Every company use file-servers for storing business data and these are getting a more important role as the IT infrastructure evolves. Take a minute and think about the following scenario:
An electronic component on a main file-server has a malfunction and the server goes black 6’o’clock in the morning leaving the users without access to the files. The replacement of this component, or the whole server, takes 8 hours to be fixed and get the server up running as before.
Have you ever thought about your file-server and what have you done as an IT professional to make sure your users doesn’t lose access to important company data in a longer period of time? Many people haven’t really thought about the consequences of this and how the problem easily can be avoided. I have asked some people and the answers are typically:
- This have never been an issue, why should it break?
- The files isn’t that important, we can wait for the repair
- I can restore the data from backup on another server in the meantime
The solution for redundant file shares with Distributed File System (DFS). This have been around for some time starting with the File Replication Services (FRS) in Windows 2000 Server (this is still used for DC replication), but the DFS Replication in Windows 2003 R2 and higher versions is a scalable, secure and great solution for that extra file share you need if a server comes offline.
I will point out a few advantages you get with the Distributed File System here:
The installation is very simple, and with a few minutes work you have your DFS up and running. Of course this is only the basic configuration of DFS and for more indept configuration and explanation of the features and possibilities, you need to dig more into the DFS through the Microsoft documentation for DFS.
- Make a new folder on a volume with enough spaces for your files and staged/conflict data (staged data is files that are replicated to this server and conflict data is files that are changed at the same time or exist on the destination server)
- Do the same task for your second fileserver (this can be on the same network or a branch office)
- Install the Distributed File System from Add/remove Windows Components
- Start the DFS Management Console (Not the Distributed File System console if that exists. That is the old DFS!)
For the configuration you need to know a few basic things about DFS to set up your environment correctly for redundancy.
This is the name your DFS gets on the network. You need multiple namespace servers defined to make sure your clients can access the file shares.
The folders are simply links to folder-targets. These links to one or multiple shares on the network. If one share is offline or put in "disable folder target" the DFS automatically chooses another target.
Tips and tricks
To get started you need to know some basic information, tips or "tricks" if you want. These are my small notes for DFS and I find them useful in the scenarios I implement the Distributed File Systems in.
For branch offices you need to consider the schedule and bandwidth needed within working hours. Plan your replication well in both areas.
Adjust your staging area so it fits your needs (large files requires large staging areas)
When large file shares are replicated remember to "disable target" until the replication is completed. If you do not the clients will only see the incomplete replica.
Keep in mind: Permissions on files/folders are only replicated first time the file/folder is replicated. –not if these permissions change! (Whilst this is article is written)
Remember to edit your settings when adding a namespace server to change the path away from C:\ and make the namespace domain-based.
Make a maintenance schedule to check the DFS logs, replication check and staging/conflict areas
- Make at least two servers available to your clients of all the following types for high availability
- Domain Controllers (and Global Catalog servers or activate Universal Group Membership caching for branch-DC’s)
- DNS Servers
- DFS namespace servers
You can find lots of useful information on the Microsoft website and of course other sites aswell. Here are a couple of links to get you started: