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Folder Synchronization with Active Directory on Windows 2008 Server

Posted on 2010-11-26
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Last Modified: 2012-05-10
Hello,

I'm trying to set some syncing up on a Windows 2008 network.  This is what I need to set up and wondering if I can run this by a few people and get a few opinions!

I need to have a folder created on every C drive on Windows XP based PC's (let's call it reference to keep things simple, so it would be called C:\reference).  I would need to exclude the server and a few select machines that wouldn't be used at all.

The source directory would be a mapped shared drive (in this case S:\reference).  So pretty much want everything from S:\reference to be synced to C:\reference.

The reason why we need this done is that it's causing to much network traffic/slow down when we all access this at once and there is no reason why we can't reference this locally at all.  The Sync could be done at night when no one is here.

I'm thinking that this could easily be done with Active Directory with GPO's?  If anyone could please share about Folder Synchonization with 2008 server it would be appriciated.

Thanks!
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Question by:buzz_2_infinity
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by:ormerodrutter
ID: 34217685
I don't think you need GPO to do that, some synchronising tool can do just fine. I have used Sync Toy (from Microsoft so it is trust-worthy) to sync files/folders across network drives so you may want to have a look at that. The good thing about SyncToy is that it only sync "changes" (e.g. additions, amendments, ot deletions) in both or either direction. And it is free.

However I have a few issues here.

1. In order to sync at night time you are going to leave ALL your PCs on overnight?
2. You understand that if someone change the source copy other won't be able to see that until the next morning.
3. If someone change the local copy other won't see that at all, unless you setup two way sync; but that itself might create more conflicts as two persons might change their local copies on the same day.

I don't recommend using GPOs in your case. Offline folder would work BUT (a BIG but) there are disadvantages.

1. When your staffs logon in the morning it will take a long time as everyone is synchronising with the source server.
2. Same happen when everyone logoff - offline folder sync when user logoff too.
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Author Comment

by:buzz_2_infinity
ID: 34217732
Hello,

Thanks for the reply.  I would almost perfer to use GPO's in this as we wouldn't have to go around and install Sync Toy on every machine (about 50 at the moment) and set it up for every computer, it would be nice to make the change once and have it pushed down to all Windows XP machines in the network.  Here are the answers to your questions.

1.  Yes.. All PC's are left on over night (the software that uses them usually crunches some numbers while no one is here).. so they are all on by default.
2.  Yes, this would be fine.  We would have an "update content window" and if it wasn't availible till the next morning that would be fine.
3.  No one will should make changes on the local copy on there PC.  Everything will will sync from a "Master reference folder" so if people make a change on there local PC it will just get written over that night.  Everything would sync from the Master reference folder, it wouldn't be two way at all.

I don't think that we will use Offline folders at all for the reasons that you mentioned!

With what I've said in my post, can you recommend anything else at all?

Thanks
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by:ormerodrutter
ID: 34217818
One more thing is that if the PCs are to be left on, GPOs or offline folder won't apply because presumably the users are still logged on at the computers. So unless your users reboot the computer in the morning they will have old data.
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Author Comment

by:buzz_2_infinity
ID: 34217846
Thanks for the reply.

There must be a way via GPO to say copy files from S:\reference to C:\reference every few hours on the machines that the GPO affects?  I'm sure that I'm not the only person that's needed to do this in the past.

If not by GPO (perferibly we don't want to go around to every machine in the building and install and set up SyncToy - which is a great little tool!), then by some other way?

Thanks
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by:GundogTrainer
ID: 34217893

Not sure if you can set a GPO to run other than at startup or logon \ logoff if you dont have SCCM.

You could have a GPO logon script to create a task to execute "Schtasks.exe"; this would allow you to create a scheduled task to run the actual sync at a more convienient time.
Again if the scheduled task was then a robocopy.exe job or similar it would only perform the delta changes.
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by:ormerodrutter
ID: 34217895
No GPOs only applied when user log in. Offline folder applied when user log in/off. I don't think you can set a scheduler on applying GPOs.

I guess somewhat closer to your suggestion, is that you can setup a scheduler on all workstations in order to logoff the user at a certain time. In that case Offline folder sync with the server (when log off) so that when users start work in the morning they have a fresh copy of data. But then you still need to go around and setup the schedule.
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by:ormerodrutter
ID: 34217915
Actually how much data you are talking about? a few files? As GundoqTrainer pointout you can write a batch file just to copy and paste the c:\reference folder?
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Author Comment

by:buzz_2_infinity
ID: 34218061
Sorry.. you are right about when a user logs in.  If it Synced when peope logged in or logged off that would be fine... but would be better to have it run every few hours for the following reasons.

