Remote Offline Folder Synchronization

Hi there

I am trying to create a backup methodology for our remote laptop users. The idea is to use offline folder synchronization to synchronize their My Docs folder from their laptop back to our server so we have a copy in the event that their laptop crashes. This will also be available to them when they come in to the office and use a desktop but this is very infrequent.

To curve ball is that I would like the synchronization to occur without an active VPN tunnel and without the user manually initiating the sync. Ideally, the synchronization should occur similar to the way RPC over HTTP works. Is this even possible? If so, could someone guide me through it? I'm really a novice.

Thank you very much
saj_37ukAsked:
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mcsweenConnect With a Mentor Sr. Network AdministratorCommented:
RSYNC is the way to go with this.  Because you are using internet bandwidth which is unpredicitable you only want to sync what has changed.  RSYNC is pretty unique where it only syncs the bits of the file that have changed, not the entire file.  So if you make a text edit to a 50MB powerpoint presentation it only has to replicate the 15k you changed.  I use it on my network to sync between remote workstations in the field.  I do not use SSH since all my clients are behind hardware IPSEC VPNs.

Have a look at this website...

http://troy.jdmz.net/rsync/index.html

1. Instead of using CROND to schedule the jobs use task manager.  You can deploy a GPO to schedule the tasks or even a simple script using the AT command.

2. You will not need a linux server to do this.  Just install Cygwin tools on the server you want your clients to store their files in.  RSYNCD and SSHD are options you can select during the install.  Check this website for more info... http://ist.uwaterloo.ca/~kscully/CygwinSSHD_W2K3.html
It doesn't talk about RSYNCD but you can get info on that here...
http://everythinglinux.org/rsync/
More info on RSYNC and XP here...
http://www.gaztronics.net/rsync.php

I'm sure you can find a way to automate a msi package and deploy cygwin and rsync to your clients via AD.  There are no registry settings, only path settings and those can be easily scripted in VB.

Here are 2 free MSI packagers for this...
http://dennisbareis.com/makemsi.htm
http://www.attachmate.com/Products/PC+Lifecycle+Management/

All docs you find for SSHD or RSYNC will apply to you.

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mcsweenSr. Network AdministratorCommented:
1. How do you want the sync to start?
2. Will you initiate it from the head office or will it be automatic?
3. How will you make sure the user is online ie the internet?
4. Do you want to initiate a VPN tunnel for the Sync or are you looking to do it unencrypted across the internet?
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saj_37ukAuthor Commented:
1) I want it to be automatic - so lets say the user is inactive for 5 minutes, the computer should automatically sync with the server.

2) It should be automatic - maybe setup in the offline folder synchronization settings in group policy

3) Yes connected via the internet. Since this is user initiated (all be it automatically by the client laptop) we don't need to worry about users being online to synch at specific times or moments

4) I would like to do it in a secure fashion - we're using HTTP over RPC for Exchange and this works very well for us because the user doesnt need to connect via a VPN. My concern about the VPN is that many of our users will not connect to the VPN because they are lazy and hence synchronization will not occur.

Thanks again for your help.
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mcsweenSr. Network AdministratorCommented:
oh yeah, i forgot to mention it's all free
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saj_37ukAuthor Commented:
Hi Mcsween

I'm having a little trouble setting this up. From everything that I have read, my understanding is as follows:

1) Setup SSH on Windows server
2) Setup Rsync on the Windows server
3) Somehow get SSH to work without asking for a password using a public key - i can't seem to get this to work
4) Create a NAT from an external IP address to the Rsync server with port 27 open
5) Install cygwin on the remote client with the same installation options as the server, just dont configure it
6) Use a batch file containing the necessary commands and the task scheduler to execute the sync every hour (or whatever interval).

My only concern here is that I am trying to syncronize the My Documents folder, and as I understand everything I have read, the files need to be in the folder c:\cygwin for me to rsync them. Is this correct? How would I get out of the c:\cygwin folder and access c:\Documents and Settings\$User\... folder?

Thanks!
Sajjad
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saj_37ukAuthor Commented:
Oh and another question, do the files have to be stored in the c:\cgywin folder on the server? Is there anyway I can specificy that I want the files stores in: c:\profiles\MyDocs$\$USERNAME$\ folder?

Thanks
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mcsweenConnect With a Mentor Sr. Network AdministratorCommented:
When you open a cygwin prompt in Windows you can refrence your local filesystem through the cygdrive folder.  For example

c:\ = /cygdrive/c
d:\ = /cygdrive/d
etc...

This link will help you with setting up a public key for SSH.
http://www.joomlawebserver.com/freebsd/remote-access/05.-setting-up-ssh-on-cygwin-client-and-se.html
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