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Picture depicting the constant flow of information between 3 sources. Introduction

Reasons for Sharing Memories

The reason for sharing memory is to enable the use of more than one vendor.

By centralising your translations, thebigword ensures the highest quality and consistent service that your consumers and regulators expect.

The reasons a client may want to do this are:

  1. To keep costs down by playing vendors against each other, with neither having a memory advantage.
  2. To enable two vendors that have different specialist areas (software, web sites, marketing) to share the translatable content.
  3. To spread the work and avoid having all eggs in one basket with complete reliance on one vendor.
  4. To feel in control of the memory database.

The reasons a vendor may want to do this are:

  1. To gain a commercial advantage over other vendors. As the custodians of the TM, the vendor should use this position as leverage to win further work with the aim of relegating other vendors to the role of subsidiary suppliers.
  2. To demonstrate technical advantages over other vendors.

Picture depicting the flow of inform when sharing memory. Arrows show a flow from translation memory to vendors then back and forth between vendors and translators. How Memories Can be Shared

Sharing Memory Files

Memories can be shared by having a central memory file that is managed by one of the vendors or the client.

When vendor 1 receives a translation job it would download the whole memory. It would do any necessary pre-processing, then analyse the job against the downloaded memory. Likewise when vendor 2 receives a translation job it would do the same.

On completion of the translation jobs the new or changed memory units need to be cleaned into the main memory. This job should be the responsibility of one of the vendors as the main custodian of the memory, or, if the specialist resource is available, the client.

Picture depicting the flow of inform when using server-based memory. Arrows show a flow from the translation memory server to the vendors then to the translators and back to the translation memory server.Server-Based Memories

Memories can be made available through products such as Trados TM Server.

Following receipt of jobs from a client, the vendors will pre-process and analyse against the memory in the normal way, but will use the on-line memory for analysis.

Translation-ready files are passed to the translators with log-in information to access the on line memory. The translators then translate in the normal way, but instead of using a local copy or subset of the memory, they link to the full on line memory.

The memory server as above is based on a relational database and must be a high-availability system.

Advantages of Memory Sharing

If managed correctly, translation units (sentences and phrases) created and managed by one vendor can be used by another vendor, reducing costs. Additionally by merging the memory resource there is no longer any duplication of memory maintenance overheads. Therefore there should be a reduction in the running costs of the memory.

There is a perception that by sharing memories on line (or otherwise) that this will make their contents available for general use, such as in the authoring process. It should be noted however that translation memory tools such as Trados are built for daily use professional translators; the software is not designed for ease of client use for this purpose.


There are a number of issues that must be overcome for memory sharing to work successfully. Some of these are simple to resolve, but others pose more of a challenge.

Management of Memory Server

The memory server is a highly available, highly scalable database. It requires multiple user access over the internet so has high bandwidth requirements. Such a server has a high cost of ownership. Costs to be considered for such a server are:

  • Server software (typically 100,000 or more)
  • Hardware (database server plus web server)
  • Hosting and communications
  • Support for translators and vendors connecting (potentially 24 hour support)
  • training for translators/vendors
  • Administration of connection credentials (server software is licensed per concurrent user)

The running of the shared memory also places additional responsibilities on the owners of the system:

  • Maintaining 24 hour access to the service. A system failure could have disastrous consequences for the 2nd vendor.
  • Access rights and access dispute resolution (i.e. which vendors users have priority if any)
  • Censure for misuse removal of access rights (poor quality etc.). Who is responsible for this and what is the range of their powers?

Many vendors are prepared to make such investments as above, but cost of ownership increases by third party (other vendors) having access to the server. The question of who pays for this infrastructure (and how the payment is structured) needs to be considered.

It should be noted that where there are two or more vendors working for the same client and only one pays for the shared memory infrastructure, the others are at an advantage as they are in effect getting this, very powerful, facility for free.

From the clients' perspective this potential for dispute among sub-contractors can be very damaging and detrimental to projected workflow and may require the client to take a more "hands-on" role that was originally perceived.

Benefits of Using Single Supplier

By making a memory available to all vendors would seem to remove the benefit of using a single translation vendor. There are other benefits of using a single translation vendor and these are collectively far more important than that of memory access. These are such factors as:

Pre and post processing of files
Vendors gain expertise in the efficient processing of client files. These processes prepare files for memory analysis and translation. Not only can these processes affect the content segmentation (the way sentences and phrases are split to be recognised by the memory), but highly efficient processing of batches of files should not be wasted by splitting files amongst vendors. Many pre and post processing tools are proprietary to vendors, so although memories would be shared, processing techniques would not. DTP and other such post processes can be inextricably intertwined with the translation process so care must be taken when vendor job batches are created.
Project Management Continuity
On vendor provides one point of contact. Most clients value this highly.
Review Processes
As important as the translation process is the review process. Reviewer amends that do not make it back into the memory compromise that memory. Vendors take widely different approaches to review management and leading vendors have proprietary review management procedures and tools. A consistent and robust approach must be adopted, which is difficult across multiple vendors.
Query Management
Part of managing a translation job is management of queries. This is where a translator or reviewer is not sure of a term or the context of a sentence and needs to ask a question of the client. One question is asked and the answer passed to all translators in all languages and if necessary glossaries are updated. If the content going to two translation vendors is truly similar (similar enough to make memory sharing worthwhile) then this will create double query management and potentially inconsistent results. Communications structures need to be put in place between all vendors so that this does not become problematic.
Quality Responsibility and Dispute Resolution

When quality of translation is in question, it should be obvious at any time where responsibility lies. Mixing memories means mixing vendors product in one database for use at any time in any subsequent product by any vendor. Thebigword are highly cautious about taking on memories from other vendors when we take over from that vendor since bad memory units can cause more delays, quality issues and expense than if the memory was not used at all.

When a document is produced by either vendor it will, if a shared memory has been used, contain input from both vendors. If quality problems arise from this document the responsibility must lie with the vendor that delivered the document, regardless of where any individual memory units originated. This may result in higher prices with vendors taking more time to check matches over which they had no initial control.

Management of Memory Units

With server based memories, there is little or not hierarchical control over translation units entering the memory. This means that any translator from any vendor can add and amend memory units without checking. Even within a single vendor, this poses a problem, but can be partially overcome with rigorous translator selection and continuous review. Taking on this role on behalf of another vendor becomes impossible.


While memory sharing appears to be a good idea from the clients perspective by removing vendor dependence, in reality dependence on a vendor is not related to who is the custodian of the memory at any time. There are much more compelling reasons to settle on one vendor for one content type.

Where different vendors translate different content types, the sharing of memories can be evaluated, but there are many issues to be considered. In most cases, a better practice would be to keep the vendor procedures apart and pass memory files between the two periodically.

If memories are shared, one vendor (or if resources are specialist enough, the client), must take overall responsibility for the memories. If this is one of the vendors, we would recommend the other vendor should be treated as a sub contractor for process purposes.

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