Work Folders is a feature in selected windows platforms (Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 Windows 7, Windows 10, and Windows 8.1) that enable the user to access the network files from any network device. Work folders help in keeping file copies on these devices and can be automatically be synchronized to the data center. Let us read about work folders windows server 2016 here.
The best illustration of how a user can separate work folders from personal data is by saving work files on folders that automatically synchronized with the file server. This synchronization means that if a user works from home and is connected to the work network the folder at work will be automatically updated. The same scenario will take place if the user works offline and the moment he or she joins a network all the latest changes will be reflected. In this article, our focus will be to focus on Work Folders as a role service running on Windows Server.
Describing Work Folder
It enables network users to access work files on any device connected to their network. Work Folders are controlled on a centrally managed file server and the IT Department sets specific user and device policies. Such policies include encryption and lock-screen passwords. It can be deployed through file redirection, offline files, or home folders. It has its content stored in a Sync Share folder on the server. In addition, folders with user data can be enabled to operate as Work Folders without the need to phase out the default setting.
Work Folders Applications
- System Administrators use Work Folders to give users access to their work files by keeping everything in a central location. Some of the practical application areas include:
- Act as a single access point to network files irrespective of the location of the user
- Enables accessing Work Files from an offline location. Synchronization will take place the moment the PC or network device is connected to the Internet.
- Work Folders can be deployed through existing deployments such as Folder redirection, Home folders, or Offline files.
- They enable high availability framework when Failover Clustering is used
- Work Folders utilizes existing server management technologies like folder quotas and file classification.
- Security policies can be used to control PC’s and other devices to encrypt folders and use screen passwords.
The Four Functions of Work Folders
In a typical Windows environment, the Work Folders provide four main functionalities:
- Work Folders Role in Server Manager
This role is available in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2016. Its role in server management enables the setting up of sync shares, monitor work folders, manage user access, and synchronize shares.
- Work Folders cmdlets
Also available in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2016. This powerful shell contains detailed cmdlets for managing Work Folder servers.
- Work Folders Integration with Windows
Works with Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7 (has to be downloaded), and Windows RT 8.1. In windows, the control panel is available for setting up and monitoring Work Folders. The same can also be done through windows explorer integration enabling easy access to files and folders. The other functionality within windows is the sync engine that enables movement of files to and from the central server to maximize system performance.
- Work Folders App for Devices
Used on Android systems, Apple iPhones, and iPad. The App allows devices using these operating systems to access files stored in Work Folders.
What are the New Functionalities?
- Azure Active Directory Application Proxy Support
This feature was added to Windows 10, Android, and iOS. Allows for the remote access of user files in the Work Folders via Azure Active Directory Application Proxy.
- Faster Change Replication
This is an updated feature in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016. When used in Windows Server 2016 any synchronized changes are immediately passed to the user. For this notification to work in this environment, the client must be a Windows 10 computer.
- Integrated with Windows Information Protection (WIP)
An addition to windows 10. Using the WIP means that the Work Folders can enforce data protection through encryption. The encryption key is linked to the enterprise ID that can be wiped using a supported device running Microsoft Intune package.
Work Folder Software Requirements
For effective utilization of Work Folders, the following software requirements are needed in a network environment.
- A Server system with Windows Server 2012 installed. Windows Server 2016 can also be used for hosting Sync shares and user files.
- Disk volumes using the NTFS file system
- Password policies enforced on Windows 7 PC using the Group Policy Password. When doing this, Windows 7 PC’s have to be excluded from Work Folders Policies.
- A server certificate for every file server on the network. The certificates are obtained from a public certification authority.
- An Active Directory Domain Services forest with schema extensions that enable correcting referencing of PC’s and devices when accessing multiple servers.
Accessing Sync shares across the internet needs additional requirements:
- Making file servers accessible from the internet through rules created in the reverse proxy or gateway configuration.
- Using a public domain name with an option of creating additional DNS records
- Use an Active Directory Federation Service when using AD FS authentication
Requirements for the Client Computers and Devices
PC’s and devices should be running any of the following operating systems:
- Windows 10
- Windows 7
- Windows 8
The latest Android Operating System
- iOS 10.2 and above
For Windows & PC’s the following versions of windows are recommended:
- Windows 7 Professional
- Windows 7 Ultimate
- Windows 7 Enterprise
- All Windows 7 computers must be part of the organization’s domain network and not a Workgroup
- Additional space of about 6GB if the work folder is running on the system drive
- Work Folders do not support rolling back the virtual machines; therefore, regular backups are necessary.
Work Folders like any other remote file and synchronization technologies used over the network ensures file availability from PCs and Devices connected to the central file server. It supports a number of operating systems with the only difference when compared to other sync applications, it does not offer cloud services.
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