Work Folders, a new feature added in Windows Server 2012 R2, allows end users to synchronize a file server based folder to their devices. In this part, I’ll give an overview of Work Folders.
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Kyle Beckman

Kyle Beckman works as a systems administrator in Atlanta, GA supporting Office 365 in higher education. He has 17+ years of systems administration experience.
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If I had to compare Work Folders to another product, it’s probably most like Dropbox, SkyDrive, or SkyDrive Pro in that it allows you to synchronize a folder across multiple devices. The biggest difference between Work Folders and other third-party cloud-based solutions is that Work Folders can run off your existing infrastructure (assuming you’ve upgraded to 2012 R2) using your file server as the repository and that it doesn’t rely on a service provider.

Work Folders in Windows Server 2012 R2

Work Folders in Windows Server 2012 R2

If there are cloud-based services for syncing files between multiple devices, why would someone want to implement Work Folders? Services like DropBox and SkyDrive are consumer services and lack quite a few of the management features that many IT departments require. SkyDrive Pro is an Enterprise product, but it requires you to run SharePoint 2013 (and the required server infrastructure) or host it offsite with Office 365 or a service provider.

Work Folders allows you as an IT admin to keep control over your organization’s data by running it on your own infrastructure without having to implement additional on or off-site services. All you need to get it up and running is a server running Windows Server 2012 R2.

When configuring Work Folders, you can require encryption on the remote device as well as when the data is in transit. You also have the ability to require a lock screen password on user devices even if the devices aren’t domain-joined or remotely managed. And, by having the data syncing to your server, you control backup, quotas, and the ability to classify data when it is synced to the data center.

As of the writing of this article, Work Folders only supports Windows 8.1 RT, Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise. There have been no official announcements or timelines released for the support of additional operating systems or devices. The choice to ship this feature without support for earlier versions of Windows, iOS, and Android confusing to say the least.

As Microsoft continues their move to become a ‘devices and services’ company, I don’t understand how they can ignore such huge parts of the device market and still want customers to embrace a new feature like Work Folders when there are other established cross-platform alternatives on the market. It’s pretty easy to make the argument that the devices that already exist in the Enterprise should be supported early, if not first.

Work Folders in Windows 8.1

Work Folders in Windows 8.1

But, there is good news on the device support front: During an interview at TechEd North America 2013 in New Orleans (), Nir Ben-Zvi from Microsoft did say that support for Windows 7, 8, and iPad would be coming in the future, but didn’t give any kind of timeline. In a follow-up TechNet Forum post he confirmed that information, but also said that there wasn’t “anything firm” on Android, Mac, or the phone form-factor. So, there are updates coming, we just don’t know when quite yet.

In Part 2 of this series on Work Folders, we’ll discuss setting up Work Folders on the server side.

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10 Comments
  1. […] in January, I wrote a series on 4sysops on one of the new features in Windows Server 2012 R2: Work Folders.  Work Folders is an server […]

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  2. avatar
    Sivakumar 3 years ago

    Hi,
    I am new to Work folders in 2012. I want to configure Work folders in my organization. But I don't know how to configure. After read your post, now I understood how to setup Work Folders in Server and client. But I want to know about URL creation for work folders or I want to know each and every steps of configure work folder at DNS,ADS, Server and client..

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    • Profile gravatar of Kyle Beckman
      Kyle Beckman 3 years ago

      Everything you need is in the article series. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask them in the Forum.

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  3. avatar
    Sivakumar 3 years ago

    Is it possible or is any other way to create a url for work folders without using DNS record?

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    • Profile gravatar of Kyle Beckman
      Kyle Beckman 3 years ago

      Unless you're using the IP address (which I haven't tested), you have to use a DNS record to create a URL for your Work Folders server.

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  4. Profile gravatar of Siva kumar
    Siva kumar 3 years ago

    Please tell us how to configure work folders by using the IP address. I got a link from google to configure work folders from windows 7 without using the DNS record url.

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    • Profile gravatar of Kyle Beckman
      Kyle Beckman 3 years ago

      Because Work Folders can be used with devices in BYOD scenarios (i.e. devices not owned or managed by your organization), you'll need an SSL certificate from a public Certificate Authority. Most public CA's have phased out SSL certificates for IP addresses. It may be possible to configure the Work Folders client to point to a server that is using just an IP, but it is most likely not a supported configuration. There's no reason not to use DNS.

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  5. Profile gravatar of Siva kumar
    Siva kumar 3 years ago

    the link is http://blogs.technet.com/b/canitpro/archive/2013/11/13/step-by-step-creating-a-work-folders-test-lab-deployment-in-windows-server-2012-r2.aspx. As per this link I have configured successfully work folders in window 7 and synching with server first time. But after I deleted and trying to reconfigure work folders in wind 7, I got a error "There was a problem finding your work folders server. make sure that you have the correct Work Folders URL. Any Idea...

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  6. avatar
    David 1 year ago

    Hi Kyle,

    Thank you for your articles on WorkFolders, I've found them to be very helpful.

    I do however have one query.  We ran into an issue the other day with one of our remote users being unable to use their WorkFolders.  The error that was being presented was that it had been revoked. To further the damage the user hadn't synced in a day or so so they lost some work.

    Can you advise on how to go about retrieving the files?

    Thanks again

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