Top DFS-R issues and solutions for enterprises

DFS-R (Distributed File System Replication) is a technology that allows organisations to replicate files and folders between multiple servers. It is a free utility included in your standard Windows Server operating system. It is designed to replicate data between DFS Namespaces (another utility provided by Microsoft that creates a virtual file system of folder shares). The DFS-R service provides basic replication functionality on your network. It can help ensure that data is available and accessible to users across the organisation, even in the event of server failures or other issues. However, DFS-R can prove to be quite costly in on going management time, and historically questionable reliability. In this article, we will explore some of the top DFS-R issues and solutions for enterprises.

Slow replication speed

One of the most common issues with DFS-R is slow replication speed. DFS-R can throttle bandwidth usage based on a per connection basis with a fixed throttle. This means that if your bandwidth usage increases, DFS-R does not perform “bandwidth sensing” to adapt the throttling based on changing network conditions. 

To resolve this issue, you can consider increasing the bandwidth of your network, upgrading your hardware, or reducing the amount of data being replicated. For example, a Quality of Service (QoS) style throttle helps to avoid slowing your systems down for your users. Even better, a system with advanced, dynamic throttling is best for enterprise-sized systems. This way, the bandwidth usage is based on a percentage of bandwidth available. For instance, you could use 50% of the connection – If the connection is 10Mbps, 50% of the idle connection would be approximately 5Mbps used. If another process consumed 5Mbps of that connection, the throttle would reduce to approximately 2.5Mbps (50% of the free 5Mbps). This allows your file synchronisation system to use more bandwidth when it is available and less when other processes need the bandwidth.

Inconsistent replication

DFS-R may sometimes fail to replicate files and folders consistently across all servers. This can be due to network latency or conflicts between files. To address this issue, you can try increasing the replication schedule, checking for conflicts between files, or running the DFS-R diagnostic report to identify any issues. You can also try implementing a more robust file locking mechanism to prevent simultaneous modifications, or configuring DFS-R to use conflict resolution.

File conflicts and deletions

DFS-R may sometimes encounter file conflicts or deletions, which can cause data loss or corruption. This can be caused by synchronisation errors, or by users modifying files simultaneously. To prevent this issue, you can configure DFS-R to use conflict resolution, or implement file locking mechanisms to prevent simultaneous modifications. However, Microsoft actually recommends to not use DFS-R in an environment where multiple users could update or modify the same files simultaneously on different servers. 

For environments with multiple users scattered around different locations and servers, engineers need a solution – such as Software Pursuits’ SureSync – that minimises the “multiple updates” issue. One method may not suit all needs for large enterprises. That’s why it’s best to look for solutions that offer collaborative file sharing between offices and with file locking and a combination of one-way and multi-way rule methods. 

Moreover, enterprise services such as SureSync make it easier to recover files if something gets accidentally deleted. DFS-R – or other sync tools – is a faithful servant, copying new files, changes and deletions between the systems to maintain a Distributed File System. What happens if a person or application goes rogue and deletes multiple files? The sync tool will be a faithful servant and delete them from the other locations. You will have to go to the backups and restore. With services such as SureSync there is a safety net. The software can store the deleted file(s) in a Backup Path which itself prunes every X number of days. No need to find backup tapes or restore from backup tools. With SureSync you just drag the required file(s) back from the backup folder in Windows Explorer and it copies them back to the other servers. It is quick and simple.

Authentication issues

DFS-R may sometimes encounter authentication issues, which can prevent replication from occurring. This can be caused by incorrect credentials, expired passwords, or incorrect permissions. To resolve this issue, you can ensure that the correct credentials are used, verify permissions, and check for any expired passwords. You can also try implementing a more robust authentication system that requires multi-factor authentication – such as NEOWAVE’s FIDO Alliance secure keys – or other security measures.

DFS-R can work well for some organisations with careful planning and management to ensure that it functions correctly. However, for most large enterprises it is not enough. After all, DFS-R provides limited reporting options, limited ability to synchronise encrypted files, and no ability to synchronise files stored on FAT or ReFS volumes, making it challenging to operate efficiently in today’s hybrid workplace. IT staff must adapt systems for users working from different locations while also managing varying bandwidth speeds at different times. The common issues discussed in this article highlight the need for IT staff to evaluate their file synchronisation and replication systems and determine if alternative solutions are required to meet their organisation’s needs.

By addressing these common issues and implementing the appropriate solutions, you can help ensure that your DFS-R implementation runs smoothly and reliably. In addition, by understanding the risks associated with synchronisation, you can take steps to mitigate those risks and protect your data. By following best practices and staying up-to-date with the latest developments in DFS-R technology, you can help ensure that your organisation is able to take full advantage of the benefits of Distributed File System Replication and DFS Namespace.

Kent Jason

Jason Kent is founder and director of Open Seas, a UK-based enterprise IT solutions company specialising in data protection and backup services to optimise organisations’ work environments. With 30 years’ experience in the IT industry, Jason has developed a strong and in-depth understanding of how to design and implement technical solutions that deliver tangible business benefits.

With 30 years’ experience in the IT industry, Jason has developed a strong and in-depth understanding of how to design and implement technical solutions that deliver tangible business benefits. Jason specialises in simplifying the complex and collaborating with both technical and non-technical teams to implement solutions that enhance security and human collaboration.

Jason is also Business Development Director at Jooxter, a proptech scale-up that helps companies manage flex desks and meeting rooms through wireless monitoring.

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