Folder Redirection in Group Policy allows a systems administrator to redirect certain folders from a user’s profile to a file server. In the last part of this series, I’ll discuss things that I’ve learned in implementing Folder Redirection and things you’ll need to consider before you implement.
After implementing this in several organizations, I’ve discovered several issues that may be of interest if you’re planning on implementing Folder Redirection.
Test, test, test
If you’ve read other Group Policy articles I’ve read, I harp on testing. Sorry, but way too many people make a change in a production environment before trying it out on test systems first.
Communicate to end users
If Folder Redirection is new for your users, make sure they know the change is coming. Most users will never notice until they accidentally delete a file or have a machine die and you become their hero.
Slow logons after implementation
One of the things you’ll need to communicate with users if you have pre-Windows 7 computers is that they may see slow logons the first time they log into their computers after Folder Redirection is implemented. Not only are everyone’s files being copied to the file server, but the server’s NIC and the network will probably be saturated with file transfer traffic. (Microsoft improved this in Windows 7 with Fast First Logon.
Broken shortcuts and Recent Documents
If users have created shortcuts to documents or folders inside of folders that you’re redirecting, they may end up with broken shortcuts. The same is true for the Recent Documents feature in applications like Word and Excel.
Which folders to redirect
Decide beforehand what you want to redirect vs. what you really need to redirect. Is it really important to redirect Downloads? How about Saved Games? Everything you redirect is going to have an impact on how much storage you need.
For your shared folder, you’ll want to make sure that the share is on a volume that is large enough to handle the amount of data that your users will be storing. There are a few ways to accomplish this, but most of them depend on your server environment. If your file server is a virtual machine, you can always expand your virtual disk and then expand the volume in Windows if you start to run low on disk space later. In the event you’re using a physical server connected to some kind of Fiber Channel or iSCSI SAN, you can do pretty much do the same thing: Expand the volume on the SAN and then expand the volume in Windows.
The amount of storage you’ll need can vary widely depending on the types of users you’re supporting. I’ve seen administrative users (accountants, HR, etc.) users use as little as a few hundred megabytes and engineers use hundreds of gigs. Plan accordingly!
File server configuration
File server configuration can have an impact on Folder Redirection. Just be aware that things like antivirus or an IDS application can impact your users. Also be aware of whether or not File Screening is being used to block files on your file server since this will impact Folder Redirection also.
Consider using DFS
If you’re already using DFS, seriously consider using DFS for your folder redirections. In the event you need to change servers or create a more redundant file server, everything you need is already built in to DFS.
Stopping Folder Redirection for labs and kiosks
If you have training facilities, kiosks, or other computers where you don’t want user folders being redirected, you’ll need to use loopback processing. In most cases, using Replace will be the easiest since it will just ignore all of the User Configuration. In the event you do decide to use Merge, make sure you set a User policy that redirects all of the folders to the local user profile.
In most circumstances, the default settings for Offline files will probably be adequate. In the event you need to change those settings, Offline Files can be configured for the entire computer in the GPMC at Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Network > Offline Files. On the user side, it is located in User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Network > Offline Files. By default, Redirected Folders will be made available offline. On both sides, you can disable Offline Files by setting “Prevent use of Offline Files” to Enabled.
Folder Redirection – Prevent use of Offline Files
Disabled Offline Files and server availability
In the event you need to disable Offline Files for security reason, you’ll want to make sure that your file server is as highly available as possible. In the event your file server does need to be offline or reboot, just be aware that any logged in users will immediately lose access to their files until the file server becomes available again.
Folder Redirection – Offline Files disabled and file server unavailable