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File classification in Windows 2008 R2 explained

Bridget Botelho

Microsoft built the Windows Server 2008 R2 file classification tool, File Classification Infrastructure (FCI), to address the most common file server management

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issues, including speedy data growth, the current regulatory environment for protecting sensitive docs, and file security for business-critical and personal information.

There are already data leakage prevention products and data management offerings for sale to address those issues, but with limited interoperability. And many of them are based on where the file is located – not content, according to Microsoft's storage team.

FCI, which is built into the server, attempts to bridge the gap by letting IT pros define classification properties and automatically classify files based on both location and file content.

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Admins can also set policies to expire noncritical files after a certain period of time to free up storage space and create custom commands based on file classifications.

Dennis Martin, a Microsoft files and systems storage expert and president of the Arvada, Colo.-based IT research and analysis firm Demartek, tested FCI in his lab. He said that although it doesn't do everything under the sun, it provides a nice framework.

The feature makes file management easier for big companies that need to classify data for compliance or policy reasons. FCI is also handy for companies that do a lot of file sharing, since FCI classifications also carry over to SharePoint, Martin said.

For example, two suppliers sending files back and forth to one another can use keywords, such as "stock exchange," and any files with those properties are classified as sensitive financial data and are rolled into the proper place, Martin said.

You can also use the File Classification Infrastructure in R2 to enforce policies around specific types of data. For instance, if someone in human resources creates an employee file with sensitive personal information, the user can classify the file as such.

That said, end users and IT have to come up with a set of data governance policies, and both IT and end users have to understand how to classify the files they create for the system to work, said Martin, who is also founder of the Rocky Mountain Windows Technology User Group in Denver.

Companies that can work out the FCI have an easier time managing file servers and can lower costs by freeing up time and staying in compliance.

In addition, third-party backup and storage vendors are developing products to work with FCI so that products are able to back up files based on classifications. For example, if a data backup program sees files classified as containing personal information, it will back up the data to an encrypted store instead of the regular store, according to Microsoft.

"There are a lot of possibilities for third-party development around this," Martin said. "Lots of light bulbs are going off, and we'll begin to see products around FCI soon."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer


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