Last month, I provided some best practices for planning a file server migration. In this article, I want to talk specifically about one approach that you can take. Obviously, everyone's network is configured differently, so no one migration method will work for every environment. There are some approaches, however, that are considered preferred methods by Microsoft.
Universal Naming Conventions
One of the trickier aspects of migrating or consolidating file servers that I did not mention in my previous article involves Universal Naming Convention (UNC) paths. If you are planning to bring a new server online and migrate your files to it, then the new server is usually going to have a different name than your old file server. This is a problem because even if you use identical share names on both servers, the two servers are going to use different UNC paths. The issue here is that UNC paths are sometimes hard coded into line-of-business applications, and client computers may have drive mappings that point to specific UNC paths.
If you can perform the migration process so that the new file server adopts the name and IP address that the old file server had been using, then you probably aren't going to have to worry about this issue (as long as you use share names that mimic those that were in use on your old server, that is). The UNC path problem can also be avoided if your client computers perform drive mappings through login scripts, because you can simply redirect the clients to any new UNC paths by making a simple login script modification. In pretty much every other case, though, the UNC path problem is one that should be taken seriously.
The File Server Migration Toolkit
Microsoft has created a free download called the File Server Migration Toolkit that you can use to get around the UNC path issue for migrations to Windows Server 2003 or 2008.
The toolkit addresses the UNC path issue by creating a DFS consolidation root. The idea behind this is that when users attempt to access a file from a UNC path that no longer exists, they are redirected to the file's new location on a DFS root.
Of course UNC path redirection doesn't happen by magic. In order for you to take advantage of this type of file server migration or consolidation, you have to meet some conditions on your old and new file servers. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to the old file server as the source server and the new file server as the target server.
The first requirement that your source server must meet is pretty obvious, but Microsoft lists it, so I will too. The folders that you plan on migrating must be shared. If for some crazy reason they aren't shared, you will have to share the folders before you can perform the migration.
You must also ensure that the source server, target server and client computers are all running supported operating systems. The source server can be running Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008. The target server must be running either Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008. Client computers can be running Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008. This means that Windows 9.x and Windows ME are not supported.
Another requirement is that both the source and target servers must be configured to support the use of Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), which includes configuring the firewall to allow WMI calls. The File Server Migration Toolkit uses WMI calls to determine whether or not the server is operating as a cluster.
Speaking of clusters, they are supported on both the source and the target servers, but there are some more conditions that must be met. Specifically, if the target server is going to be clustered, then you have to either create or identify a resource group prior to starting the migration process. The resource group must be assigned an IP address and at least one physical disk.
Finally, it's important to remember that the volume on the target server that will store the migrated files must be formatted as NTFS.
As you can see, while the File Server Migration Toolkit can really simplify the file server migration or consolidation processes, you still have to meet certain requirements before attempting a migration. One last piece of advice: Make sure you have the most recent version of the toolkit. As of now, version 1.1 is the current version, although some of the search engine queries that I entered took me to version 1.0.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has received Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional Award four times for his work with Windows Server, IIS and Exchange Server. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities, and was once a network administrator for Fort Knox. You can visit his personal Web site at www.brienposey.com.