Microsoft Windows Server Distributed File System (DFS) brings multiple file shares and folders under a single namespace, making it a lot easier to locate files because users do not need to know which server a file physically resides on. In this article, I will show you how to perform a basic Windows Server DFS deployment.
One of the first things that you will need to do when deploying Windows Server DFS is to create a namespace server. The namespace server hosts a namespace root, which is essentially a file share through which file data can be accessed. The root itself can contain multiple folders, which can be scattered across multiple file servers.
The other concept that you need to understand is replicas. Windows Server DFS gives you the option of creating replica groups in which replica servers are able to keep replicated folders synchronized with one another.
To deploy Windows Server DFS, open the Windows Server Manager and launch the Add Roles and Features Wizard. When you arrive at the screen that allows you to select the server roles that you want to install, expand the File and Storage Services role, followed by the File and iSCSI Services role. Now, select the DFS Namespaces role and the DFS Replication role. DFS replication is optional and is beyond the scope of this article, but most organizations that use DFS also use DFS replication.
Select the DFS Namespaces and the DFS Replication roles.
Once the various Windows Server DFS roles have been installed, the next step in the process is to create a DFS namespace. To do so, select the DFS Management option from the Server Manager’s Tools menu. This will cause Windows to open the DFS Management console. Click on the New Namespace option, found in the Actions pane. When you do, the console will launch the New Namespace Wizard, shown in Figure 2.
The New Namespace Wizard will help you to create a DFS Namespace.
The wizard’s initial screen asks you to enter the name of the server that will host the namespace. This server will become a namespace server. If you are just getting started, you will typically want to designate your first DFS server as a namespace server.
Click Next, and you will be prompted to provide a name for your new namespace, as shown in Figure 3. The name you provide will act as the file share through which files are accessed. It is worth noting that you will not need to create the file share manually. Windows will create it for you.
Enter a name for your namespace.
Click Next, and you will be asked if you want to create a domain-based namespace or a standalone namespace. If your namespace server is not domain-joined, you will have to choose the standalone option. The disadvantage is that the standalone option limits you to using a single namespace server, whereas a domain-based namespace can consist of multiple namespace servers. As a rule of thumb, if your namespace servers are domain-joined, you should always use the Domain-Based namespace option. If you have to create a standalone namespace, you should host the server in a failover cluster for high availability.
You will need to choose between a standalone and a domain based nameserver.
Click Next, and the wizard will display all of the configuration options you have selected. Assuming that everything looks good, click the Create button to create the namespace.
Now that the namespace has been created, you can begin adding folders to the namespace. A folder is really just an SMB file share. Ideally, these folders should reside on Windows Servers, but NAS appliances can also host SMB file shares (and those shares can be used as Windows Server DFS folders, as well).
To add a folder, right click on the namespace that you just created, and then choose the New Folder command from the shortcut menu, as shown in Figure 5. This will cause Windows to display the New Folder dialog box.
Right click on the namespace and choose the New Folder command.
Enter a name for the folder that you are creating, and then click the Add button to add one or more targets. In Figure 6, for example, I am creating a folder named File Data, and that folder points to a folder target residing at \\FileServer\Files. Keep in mind that it is common to associate multiple targets with a single folder.
This is how you create a folder.
Click OK, and the new folder will be added to the console beneath the namespace that you created. Figure 7 shows how the folder’s contents have been made accessible in File Explorer through the DFS namespace.
DFS redirects folder requests to the underlying file share.