Synchronizing Large Files Between Offices

We have two offices that are 3 hours apart.  Both offices have the following:

--Windows Server 2016
--Static IP addresses
--IPSEC VPN connecting the two

The office works with large media files (mp4, etc.).  These files can be anywhere from a few megabytes to a couple of gigabytes in size.  We want to synchronize files between offices such that if a user makes a change to file myVideo.mp4 in office A, that change is replicated to the same file in Office B (or a new file created in Office B if it is a new file) and vice versa.  So this would be a two-way synch.

We considered Branch Cache but that appears to be a one way approach in that file changes in Office B would not be replicated back to Office A (assuming Office A is the main office).  What about DFS-R?  Or should we be looking third party?  

While third party solutions are welcome, we would like to try to use as much built-in Windows stuff as possible.

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I recommend to try DFS, it is setup quickly and is suitable to replicate file changes only.
DrDave242Senior Support EngineerCommented:
Since you're wanting to use native Windows technologies as much as possible, DFS-R should be perfect, assuming you've got an AD domain in place. You didn't mention that, so I'll point out that DFS-R won't work in a workgroup.

Since you're dealing with large files, the initial replication of data may take some time (and should possibly be performed outside of business hours, depending on just how much data needs to be replicated and what sort of bandwidth exists between the sites). Once the servers are synchronized, though, only changes to the data will be replicated, so there will be much less replication traffic.

This appears to be a decent walkthrough for setting up DFS-R. It's for Windows Server 2012 R2, but I don't believe there were any significant changes to DFS-R in 2016.

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JamesNTAuthor Commented:
Yes, we are in a domain (I don't do workgroups).  In fact, both locations have their own domain controllers.

Can the second office be "seeded" in that we can use a USB drive to take an initial copy of files over so we won't have to wait for initial copy by DFSR?

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JamesNTAuthor Commented:
Thank you!
DrDave242Senior Support EngineerCommented:
Can the second office be "seeded" in that we can use a USB drive to take an initial copy of files over so we won't have to wait for initial copy by DFSR?

Yes, you can "preseed" the destination server. The procedure for doing so is given here. Note that Microsoft supports three tools for doing this: Robocopy, Windows Server Backup, and NTBackup. You can obviously ignore the third one in your environment, but you'll likely want to read through the Robocopy procedure and then use it for copying the data. I've never done it myself, but I don't see any reason why you couldn't use Robocopy to copy the data from the source server to a USB drive, then use it again to copy the data from the USB drive to the destination server.

In terms of the initial 'seeding', if you use RoboCopy via a USB drive, take into account that it will take some time (maybe hours, maybe even days) for the first copy, then the same again at the other end, plus 3 hrs x 2 plus time on site, so a full day for you to take the drive over (assuming you don't want to risk giving it to an other party).

Any or all of that may or may not matter to you (the two copy operations at least would not require your attention of course), but if you want, you could do it over the line using RoboCopy, and tell it to only transfer at a slower rate to avoid flooding the network and slowing things down.  That will mean it takes longer, but you might prefer to do that, and save yourself the drive.

I did that with a client last year, and it took a week to copy over via VPN, but there was no rush, so we did it that way.

Hope that helps,

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Distributed File System Replication (DFSR)

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