Monitoring Windows Server 2012 R2 Work Folders Deployments.

Monitoring Windows Server 2012 R2 Work Folders Deployments.

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Overview

Work Folders is a new functionality introduced in Windows Server 2012 R2. It enables Information workers to sync their work files between their devices. This functionality is powered by the Work Folders service that can be enabled as a Windows Server 2012 R2 File Services Role service.
Work Folders relies on a set of core infrastructure services such as storage, file systems, networks and enterprise infrastructure solutions such as Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS), Active Directory Federation services, Web Application Proxy and more. Any problems with those infrastructure components or a misconfiguration of Work Folders might lead eventually to a degraded state or a complete unavailability of the Work Folders service. Not having the Work Folders service running properly might impact the users’ capabilities to sync files between their different devices.
Just like other enterprise solutions, the Work Folders service comes with a set of logging and monitoring tools that allows IT Pros to identify, understand and solve issues or errors that the system is facing.
This blog post will cover several monitoring and logging solutions that facilitate early identification of Work Folders service issues and also help understand the root cause that instigated the problem.

 

Monitoring Work Folders Operational health with Server Manager and Event Viewer

Server Manager

Server Manager in most cases will be the best starting point to understand the health status of the Work Folders service. The File and Storage Services tiles display server level information such as running services status and related events. There is also a specific canvas for Work Folders which provides sync share and Work Folders-specific information.

To see the Work Folders service status and related events, open Server Manager and navigate to the servers’ canvas through “Files and Storage Services” -> “Servers”. The tiles in this canvas (as shown in image 1) display services health and events related to Work Folders and other File and Storage Services.
The Work Folders service name is “Windows Sync Share” and any events related to Work Folders will show as a “Microsoft-Windows-SyncShare” Source (Work Folders events will be explained later in this document)

 


Image 1 - In this example, we can see that the Sync Share service is running properly, but there was a Work Folders error trying to access the file system as shown in the events tile. (This specific issue can be caused by lack of access permissions or physical disk access issues)

 

To view specific sync shares information, in Server Manager, go to “Files and Storage Services” -> “Work Folders”. This Work Folders canvas displays related information such as the file system location of the sync share and the users that are mapped to this sync share. It also provides important information about the volumes and file systems that the sync share resides on. This canvas is a good view to spot storage and file system related issues such as low disk space that might impact the Work Folders directories

 

 
Image 2 – The Work Folders canvas shows sync shares information. In this example, the “HRWorkFolders” which resides on the G:\hrworkfolders share is selected. Once selected, the other tiles on this canvas show additional information for the selected sync share. This includes the list of users that are mapped to that sync share (managed by security groups), the volume information for the sync share, and the quota settings.

 

Selecting sync shares  from the master tile above is expandable to multi sync shares (by holding the CTRL key and selecting more sync shares, or using the CTRL-A key combination to select all shares in the sync shares tile). When multiple sync shares are selected, the related tiles will also transform to a multiple objects view as shown in image 3 below. This multi objects view is useful to get a broader view of the sync shares, the amount of remaining space on their respective volume and any quota thresholds that might be met.

 

 
Image 3 – The primary sync share tile allows multiple sync shares selection. Related tiles react accordingly by showing multiple rows of volume and quota information as well. We can see in this example that the “HRWorkFolders” quota is low on free space and should be extended.

 

 

The tiles described above are useful in displaying the system’s status, but if a lot of volumes and drives are used for Work Folders, information rows that display low quota or low disk space might not stand out. One way to easily spot volumes or quotas which are almost full is to sort the free space and capacity columns to list the ones with the least amount of remaining space up on top (by clicking on the column title). Another way is to use the tiles built in filter boxes. Image 4 below shows the ability to only show Sync Shares hosting volumes which have less than 10GB of available space. Those filters can also be saved for future usage.

 
Image 4 – Volumes tile on the Work Folders canvas set with a filter to only show volumes with less than 10GB of free space.

 

It is also possible from the Work Folders canvas, to drill down even further and get status information for a specific user across his different Work Folders devices. This can be done by selecting the appropriate user from the users’ tile, and selecting the properties context menu item (as seen in image 5 and 6 below). This view provides more information on the users’ devices and can be used to identify specific users’ devices issues. 


Image 5 – Work Folders user context menu

 

The Properties dialog will present information about the users Work Folder location, the devices that run Work Folders, their last sync date and more.

 


Image 6 – Work Folders status for Sally. This dialog displaying sync information of Sally’s different devices.

 

 

Event Viewer

The Work Folders service writes operational information, warning and error events to the Microsoft-Windows-SyncShare/Operational channel. This channel contains informational level events such as creation of a user sync share folder and warnings about the system health. It also logs errors that describe critical issues that needs to be addressed, such as the service not being able to access the file system.

There is also a Microsoft-Windows-SyncShare/Reporting channel that logs successful user sync actions. In this reporting channel, each logged event represents a successful sync action by a device, the size of the sync set, the number of files in the sync set and the device information such as OS version and type. These events can be used to understand the overall health of the system and collected for understanding Work Folders usage trends.