1.  We may have files that are updated, but have the same name.
-eg file.tiff may have the same name, but the contents may have been updated.  It's really important that the sync updates all changed files and not just new ones!
2.  If it could be done every few hours that would be great, as it wouldn't require people logging off/restarting etc (but that usually happends anyway.. but there may be a chance that some machines wouldn't do this and we can't afford to have people working on a different version of the file - since it would be incorrect)!

Ideally I need it to be set up so that it will pull all new files, remove and old ones, and update files with the same file name if they have been changed.  I was looking at Robocopy and I think that it do what we are looking for, but haven't used it alot in the past.  Is it possible that we could put this in the windows scheduler and have it run every few hours?

The data could be quite high, 50 - 100GB or so (basically Quicktimes and alot of image sequences).  As you can imagine this is creating quite a bit of pull on the file server at the moment with everyone accessing it all at once, so would be better if people had a local copy on the drive of there machine.

Am I explaining what I'm trying to accomplish clearly?  If not please let me know.

Thanks again everyone for your help!
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by:ormerodrutter
ID: 34218189
I think we have a clearer picture of what you want to achieve, but I am afraid you don't have much option here.

Whilst you are talking about 50-100Gb of data, whether it is synchronising or copy/pasting (robocopy or whatever) it is going to take a long time. Just imagine you are copying 50Gb of data from a network shared drive to your c:\ drive it is going to take a while. Then you are talking about 50 users need to do this at the same time (as you said you can't afford people working on different version), that is going to kill your network.

Looking at your criteria I think you will need to consider using DFS. Having two or more servers with the same set of data serving your clients. What it offers you is that you can load balance the two (or even more) servers. Although it won't help with network bandwidth, but it helps to resolve the bottleneck issue with one server serving all users.

DFS stands for Distributed File System you can google it and find a lot of links.

Might involve you having to purchase one or two servers for such purpose.
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by:buzz_2_infinity
ID: 34218259
OK, I'm glad that I was able to explain it properly.  Thank you for your reply.

I understand that the initial copy will be pretty hard on the network, but most of that data will just sit there after and just be updated now and then with the odd GB (hence only wanting to update the changes/new files and not delete and copy everything every time a user logs in)!  The data for the most part will not change, but will have minor updates now and then.  It's just really important that the updates get copied over.  I don't think that the Sync would take to long once it's done initially.

Have thought about using DFS, but it's not really an option at this point.  We aren't planning on getting another server for awhile.  Also, all files are shared over a Linux based cluster which is bound using likewise to the windows domain... so throwing another spanner in the works.

My apologies if I haven't explained everything clearly over the last few posts.. just have a bit going on at the moment.  I hope everyone has a better understanding now.

Thanks!
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by:ormerodrutter
ID: 34218327
You need to take into consideration that a slight change in a 2Gb file means that the whole 2Gb file has been altered and would then be treated as altered file.

Well, no DFS, no client-based sync tool, then I guess you are only left with Offline folder.
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GundogTrainer earned 125 total points
ID: 34218621
OK
assuming you have enough disk space at the same location on each client:
You could write a short VBscript on a windows server to enumerate the computers in a "scheduledDirSync" group (or from a manual list) and either :
remotley add a scheduled task to run at a slightly different time on each PC to pull the sync.
or
Push the sync to the client from a server so the network isnt flooded if a large files is updated and an update could be started if an important files was updated.

The obvious downside to any local copy is the possibilty that the sync stops and the local copy becomes out of date.
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Author Comment

by:buzz_2_infinity
ID: 34229013
Hello,

Yes, we do have enough disk space on the client machines.. there are about 100GB free in each of them at the moment, so not concerned about that at all.

GundogTrainer I agree with your idea, this may be the best plan going forward.  I think that if there is a scheduled task that could run when no one is here, not that many people would notice at all.  I know that the downside is that if the sync stops..we have have some out of date files on a few machines.

Going back to Sync Toy for a minute, is there any reason why this couldn't be installed on all the machines and then create a scedualed task for this?  I think that this may be the easiest way forward.

Thanks again for your assisance, I'm finding that it was worth signing up to Experts Exchange!
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by:LeeTutor
ID: 34740495
This question has been classified as abandoned and is being closed as part of the Cleanup Program. See my comment at the end of the question for more details.
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