Can you prevent caching to local?

Brass Contributor

To try to prevent remote users from copying files locally is there a way to force the desktop app to not allow local cache but operate as online only?

1 Reply


It's a good question, and I think the answer is "no". It's not uncommon for our userbase to misunderstand this aspect of OfB and treat a synced Document Library as set of bookmarks. Now that the syncing is much more robust, we see far fewer versioning/overwrite issues as a result of this, but they do still occur.


In an ideal world, we'd be able to set a flag at the Document Library/Site/Site Collection level that set a default behaviour of online-only (i.e. opening an online-only file doesn't cache a copy on the user's device - it simply acts a shortcut to the original in SharePoint). In a perfect world we'd also be able to decide whether the user could manually override this with the Always keep on this device function. I doubt it'll happen as it would drag even more complexity into an already confusing UX, and add complexity to the back end too, so I'd settle for this option being user-side in the OfB app.


I think that part of the problem is the misleading term Always keep on this device - that's not really what the function does, it just downloads a copy in the same way that opening a non-cached file does. Always keep on this device is ambiguous regarding the concepts of copies vs originals, and copying vs moving, and this builds an incorrect mental model in the user's mind that leads to fundamental misunderstanding of the concepts involved. The current wording implies that there ought to be an Always keep in the cloud option too, which (I think) is what @jasonhand was asking.


I think the design would be clearer if the function was labelled Download a copy to this device because:

  1. That's what is actually does
  2. It's more aligned with what happens when you open a cloud-only file
  3. It helps build a better model in the user's mind

I think the UI design is missing an opportunity with the status icons signifiers too. The blue cloud is excellent - it immediately conveys the concept that the file exists "in the cloud" and, in this context, the user will understand exactly what this implies (i.e. they need to be online to access it, and they do not have a copy cached locally). The green tick only implies an ambiguous "success" condition though, and given the other UX issues above, it's not intuitive exactly what has been successful. I can't think of a image as effective as the blue cloud, but if it was a green icon of a computer it would imply both success and the file being available locally, even it it didn't highlight the concept that the locally cached version is a copy of the original, not the original itself.