I've recently received email from Windows Client UPDATE readers asking various questions about the Dfs service available on server versions of Windows. Dfs is an incredibly useful feature that requires only one Windows 2000 server for setup (although Dfs has additional features you can use in domains and Active Directory—AD—environments). Dfs lets you point all your physical network shares on any machine that runs the NTFS file system to one virtual share point.
Using Dfs, you can give your users one mapped drive, and all the network shares available to them will appear as directories on that drive. No more worrying about extra drive letters or remembering on what drive you've stored an application or certain data—the user simply goes to that mapped share and is all set.
Are you planning to add storage to your network in the form of a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device? You can set up many NAS devices as additional shares on your Dfs root. Because the shares are virtual, you can back up and restore any share without affecting the behavior of client applications that point to the share. For example, if drive F is the Dfs share and you've configured an application to look for its files and data on drive F, you can back up and restore the physical devices that make up that share and any action you take is invisible to the user.
Dfs also works well for making similar data scattered across your network easily available. If you're in a small office or departmental environment, you probably have shared folders on many computers. In my office, dozens of shares are scattered across many client Windows XP and Win2K computers. On my main server's root Dfs share, I've created a Dfs share that includes all those client-computer shares. No one on my network needs to know on which computers particular shares reside; I simply mapped the Dfs root share, and it makes all of those scattered shared folders available to users in one stroke. If user Bob needs to share a document, he simply puts the file into a shared directory on his computer. Thereafter, he can find the file by going to the directory called Bob that I created as part of the Dfs share on my Win2K server. The share named Bob points directly to the shared folder on user Bob's computer.
More importantly, I can simply point my backup software to the Dfs share to back up all essential data on all my client computers. After the initial backup, my daily incremental backups of the mapped drive that represents the physical shares that make up the virtual share keep all the key data on my network secure.
On my small office/home office (SOHO) network, I even have a Dfs root that points to all the My Music folders scattered across the computers in my home. Using the Windows Media Player (WMP) 9 feature that lets me target a directory for automatic updating, I simply point at the Dfs share so that I always have a current list of music that's available on my network. Obviously, keeping my music files updated isn't a business use for Dfs, but it gives you a good idea of what you can do with Dfs.
To start using Dfs, click Start, Programs, Administrative Tools on your Win2K server, then click Distributed File System. Click the "Create a new Dfs root" button on the toolbar to launch the New Dfs Root Wizard, which will walk you through creating your Dfs root share. After you create the root share, right-click it to see a menu of things you can do with the Dfs root. Click http://search.microsoft.com/gomsuri.asp?n=3&c=rp_bestbets&siteid=us&target=http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/techinfo/planning/fileandprint/dfssteps.asphere to find a step-by-step guide for using Dfs.