How To Setup DFS Share on Windows Server? (Best Practices)

How To Setup DFS Share on Windows Server? (Best Practices). One of the functions of all enterprise Information Systems (EIS) is the hosting and sharing of different files among various regions and departments of the organization. If you in IT field, you must be aware of DFS.  Do you want to set up a DFS share for your organizations? Then you are in the right place. This article explains how to set up DFS on Windows and the best practices among the top organizations.

Shall we start with How To Setup DFS Share on Windows Server? (Best Practices)

What is DFS?

Firstly, DFS is the abbreviation of Distributed File System. It is a client to server solution of Microsoft Windows that allows you to share multiple systems or servers. The DFS namespace and replication ensure location transparency and redundancy.

As digital transactions and events gain momentum, the organization’s need for file and network shares increases, and IT admins face the problem of managing multifile share servers simultaneously. Hence, DFS enables organizations to deal with problems and helps them to group all the file shares under a single hierarchical structure.

The DFS topology forms a tree structure as DFS roots, Links, and Targets. Using DFS, the administrator accesses folders from multiple servers stored in the same virtual directories. There are two types of DFS directories – DFS Namespace and DFS Replication. Namespace acts as a virtual tree to aggregate all the shared folders in a network, while replications mirror the shared folders with scheduling and bandwidth throttling.

Well, how do we Setup DFS Share on Windows Server? Let’s explore the steps. 

How to Set Up DFS Share in Windows Server?

Step 1: Enabling DFS Share Roles

To set up DFS share, first, you enable DFS roles in your server. Here are the steps to follow –

  1.  Open the Server Manager Dashboard and click Manage.
  2.  Click Add Roles and Features, then Roles and Features Wizard will open. Then click next to start the setup.

3.  There are two types of options Role and Feature based installation. Select ‘Role based’ selection.

4.  Next, in the server selection section, select the server (current server) or VHD of an offline virtual machine where you want to install DFS. 

5.  Then in Server Roles, under Files and Storage Services, check the following – DFS Namespace and DFS Replication, and other management tools as per your needs. Leave the remaining check box as it is. 

6.  There is no need to make changes in the Features section and click Next.

7.  In the final Confirmation section, check your configuration and make sure they meet your needs. Then click Install, if everything is correct. 

8.  Wait for a while until the Installation finishes. After the result appears, you close the window. 

After the above steps, Namespace and Replication feature will become available on your server. The next step up is setting them up.

Step 2: DFS Namespace Set Up

You set up DFS Namespace using two ways. One way is through Windows Server Manager. And the other one is through the Windows Command line (CMD). Here are steps to create DFS Namespace using the server dashboard.

1.  Open Server Manager, select Tools in the right upper corner, and select DFS Management in the menu list. 

2.  Under DFS Management, click on Namespace and Click New Namespace. And then New Namespace Wizard will open. 

3.  In the Wizard, in the first step, select your host using the browse option and click next. 

4.  Name your namespace in the second step and use edit settings to configure the local path and permissions for the shared folder. 

5.  The next step is selecting the Namespace type. You can choose per your needs. However, I recommend a ‘Domain based Namespace‘ due to the advantage of high availability.  

6.  Review Settings will show your Namespace and configuration settings. Check them and click Create if they are right.

Adding a New folder to Namespace

After creating the namespace, now follow these steps to add a new folder:

  1. Follow the previous steps open DFS Management, and click the Namespace in which you want to add the folder.
  2. Open the New folder in the right action plane, enter the folder name, and then click ADD.
  3. Now enter the path of the existing folder and save the path to the folder by clicking OK
  4. Now you can access the shared folder by using the network address.

Step 3: DFS Replication Set UP

To Configure DFS Replication, we need to set up a second server. And it is not mandatory to set up a DFS replication group, but it has its advantages. Here are the steps to Configure DFS Replication:

1.  Like before, go to DFS Management and click on DFS Replication to open New Replication Group Wizard.

2.  In the first step, provide the Replication group name and the name of the folder you want to replicate. 

3.  The next step shows the replication eligibility. Check the folder path (used to access the folder) and then click next. 

