By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2006-01-09 Print this article Print

Microsoft is positioning R2 as a boon for branch offices and smaller sites that share data with larger, central sites—both for collaboration and for backup.

In service to these scenarios, R2 ships with a much-improved DFS (Distributed File System). With R2, Windows Servers DFS gets a rewritten file replication engine—one thats built around a technology that Microsoft is calling RDC, or Remote Differential Compression. RDC is a big advance for Windows Server and DFS because, when synchronizing files, it only transmits the differences among the files and not the files themselves.

This can mean big savings in network use and time, particularly where small changes are concerned, such as changing a title or a few bullet points on a large presentation document. R2 also enabled us to set up our DFS replication operations for particular days and hours of the week and to throttle DFS network use during scheduled times.

Along similar lines, R2 features improvements to the namespace functionality of DFS, which lets administrators present to users a collection of shared folders located on different servers under a virtual tree, or namespace. In R2, this feature has been extended to enable administrators to set the failover priorities for servers participating in a namespace. Combined with R2s DFS replication functionality, the systems namespace facilities can provide graceful failover when participant file servers—or the network links that connect them—become unavailable.

We were able to configure R2s DFS replication and namespace capabilities through the systems revamped graphical administration tools, which are built on top of a new, 3.0 version of MMC (Microsoft Management Console). The DFS management console served us well both as a platform for organizing and configuring replication and namespace groups and as a portal to the systems help documentation on those capabilities.

Also new in R2 and built on MMC 3.0 is a management component for all file server administration operations (with the DFS console included as a plug-in). The file server management interface included a Scenarios dropdown menu that listed more than 20 file server administrator tasks. For each task, the console offers a description, a step-by-step list for completing the task and a link to additional help information.

One quibble we had with R2s file server management console during tests was that it didnt include the NFS shares wed set up among those listed in the Shared Folders plug-in. Wed like to be able to manage NFS shares using the same tools as for SMB shares.

Another piece of R2s file server management console that we appreciated was its File Server Resource Manager, another MMC 3.0 plug-in that provided us with tools for applying and managing quotas, screening particular types of files, and scheduling and generating reports on our file server usage.

The quota tool comes with six template quotas, and we could create our own, as well. The file screening tool let us prevent users from saving files with particular extensions. Users could avoid this screening by simply choosing permitted extensions, but R2s screening feature should still prove helpful for administrators working to keep control over the files theyre storing.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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