Offline Mode for Share Point Linked Tables

Another commanding feature new to Access 2007 is Offline mode for SharePoint linked tables. Offline mode enables users of an Access solution that is linked to a SharePoint server to move the tables and data into an offline state where they can interact, modify, add, and delete data in the SharePoint list, without having to actually remain connected to the SharePoint server. Once the table is synchronized, all of the modifications are persisted to the SharePoint site. The Offline feature is exceedingly useful when a user needs access to SharePoint data, even when no Web or network connection is available. Essentially, the Offline feature enables a SharePoint-linked Access application to run in any environment, regardless of a connection to the SharePoint site.

When a table is linked to a SharePoint list, all of the data stored in the list resides on the SharePoint site. When a linked table is taken offline, all of the data in the list is brought down and stored in the database locally. If the user adds, modifies, or deletes data within the list while it is offline, a record of the changes is stored in the Access database. When a solution is switched back into online mode with the SharePoint site again, the data is synchronized and all of the changes are propagated to the list there. However, the data is never removed from the Access database file. The only way to remove the data stored in the file when the database was taken offline is to compact and repair the database file.

One item to consider is multiple users working with the same SharePoint list in different offline database solutions. The model for synchronizing data is: When the linked table is synchronized or moved back into an online state, its current data is synchronized, and any records containing different data will overwrite the existing data on the SharePoint list. That is, the last changes synchronized are always the current data stored on the SharePoint site, overriding any previous data. This may cause a problem when many people are using the same list, and a previous record is overwritten by another person. Fortunately, if a record is modified while an application is offline, the person synchronizing the list is presented with the conflict resolution dialog box. If nothing else, this forces users to make a conscious decision about which data to use when synchronizing the SharePoint list data.

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