Setting Up the Distributed File System (DFS) in UMROOT

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Distributed File System (DFS) allows users to access and manage files that are physically distributed across a network. With DFS, you can make files distributed across multiple servers appear to users as if they reside in one place on the network so that users do not need to know the specific computer files are on to access them. For example:

The Butterfly Science Department has three file shares on three different servers:

  • \\svc01\Users
  • \\svc02\Groups
  • \\svc03\Projects

DFS would allow a system administrator to create a single virtual file system and map all locations to a single drive. Additions or changes to the shares could be made without users needing to understand where the shares were located.

For more information on DFS, refer to Microsoft's Distributed File System documentation.

Prerequisites for DFS in UMROOT

When you begin the process of setting up DFS, you will need to supply the name of one or two "Namespace" servers to hold the DFS root or pointer. This information is stored in Active Directory (AD) and is used by clients to find the file shares you create. Two servers will provide redundancy. No files will be stored on these servers.


Naming for locations will vary based on setting up DFS in the U-M production windows forest, or the test forest, The examples below use the production forest naming, and the Butterfly Science Department as an example department name.

Begin the process by contacting the ITS Service Center to set up the initial DFS folder for your unit. Once the initial Namespace setup is complete, it will be delegated to your OU Admin group.

  1. ITS will create DFS Roots on one or two servers:
    1. In our Butterfly Science Department example, we will use SVC01 and SVC02. These can be the same or different servers as the file shares.
    2. A directory named C:\DFSRoots\ButterflyScience will be created on each server by ITS. (Do not make any changes to this directory or store files in it.)
  2. (This step can be done by the OU Admin, but ITS can create the initial folder links for you)
    Open the DFS Management Snap-in and the new Namespace:
    1. Start the DFS Management Snap-in.
    2. Select Action > Add Namespaces to Display from the menu.
    3. Set scope to "" and click the Show Namespaces button.
    4. Select \\ButterflyScience
  3. Add folder targets:
    1. Select Action > New Folder.
    2. In the Name field, enter "Users".
    3. Click the Add button to select the file share.
    4. Enter the file share name or browse. You can also create file shares on the fly.
    5. Repeat for additional file shares.
  4. Your users can now map a drive to the following file share and see all the folder targets on the different servers:

Advanced Features

Campus DFS Hierarchy

Your DFS hierarchy is a member of the campus DFS hierarchy in addition to your own DFS hierarchy. The campus DFS is accessed here:


For example, the Butterfly Science DFS is available at both:


Using WebDAV and SFTP

You can use your DFS Root as a target for remote access using WebDAV or SFTP. In this way, all your file storage is accessible from one place.

Nested Folders

Perhaps you want a more complex file structure. For example, what if you wanted a Department Folder and each folder beneath that were a share on a separate server?

  1. Open the DFS Management Snap-in and add your Namespace.
  2. Add folders:
    1. Select Action > New Folder.
    2. In the Name field, enter "Department".
    3. Click the OK button to finish. Do not add a file share.
  3. Notice that Department does not have a shortcut icon because it is a DFS namespace folder.
  4. Add folder targets under Department:
    1. Right-click on "Department".
    2. Select Action > New Folder.
    3. In the Name field, enter "Marketing".
    4. Click the Add button to select the file share.
    5. Enter file share name or browse. You can also create file shares on the fly.
    6. Repeat for additional file shares such as "Sales".
  5. DFS now looks like this:
  6. Users see this. Four folders at the root with a total of five folders with data on five different servers!

DFS Replication

It is possible to specify multiple file shares for the same folder target and replicate data between them. This is only meant to be used for Read-Only file shares because users access a randomly selected file share. If two users write to the same file on different file shares, the last writer wins.

Last Updated: 
Thursday, August 29, 2019