Setting up user home directories in a Windows file server – 1

Setting up home directories is one of the tasks that server admins need to perform at some stage during a file server setup. Typically, home directories (or sometimes called personal drives) are  network drives assigned to domain users mapped using a common drive letter (commonly H). Following are some of the important factors that need to be considered in setting up home directories;

1. Security: This is one of the first things that the server admins need to sort out when setting up home directories. Given that home directories are assigned to each user, for a given home directory, in addition to the server admins group, only the particular user the home directory has been assigned to should have the permissions to the directory. I will explain more about setting up permissions in part 2 of this post.

2. Storage: It can be a challenging task for server admins to manage the storage when users start storing their favourite music and kids birthday photos in their personal drives.  Some organisations tends to give more flexibility  and freedom to end users and would  expect server admins to monitor the disk space  and may inform or  arrange with users to free-up disk space on ad-hoc basis. Other option is to use disk quotas which assigns a fixed amount of megabytes or gigabytes to each user. This make server admin’s life much easier and probably a better way to manage storage.

3. Performance : Performance is one of the factors that server admins need to consider specially if the file server is migrated from one environment to another (such as NetWare to Windows). Usually, people expect network drives to perform similar to the local drives in their computers, specially when it comes to opening and saving files.  Depending on the server environment, network setup, client OS etc… certain configuration changes may be required  in the file server as well as other environments to optimise the performance. The following article explains some of the TCP/IP changes that could improve the performance, but these changes need to be considered based on the nature of the environment and specific performance issue;

http://www.speedguide.net/articles/windows-7-vista-2008-tweaks-2574

Also, worth looking at SMB packet signing issue explained in the following Microsoft article;

http://www.speedguide.net/articles/windows-7-vista-2008-tweaks-2574

Another potential performance issue may be due the authentication provider order. Especially, this is applicable if you are migrating from one enviroment to another. Usually, the Authentication Provider order can be found in the following registry location in Windows 7 and XP;

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\NetworkProvider\Order]

If you are originally connected to a NetWare server, the order may appear as “ProviderOrder”=”NCFSD,RDPNP,LanmanWorkstation,webclient” where NCFSD represents the Netware provider. YOu can test the network drive performance by moving the NCFSD from first to last i.e. “RDPNP,LanmanWorkstation,webclient,NCFSD”.

In addition to these fixes; server monitoring, event logs and network monitoring may provide some assistance in troubleshooting issues specific to an environment.

4. Easy to Administer : provisioning personal drives for users is an ongoing and may be a regular excercise for the IT department in an organisation. Typically, creating a home directory for a user is a part of the process of creating a users account, an email address etc…  for a new employee to an organisation, usually, performed by a helpdesk officer. Therefore, it’s important that a simple and well-defined process is maintained. Also, if you are migrating home directories from an existing environment to a new environment, you may need to explore some of the tools and scripting techniques that could make the process simpler, faster and yield more accurate results.

Now that we have looked at some of the important aspects of designing home directory structure in a file server, in Part-2 of this post, I will explain step by step on how to set up a home directory structure using a  Server 2008 file server in an Active Directory environment.

Bye for now.

Dilruk Jayanetti

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One Response to “Setting up user home directories in a Windows file server – 1”

  1. Last Goldmine Says:

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