Configuring Offline Files
At the start of the month I posted a thread seeking advice on how teacher laptops can be set to sync with the domain, i.e they can see their My Documents at home and if they add to it they can then see the files on the school PC's.
Anyway I got myself in a bit of a muddle with exactly what it was that needed doing but having consulted a technician at another school it would appear that the solution is to configure offline files.
Does anybody know how I go about this? I imagine the laptops have to be added to the domain and placed in their own OU so offline files can be configured by group policy? Or is it more to do with settings on the user folders?
Any advice welcome, thank you in advance
Offline Files - Explained
Since I am waiting for SIMS Summer Upgrade to deploy and have people moan at me during the day I have the time to write this out. haha.
If you have a fairly new network (2008R2) which was rebuilt and not migrated and your clients are Windows 7 (again not upgraded from Vista/XP) then you will be already very close to having it all setup and ready to go as by default a lot of the polices are already active and on.
I've built dozens of networks from the ground up over the last few years before I took the job i'm in now and have been fortunate to come across these gotchas and common mistakes.
In my network I have:
- Redirected Documents - To their home drive
- Offline Files Enabled and Working for all Machines
- An additional Administratively assigned offline file which is not part of the redirected folders
In my Active Directory (AD) (apologies if this is teaching how to suck eggs, this post can be the benefit of others as well), in the properties of a user you have the profile tab which specifies the location of their home drive.
I have it set to use drive letter P: (P for Personal) and the path to their documents on the server.
This alone will map the P:\ drive for the user in their "My Computer" (which is now just called Computer in Win7+). This will not make it available offline automatically.
The reason being is because when they click Start -> Documents it will take them to their C:\Users\%username%\Documents folder because we have not yet setup the redirection to make that link go to their home folder location (P:\).
So in Group Policy, we setup that redirection. This is a user based policy.
In my environment, in my staff user policy, I have redirection setup:
So under User Configuration -> Policies -> Windows Settings -> Folder Redirection -> *Right click* Documents and choose properties and I have chosen "Redirect to the user's home directory". On the Settings tab, I don't grant them exclusivity, don't move because I dont need to and I have Windows 7+ throughout the environment so we don't need to turn on legacy features.
By simply setting this policy, on the next restart of your client the P:\ drive will now be available offline and the "Sync Center" icon will appear on it.
You can prevent this automatically happening by enabling the policy Do not automatically make specific redirected folders available offline found:
User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> System -> Folder Redirection -> Do not automatically make specific redirected folders available offline.
The reason this is here is because sometimes people don't want to use offline files. In XP environments this was common as XP offlines files were very difficult to manage, not because of the administrator, but because of the limitations built into XP and Server 2003.
Now because sometimes Synchronization doesn't always play ball, even on Windows 7, it is a good idea to allow your users access to the Sync Center area on Control Panel. This is optional, but because offline folders is a user based setting, as an admin you will be prevented by your own restrictions troubleshooting.
So I set the policy in my control panel restrictions to allow this:
User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Control Panel -> Show Only Specified Control Panel Items -> Add in Microsoft.SyncCenter
For a full list of Windows 7 Canonical Names visit this link: Canonical Names of Control Panel Items (Windows)
Now finally, if you have a migrated environment, it is wise to turn on offline files. By the sounds of things you don't need to do this as you have already seen synchronizations, but for the benefit of others, you need to turn on offline files if in the past you have had them turned off.
Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Network -> Offline Files -> Allow or Disallow use of the Offline Files feature.
Set to Enable.
This is always a good on or off switch you can use if you only want Synchronization on certain machines. So you say if you are a laptop, turn on offline files, if you are a desktop turn it off.
My environment I live the Microsoft Dream and have a 1:1 ratio of laptops to students and 1:1 of desktops/laptops to staff. So I have it all turned on because no computer is shared.
Offline files is good to turn off for shared machines. If a desktop is allocated to an individual, it is good to have on because if the server's go down, they can continue to work from their offline files cache, another safety net for you.
Essentially, for my documents synchronization you are all done from here. There is no need to really play with anything else.
What if what I want sync'd is not in their documents?
This is when you can use the policy Administratively assign Offline Files.
User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Network -> Offline Files -> Specify Administratively assigned offline files.
Here you can specify a file using a unc path (\\servername\share\file). I use this for a certain file for a certain application. Meaning when offline they can still receive the settings I set server side. Clever stuff, but all optional.
Within this same location is where you can specify if you want to encrypt etc. I'm confident you can read a list, so i'll let you have a ganders there. :)
I hope this helps you all out with your issues mate and I hope this answers a few questions for those just curious.
Any other questions, by all means, that is what a forum is for.