Backing up your mobile users

Here's a way to ensure your mobile users have access to files, regardless of where they are and provide solid backups with minimum admin overhead.

One of the hardest things is to make reliability and redundancy to your users as transparent as possible. The easiest way to ensure that your mobile users have access to their latest files, regardless of where they are, and provide solid backups of their data with minimum administrative overhead, is to utilize a combination of folder redirection and offline files.

  1. The first step is to create a USERS folder on your server (don't forget to share this folder).

     

  2. Then, within that folder, create a subfolder bearing the user's Windows login name.

     

  3. Now, within each user's folder, create a My Documents folder, which is where the user's desktop My Documents will be redirected to.

     

  4. Next, open Active Directory Users and Computers and navigate down to the OU containing your mobile users. You may wish to do this for your desktop users as well to ensure their data gets backed up too.

     

  5. Right click the OU, choose properties, group policy tab, and either edit your existing group policy, or create a new one.

     

  6. Within the group policy, navigate down to User Configuration -> Windows Settings -> Folder Redirection and right click My Documents.

     

  7. Now choose properties. Using the Basic setting, and in the Target Folder Location, place the UNC path to the USERS folder on the server -- i.e. servernameusers%username%My Documents. The %username% will be replaced by the user's Windows login name after login.

     

  8. The last step is on the user's machine. Navigate to the user's My Documents folder on the server, right click it and choose Make Available Offline. You may or may not have to complete the wizard depending on whether the user has used this option before.

If all goes well, you'll see the My Documents folder on the desktop change to a folder with double arrows in the bottom left corner. At this point, the user is transparently using the My Documents folder on the server, which is hopefully being backed up each night. The nice thing about this is that even if the network is down, and the user logs on with cached credentials, all of their files are available in the My Documents folder on the desktop. As far as they're concerned, nothing for them has changed except for the synchronization dialog they'll see when logging on or off the machine.

This was first published in May 2003

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