Storing database and attachments on different drives

First, apologies if there is already a thread on this subject but I could not locate it.

I would appreciate assistance with configuring Zotero for our peculiar setup.

I work in the laboratory of a large organization with very strict security settings on our network. Over many years our group has collected a database of more than 21000 references, most with attached PDF files totaling more than 30 GB. We have been managing this database with Reference Manager 12 Network so that we can share the database, but this is no longer supported by the seller. This week my organization updated our system to Windows 10 and as Reference Manager does not operate under Windows 10 (at least as implemented in my organization) we have been forced to move to a new program. I selected Zotero as being open source and providing all the features we need (and many more!) and have successfully exported the database via XML and imported it to Zotero.

Our security does not permit us to use Zotero sync, so we have to operate Zotero 5.0.5 as a desktop app. The database and associated folders can be located on one of our servers, but like this we cannot have simultaneous access to the database, so as soon as one person opens Zotero they will lock the database preventing anyone else accessing it. My proposed solution to this is to automatically copy the "master" zotero.sqlite file to a local folder on each computer at startup (via a batch xcopy command in the StartUp folder) but I don't want to have to copy all 30 GB of storage folder to each machine. I have found a potential solution using symbolic links, but I am not allowed by our system administrator to make symlinks.

The "master" copy of zotero.sqlite and the storage, styles and translators folders are in the network location X:\zotero. The local copy on each machine will be in C:\zotero. I feel sure that there is a configuration of Zotero that will take the database from C:\zotero and the storage from X:\zotero, but I just cannot find the right combination. I have tried various combinations in Files, Preferences, Advanced, Files and Folders but I have not found the correct one.

Can anyone help me, please?
  • You do not need the copy PDF files to all machines. You can store the PDF attachments on the network disk in your company. In Zotero, this will be not stored but only linked. The database then will be on each machine, but I am not sure how the changes in the database on different machines can be synchronized.
  • I have found a potential solution using symbolic links, but I am not allowed by our system administrator to make symlinks.
    Right, you could symlink 'storage' (but not the parent data directory) to the network drive to share files that way without having to use linked files.

    But this would only work if you mean for this to be a read-only database on each computer, since as LiborA says any changes would never make it back to the server. Is that your intention?
  • (Also, if you really mean Zotero 5.0.5, I would strongly suggest upgrading to the latest version, even if you have to ask your IT department to do that for you. 5.0.5 was a very early 5.0 version, and there've been many important bugs fixed since then.)
  • If I'm understanding this correctly, it might work to use link to files rather than Zotero attachments. Those file links could point to a network drive. You could set people up with ZotFile so that all imported files are automatically moved to the network drive as links.

    This doesn't help with the database issues, which seem pretty formidable. It might be worthwhile investigating if you couldn't just run Zotero server locally entirely. There are no good instructions for doing so with Zotero 5, but the code is all open.
  • Thank you all for responding.

    I have downloaded version 5.0.34 and will get this put into our software center. Unfortunately it has taken a long time to prepare the transition to Windows 10 and I had to submit the origianl install package some time ago.

    I understand that Zotero can use linked files but I do not know how to set this up. If the files are to be linked, I need to somehow construct the database from the XML files with links instead of direct storage. Can you please tell me how to do this? I would rather not have to link each of 21000 files individually.

    The question of synchronizing the database will be sidestepped. Everyone is instructed that any new references have to be submitted to the database administrator for insertion into the master copy, which is then distributed to everyone the next morning. This is not idea but experience with Reference Manager showed that actaully this was the best way to keep a clean and well formatted database, avoiding duplicates, missing entries etc.

    Thank you for your help.
  • For the future I am working with our IT to enable use of the Zotero cloud sync, but this may take months and we need to continue working now.
  • You cannot turn files into links on import, but once imported you can use ZotFile to batch-convert attachments to links, which I think should be all you need.
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