4.  Next, select the Primary member using the drop down menu. The primary member is the server whose contents you want to replicate. 

5.  In the Topology selection section, you are given three options  Hub and spoke, Full Mesh, and No topology. I recommend using Full mesh. You can choose according to your needs. The hub option is best for those having more than two servers, and No Topology is for those who want to create a custom topology.

6.  Next, configure the replication group schedule and Bandwidth as per your preference. Then click next. 

7.  And last, after checking the details in the review screen, if everything is correct, click create. 

8.  In a while, you get the confirmation report showing the status of particular tasks and a description of errors, if any. 

After doing all the above steps, the DFS share configuration for your entity is complete. There are many other points to note while creating a DFS share and many alternative techniques to create DFS replication. 

Best Practices For Distributed File Systems:

There is no correct or best DFS configuration. They differ from one organization to another. Here are some considerations and best practices you adopt when configuring your DFS.

1. Decide DFS Server Size

The mode of the DFS server plays a major role in the workings of shared networks. It is a physical or virtual, but it is best to choose virtual, if you’re a medium or small business. And ensure that the CPU is 64-bit and has at least four cores with 2.5 GHz or more. I recommend having a minimum of 8 GB memory and 15K rpm disk storage to handle replicated and staging data.

2. Choose the Right Replication Schedule

Most of the errors in a business arise from the incorrect replication schedule or scalability issue. If it is a WAN you schedule the initial replication only after business hours with full bandwidth. If you want to replicate during business hours, then consider throttling the bandwidth for a period.

3. Enable ABE

ABE refers to access based enumeration, which limits the visibility of files and folders. The users who have permission to access are only able to access or see the folders. Other folders with no access permissions is invisible to users. It prevents the leakage of sensitive data. To enable ABE, go to namespace properties in the advanced settings section, check the ABE, then click OK.

4. Configure Read-only Folder Targets

Read only folder targets allow the users to open them and view the details but don’t allow them to change the data. When a user opens the read only data, the namespace directs him to the replica of the folder and doesn’t affect the original folder.

It prevents the data from accidental deletion or modification. And when the data is lost, it is recovered from the Read only replicas. In cases where data are updated frequently or changes saved locally, you cannot configure read only folder targets.

5. Backup and Restore

The read only feature cannot prevent accidental deletion or other attacks. It is always better to have a backup and restore option. You should export the DFS configuration and the shared registry to an external hard drive or Cloud. And save the registry key in a separate location on each server.

6. DFS Topology Configuration

You should design the DFS topology according to your storage requirements, bandwidth, data accessibility, user base, and back strategy. Traditional DFS has topologies like mesh, hub, spoke, and no topology. In the mesh topology, all servers replicate each other and are best for failover and data redundancy. But Hub and spoke topology is best for website security as they replicate data only with the Hub server. 

7. Single namespace for all DFS namespaces

It’s best to use a single namespace for all DFS namespaces because, in this way, it is easy to track and manage your DFS environment. Using multiple namespaces is time consuming and challenging to set up replication. Additionally, it reduces latency by increasing performance.

8. Multiple Folders in the same domain based namespace

Creating multiple folders in the same domain based namespace increases availability. Because different servers host each folder, if one folder is unavailable, others are still accessible. The clients connect with nearby servers that host a replica of the namespace, thus increasing the performance. It also increases data security as each folder has separate security settings. 

Thank you for reading How To Setup DFS Share on Windows Server? (Best Practices). We shall conclude this article now. 

How To Setup DFS Share on Windows Server? (Best Practices) Conclusion

There are still many best options to configure a DFS share and increase its performance, like setting up redundant servers, referral changing on clients, etc. But as said earlier, there is a defined DFS configuration for an entity you can learn only by trial and error. 

I hope you set up your DFS share in your organization and enjoy the benefits available with DFS. 

Explore more of our DNS/NFS content in our blog by navigating over here for DNS and here for NFS

Avatar for Bala V M
Bala V M

I am a self-motivated Article writer who wishes to share my knowledge with others on Linux, WordPress and Windows security. I have been working in Technical Server Niche for the past two years.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x