Consider a set of shared objects in a distributed network, where several copies of each object may exist at any given time. To ensure both fast access to the objects as well as efficient utilization of network resources, it is desirable that each access request be satisfied by a copy ``close'' to the requesting node. Unfortunately, it is not clear how to efficiently achieve this goal in a dynamic, distributed environment in which large numbers of objects are continuously being created, replicated, and destroyed.
In this paper, we design a simple randomized algorithm for accessing shared objects that tends to satisfy each access request with a nearby copy. The algorithm is based on a novel mechanism to maintain and distribute information about object locations, and requires only a small amount of additional memory at each node. We analyze our access scheme for a class of cost functions that captures the hierarchical nature of wide-area networks. We show that under the particular cost model considered: (i) the expected cost of an individual access is asymptotically optimal, and (ii) if objects are sufficiently large, the memory used for objects dominates the additional memory used by our algorithm with high probability. We also address dynamic changes in both the network as well as the set of object copies.