Listing and collecting the Reporting logs be done either through System Reports in Operations Manager , or as an alternative, by running PowerShell scripts that collect the data and export it to a CSV which can then be analyzed in Microsoft Excel. (See an example down below in the PowerShell section)


There are 2 main tools that can be used to read these events.

In Server Manager, by going to the “Files and Storage Services” -> “Servers” and browsing the events tiles (see image 7). Note that this tile displays Work Folders related events and other File and Storage Services events. This tile lists only the operation channel events (reporting channel events are not shown).

 
Image 7 – Work Folders Events are shown in the Files and Storage Services/Servers  canvas

Another way to view the logs is by using the Event Viewer. Event viewer can be opened from different locations, either by typing “eventvwr” in a command or PowerShell console or by using the Tools menu in Server Manager (showing on the upper right corner).
Once Event Viewer is opened, use the tree on the left pane to navigate to “Windows logs” -> “Microsoft” -> “Windows” -> Sync Share (see image 8). Underneath the SyncShare node, you’ll find the operational and reporting channels. Clicking on each one of them will bring up the list of events (see image 9)

 


Image 8 – Work Folders Sync Share events location in event viewer

 

 
Image 9 – Work Folders user events showing in the Event Viewer pane

 

Monitoring Work Folders with PowerShell

The Work Folders Service on Windows Server 2012 R2 comes with a supporting PowerShell module and cmdlets. (For the full list of Work Folders Cmdlets run gcm –m SyncShare in a Powershell console).

Just like in the examples shown above, where Server Manager was used to monitor and extract the information, the Work Folders cmdlets provide a way to retrieve Work Folders sync shares and users information. This can be either used by administrators for interactive monitoring session or for automation within PowerShell scripts.

Here are a few Powershell examples that provides Work Folders sync shares and users status information.

Get-SyncShare  - The Get-SyncShare cmdlet provides information on sync shares. This includes the file system location, the list of security groups and more.


From these objects, Staging folder and Path can be extracted and checked for availability and overall health.

 

 

Get-SyncUserStatus - similar to the users’ property window described above in the server manager section, this cmdlet provides Work Folders users’ information. This includes the user name, the devices that the users are using, last successful connections and more.  Running this cmdlet requires providing the specific user name and sync share.


Here is an example for listing the devices and status that Sally is using with Work Folders:


 In the results shown above, useful user information is shown about the user’s devices, their OS configuration and last successful sync time.

 

Get-Service - The Sync Share service (named SyncShareSVC ) status can be read by using PowerShell’s generic get-service command


 In the above example we can see that the service is in “Running” state. “Stopped” means that the service is not running.

Events – Powershell also provides an easy way of listing Work Folders events, either the operational or the reporting channels. Here are a few examples:

1) Listing Errors from the operational channel (in this example, the issues are reported on a system where one of the disks hosting the Work Folders directory was intentionally yanked out)

2) List successful events from the Work Folders Reporting channel

 

Other Work Folders Monitoring Tools and Solutions

While this post focuses on Work Folders Server Manager tiles and Powershell cmdlets, there are more useful tools that can be used to monitor a Work Folders deployment.

Work Folders Best Practice Analyzer

Windows Server 2012 R2 comes with a built in set of Work Folders BPA rules. Though BPA rules intent is to alert on configuration issues, they can be used to routinely monitor and identify issues that might impact the Work Folders service.

More details on Work Folders BPA rules can be found here

Work Folders System Center Operations Manager File Services Management Pack.

A new File and Storage Services management pack for windows server 2012 R2 should come out shortly after windows server 2012 R2 general availability. This pack will also include Work Folders service monitoring capabilities that can be used with a System Center Operations Manager.

More information on System Center Operations Manager is available here.

Performance monitoring

Work folders didn’t introduce any new performance monitors, however, since the Work Folders service is hosted by a web service, setting performance monitoring on the web service instances can provide valuable information on the clients Work Folders data transfer, queues and more. Furthermore, performance monitors can be also set on Network, CPU and other valuable system components that are essential for the Work Folders Service.

More information on Performance monitors can be found here


Work Folders Supporting Systems monitoring (AD, ADFS, Web Application Proxy and SSL Certificates)

As mentioned above, Work Folders rely on a set of enterprise solutions to work properly. These include, but not limited to, Active directory, Active Directory Federation Service, Web Applications Proxy, Certificate expiration dates and more. Any impact on any one of these services might impact the Work Folders service. To sustain a long running Work Folders service, it is also recommend that any one of the supporting components will also be monitored.

More information on certificate management and monitoring certificate expirations can be found here.

 

Other Work Folders Related Links

 

 
 
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  • Some good information here!

    Any news on when this will be available on Windows 7 and iPads?

  • @Andrew T, no official date yet, but do stay tuned as information will be shared once the schedules are finalized..

  • Excellent thanks for the reply :)

  • Any information if OneNote will also support saving to Work Folders?