline documents to be opened first online, he will be able to open document C from March 6 through March 10.
So…how does “Default Offline Synchronization Period” (screenshot one) relate? It’s a global server setting regulated by the administrator that dictates how long offline accessible documents should remain available offline. We accomplish the feature of not requiring offline documents to be opened first online by having the server give the client enough information to open “all” documents the user should be entitled to use while offline.
Our engineers decided to allow customers to tune whether “all” is really “all documents ever protected in the system” or whether in most customer uses it may mean for example “all documents protected in the last 365 days”, because many customers may not need to grant access to documents offline forever. By tuning this from an infinite (true “all”) period to a rolling-window of XX (e.g., 365) days, it simplifies the amount of information that needs to be sent to the client, and the amount of information that the client must store. The user benefit of this is that if you hire a new employee in the future and want to enable his machine to access documents offline, it’s unlikely he would need to access documents from 1982 while offline.
There are clearly tradeoffs here; the key takeaway is that this value should be set to the amount of time the client should allow protected documents to be viewed offline from the date they are initially protected. Tuning this value to accommodate your scenario may be somewhat complex, so if you have any questions about your setup, do not hesitate to contact your local Adobe support representative.
Some general advice: administrators should set the offline synchronization period to be the total amount you would like documents to be viewable offline. It’s very easy to set this value large at initial deployment and then decide to tune it down later. Increasing this value is possible, but we recommend you contact Adobe support first to understand the implications and interactions in the system.
In conclusion, the “offline synchronization period” is an administrator-tunable setting that makes sure the end-user experience is always straightforward and that people can view confidential intellectual property when on an airplane, at a disconnected customer site, etc. Simply set this as the maximum time any document can be used offline from when it is initially protected.
End users who want to control access to content need only set how long they want their content to be viewable offline—and remember that it will stop being viewable offline once the “offline synchronization period” has been exhausted.