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Back to SharingFiles


Here is a brief write-up explaining MPS shares, DFS, WebDAV & volume shadow copying. Let me know your comments.


Over the last year or so you have seen and heard me talking about shared folders and getting permissions set on the MPS servers in your offices. Some of you have also noticed recently a software installed on your computers known as Volume Shadow Copies. And then there are some of you whose offices do not have MPS servers and feel that may not apply to you.




This has all been an on-going effort by the staff in IFAS IT to improve file sharing within the UFAD domain, reduce the load placed on the Exchange servers (email), and help in data backups.


In general, when an MPS server is setup, it has 4 shared folders created:


  1. a Public folder which allows anyone with a UFAD username & password Read-access to the files and data it contains;
  2. a Unit folder which allows anyone in that respective office (the office it is housed in) access to the files & data it contains;
  3. a User folder which has individual user folders for the users in its’ respective office and can be accessed only by the specific user it is created for (no one else can get access to these files or data);
  4. and a Private folder which is created to contain specific files & folders for designated groups of users (in other words, if you had two users in your office needing to share financial information and not allow other users access, a group can be created to access these files and only those two users would be assigned to the group).


These data folders are then backed-up locally on the MPS server weekly, allowing for approximately a 5-week retention for backups.

If users were needing to share information with other users in IFAS, they could paste it into their Public folder, send the link to it to the other users, and those individuals could then copy it from the first user’s dept folder. This would be used for non-critical or non-essential data (remember – anyone with Gatorlink can read it). Individuals within the same Unit can share data with each other in their own Unit folder. Here they can edit, modify, delete if they want to.


At the same time that these servers were being setup, a new folder share process was being developed called a Distributed File Share. This is an easier way of accessing shared folders over a network. Microsoft explains DFS as “an easy way to view, access, and manage files scattered across the multiple file servers and shares that make up most enterprise networks” (taken from the Microsoft documentation on DFS which can obtain a copy from here: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/techinfo/overview/dfs.mspx). In a nutshell, it basically means that users can now access the shared drives setup on each MPS server by going to a single network path at \\ad.ufl.edu\IFAS . There they can see a listing of all the shared folders from each of the MPS servers in IFAS (UFAD), BUT, only access the folders they are assigned rights to.


This also facilitates sharing of data from one office to another. A user can place a document in the Public folder of their local MPS server and share it with a user in a different office on the other side of the state. This reduces the load on the Exchange servers by not having so many attachments being sent. How many times has someone tried sending a PowerPoint presentation via email? By using the MPS servers and accessing them using the DFS structure, a 10 MB PowerPoint can be placed in the Public folder and a user can access it by going to the \\ad.ufl.edu\sitename\Public. The greatly reduces the load on the servers and allows quick access to the data. PLUS…it would be backed up on the server!


Recently the ITSA staff installed WebDAV (Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning) to use in our network. WebDAV is:


“A set of extensions to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) which allows users to collaboratively edit and manage files on remote Web servers.” - www.sabc.co.za/manual/ibm/9agloss.htm


This is a set of Internet protocols which allows users to log into a website and add, remove and edit documents and files from remote servers, basically, similar to FTP but more secure and with more capabilities. Our webDAV site to access our DFS folders is http://files.ifas.ufl.edu. True, this is not a secure website (no https://). However, if you mouse over any of the folders listed, you will see that it is linking to a secure website (bottom toolbar of webpage or navigation bar). Each folder is named for its respective Dept or group and points to the respective MPS server at each location. The permissions to these folders are the same permissions that each user has on their own respective Dept. MPS servers.


And all this brings me to the Volume Shadow Copying software that was recently installed on everyone’s computers. What is Volume Shadow Copying? Microsoft explains that: “Volume Shadow Copy Service provides the backup infrastructure for the Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Server 2003 operating systems, as well as a mechanism for creating consistent point-in-time copies of data known as shadow copies” (taken from the Microsoft documentation on VSC found here: http://technet2.microsoft.com/WindowsServer/en/library/3cf204e6-709a-4eb8-8cbc-ad9655de91ba1033.mspx?mfr=true). Basically, this is a service that creates a shadow copy (somewhat hidden) of the shared document that the user can retrieve themselves by going through the document’s Properties window. How does this help? If a document is accidentally deleted, corrupted or changed the user can simply right-click on the document, select Properties, select Previous Versions and restore the document to its original state all by themselves. This does not require any upper-level support. This does have its limits, though. As of this date, Volume Shadow Copying is NOT available on the MPS servers. It is only available on a few servers within UFAD. However, future upgrades to MPS servers may allow this feature to be more widely available.

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