The official blog for Windows Server Essentials and Small Business Server support and product group communications.
[Today’s post comes to us courtesy of JoAnn McKimpson from the SBS Marketing Team]
Have you ever needed to access important files stored in a shared folder on your network but couldn't because the network connection was unavailable? Then you can understand the need for offline files. Luckily, if you’re running SBS 2008 on your server and Windows 7 Professional on your clients, you can start using the Offline Files and Shadow Copy features right away. Using the Offline Files feature of Windows 7 Professional, you can work offline and automatically sync your files when you reconnect. With Shadow Copies of Shared Folders, you can rest assured knowing that if your file accidentally gets written over or deleted, you can easily recover it.
When you need to work offline, SBS 2008 working with Windows 7 Professional Offline Files provides a great way to continue to work with documents and files that are stored on your corporate network.
Let’s say you’re having your car repaired, and you’re sitting in the waiting room while the work is completed. You don’t need internet access to keep the file in sync with the version on the server. You can work on a copy of a file that’s cached on your PC, and any changes you make will automatically be synchronized with the server the next time you connect to the corporate network.
Offline files are quickly synched with your work server when you reconnect to your corporate network. Offline files offer several advantages to anyone who works with files stored on shared network folders. By working with offline files, you can:
You can plan ahead and choose the network files you want to make available offline, which automatically creates a copy of the network files on your computer. These copies of network files that are stored on your computer are called offline files. User folders, Desktop, documents, and Start Menu can all be redirected to the server, where any files saved there will be made available offline for clients, no matter which computer they use. You can configure this feature in the User Account Properties on the SBS server, and it will be seamlessly applied to all users. Windows will automatically sync your offline files for you and open them whenever the network versions are unavailable; for example, when you disconnect your laptop computer from your intranet and work from a remote location.
Windows 7 Professional reduces initial wait times and improves branch office and remote access scenarios by operating in a Usually Offline mode when you are not connected to the same local area network (LAN) as the central server. Any changes made to copies of files that are cached on your computer are synchronized to the central server the next time you connect to the corporate network.
Administrators can also control when offline files are synchronized with the server, set up specific time intervals for synchronization, block out other times for bandwidth management, and configure a maximum stale time after which files must be resynchronized.
You can rename and delete folders even while in the offline mode. If network latency slows, and a share is transitioned into the slow-link mode, the share will automatically transition back to the online mode if network latency improves.
When you select a network file or folder to make available offline, Windows automatically creates a copy of that file or folder on your computer. Anytime you re-connect to that network folder, Windows will sync the files between your computer and the network folder. You can also sync them manually at any time.
That's all you really need to know to keep your offline files in sync. However, for the curious, here are some additional details:
Let’s return to our scenario of working on files offline at the car shop. Before you leave the office for the shop, you first need to make the files you’ll need available offline.
Enable offline files if you want to work with files that are in a network folder. A copy of the file on your hard drive will be synchronized with the network copy as soon as you are back at work or you regain your network connection.
Once you’re at the car shop, you can access your offline files:
Let’s say the shop has wireless internet, but it’s not reliable. Offline files turn on automatically if you lose your network connection. A copy of your file is copied to your computer, and once your network connection is re-established, the two copies will be synchronized. To find out if you're working offline, do the following.
If you work with offline files in many different folders, you may want to view all of them without opening each folder individually. To view all your offline files at once, open Offline Files by clicking the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Sync Center, and then clicking Offline Files.
Once you’re back online, Windows SBS 2008 and Windows 7 Professional sync your offline files for you automatically, so that when a network file is changed, the offline copy stored on your computer is also updated, and vice versa. But Windows SBS 2008 and Windows 7 Professional do not sync your files continuously. Sometimes it is helpful to sync your offline files right away, such as if you are about to disconnect from a network and want to be sure you have the latest versions of files stored on the network.
Tip: If you only want to sync the contents of a specific folder, open the folder that contains the files that you want to sync, and then, on the toolbar, click Sync. To sync an individual file, right-click the file, and then click Sync.
But what if you get home from the car shop, sync your files with the server, and then realize that you’ve accidentally written over a file you wanted to keep? To protect yourself from situations like this, with Windows SBS 2008, you can enable Shadow Copies [m1] of Shared Folders. While Shadow Copies of Shared Folders is not a replacement for creating regular backups, it can certainly be useful in situations such as this.
Shadow Copies of Shared Folders automatically creates shadow copies of files and data on shared resources, such as a file server. Then, you can use the Previous Versions feature of Windows 7 Professional to recover files on the SBS server if the files are in redirected folders that reside on the SBS server. Shadow Copies of Shared Folders is enabled on SBS by default and will snapshot twice daily at 7am and 12pm.
Previous Versions is available as a tab in the Properties dialog box for any item. To access the Previous Versions tab in Windows SBS 2008 or Windows 7 Professional:
Shadow Copies of Shared Folders provides point-in-time copies of files that are located on shared resources, such as a file server. With Shadow Copies of Shared Folders, you can view shared files and folders as they existed at points of time in the past. Accessing previous versions of your files, or shadow copies, is useful because you can:
You can access the server portion of Shadow Copies of Shared Folders through the Shadow Copies tab of the Local Disk Properties dialog box. For more information about how to use Shadow Copies of Shared Folders, see Shadow Copies for Shared Folders How To....
Clients running Windows XP SP2 or later can access the client view of shadow copies through the Previous Versions tab of the Properties dialog box of the shared file or folder. Older clients must first install the Shadow Copy Client, which can be accessed from the server share (\%systemroot%\system32\clients\twclient). For more information about how to deploy Shadow Copies of Shared Folders, see Deploying Shadow Copies for Shared Folders.
With the built-in version control features of Offline Files, Shadow Copies of Shared Folders, and Previous Versions, you can rest assured that your files are up-to-date and that you can access previous versions. In the scenario we used in this post, you were able to make a file available offline, work on it even when you didn’t have internet access, then sync it with the version on the Windows SBS 2008 server later that day. When you realized that you’d overwritten a file, you used the Shadow Copies of Shared Folders and Previous Versions features of Windows SBS 2008 and Windows 7 Professional to revert to the correct version. Thanks to Windows SBS 2008 and Windows 7 Professional, you can use Offline Files, Shadow Copies of Shared Folders, and Previous Versions to work smarter, more intuitively, anytime, anywhere.
How reliable are offline files, I once had a customer who was using SBS 2003 with XP, their hard drive crashed and all the data they thought was on the server went with it, apparently the offline files werent working.
Yeah but why Vista have drop Offline File backward compatibility? My favorite tools like CscCmd and CacheMov no longer work. :( Can they be updated for the new Offline Files API?
I have some questions and dont know where to find the answers.
We need to migrate a SBS 2008 enviroment to a Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard enviroment.
Is there any information available today about this scenario?
I can attest to the usefulness of Offline Folders, we keep our consultants on sync with this tool.
If you have Macs on the network which you want to keep in sync too you can use Synk Professional: works like a charm.