In most of today’s large networks there are many shared resources such as files and folders. The task of locating files and folders can be daunting especially on a large network with many different file servers.
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For example, if there was more than one file server in a company, the user would need to know which server a specific folder is located on. This can become difficult when shared folders are scattered throughout the network. Fortunately, Windows Server provides a solution known as the Distributed File System (Dfs). A Dfs server makes all folders appear as if they are located on one machine. All the user needs to know is where the Dfs folder is located. All other folders on the network appear to be located inside the Dfs folder.
The Dfs folder is accessed like any other shared folder. All other folders appear to be located inside the Dfs share (Dfs Root). When a user opens a folder he/she is automatically redirected to the right server. The folders inside the Dfs Root are known as Dfs Links.
There are two different types of Dfs, domain-based and stand-alone.
When creating a Dfs root folder, you have the option of establishing either a stand-alone Dfs root or a domain-based root. Stand-alone Dfs structures can be installed on either workgroup or domain servers. They don’t make use of Active Directory. . Stand-alone Dfs roots cannot make use of Active Directory Replication. However, because they are simpler to set up and manage, they are ideal in workgroup environments that don’t utilise the Active Directory.
Domain-Based Dfs structures can only be used in Active Directory domains. Unlike Stand-alone, Domain-Based Dfs can make use of Active-Directory replication and thus can be fault-tolerant. In a domain Dfs root, multiple servers can be used to control the Dfs namespace. The Dfs namespace is stored in the Active Directory, eliminating a single point of failure. Dfs is replicated using Active Directory replication. Fault-tolerant roots must be located on NTFS 5.0 partitions. The individual Dfs links can also exist on multiple machines, allowing for fault tolerant shared folders. Fault tolerance is such that the user can be unaware of considerable carnage to the system as a whole.