Filestore Best Practices #2: Consider turning OFF offline files on Desktop Machines

In the CAMPUS domain offline files are turned on by default; the majority of users will have seen the now familiar ‘Synchronising’ dialogue message window which appears when they log off a PC.

However, Offline files can cause warning and error messages being displayed to users – this has been seen by the ISS Helpdesk on a daily basis, and is becoming a problem: The two main issues appear to be the default excluded files extensions, or insufficient disk space on the PC to allow the caching of offline files.

So why are offline files sometimes unnecessary? In Microsoft’s own words “Offline Files: You can use this feature on a portable computer, or on a desktop computer that occasionally connects to your workplace network.”

Approximately 90% of the machines on Campus are Desktop machines which will never leave the confines of their office environment. These machines will still have offline files enabled. There is the argument that should a server fail, offline files will allow you to continue working merrily away, without any knowledge that a problem actually exists. But in reality how often does a server issue occur? And those which do are publicised well in advanced during an ‘At-risk’ period. Given the problems that offline files can cause it’s worth considering if such machines really need offline files enabled.

ISS Provides a Group Policy to switch off offline files on Windows XP machines The name of this policy is: ‘2 Campus Windows XP Turn Offline Files Off.’ And as an added benefit to your users they will see that their log off speed has dramatically increased too.

The Offline files system in Windows Vista is vastly improved and not activated by default but you should still consider it’s use carefuly.

SUMMARY: Assess the pros and cons of offline files on Desktop machines in your OU. If they are not benefitting you or your end users then please consider switching them off.

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About James

I am an Infrastructure Systems Administrator in the Infrastructure Systems Group (ISG) within ISS. We are responsible for a number of the core services which support the IT Infrastructure of the University including Active Directory, Exchange, DNS, Central Filestore, VMware and SQL. I hold number of current Microsoft Certifications and am also a Symantec Certified Specialist (Netbackup)

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