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How do Windows DFS referrals work for laptops away from the office?

The rest of this text is just background for your interest or entertainment.

I was under the impression that the laptop would retain whatever last site it was at or the site of the last DC it connected to. And then that site would determine which site that laptop is presently at for the purposes of referral ranking.

The reason I ask is because we're getting some laptop users getting some strange referrals to an office that they've never actually been to. And those laptops are having a great connection to the servers in the other sites that they should be connecting to. The strange referral target in this case is a server that isn't known for being reliable. If it were basing it on some speed or reliability metric, it's got it completely wrong. The question is just that first line up there, the rest of this text is just background.

The hardware/software involved is: Windows 2008 R2 servers for all things; Windows 7 64-bit and Windows XP 32-bit laptops.

And this is a question about DFS Namespaces, not about DFS Replication.

How DFS Works: DFS Processes and Interactions states the following:

When least expensive target selection is enabled, DFS places targets in the referral in the following order:

Targets in the same site as the client are listed in random order at the top of the referral.

Targets outside of the client’s site are listed in order of lowest cost to highest cost. Referrals with the same cost are grouped together and within each group the targets are listed in random order.

If the laptop is at a client office, hotel, home, etc, is it still considered to be within a site? If so, I assume that site would be used in the first group of targets above. If it isn't within a site, I'd assume it skips that first group altogether and just randomly assigns the targets. But the behavior we're seeing is that it is more like the latter than the former.

Edit: (5/21/2012 3am PT)
It seems that the folders with "Override referral ordering" set to "First among targets of equal cost" get goofy. The goofy part is that the target with that enable seems to be the last in order, not first. I'm unsetting these to see what happens. Will report later.

share|improve this question
"If the laptop is at a client office, hotel, home, etc, is it still considered to be within a site?" how is it connecting into your network in those cases? VPN, Direct Access, Remote Desktop, something else? What IP does the laptop get in those cases, are those IPs assigned to a site? –  GAThrawn Jan 18 '13 at 15:52
@GAThrawn: The laptop is connected via a mesh-style network like Hamachi or NeoRouter and always has a mesh-network-specific IP address. Routes are setup such that when they are off-network, the traffic destined to that network will flow via the mesh network. For this example, the Chicago office is, the LA office is, the NY office is, and the mesh network (all users on it) is When the user is in the LA office, they are and are in the LA site. But when out-of-office, they are on and don't fit in any site. –  Dusty W Jan 18 '13 at 23:10
Just FYI: the mesh network IP assignments are not assigned based on the user's home office network or any thing like that. There's no way to know which office the user "lives" at based on their mesh IP. In fact, some users are exclusively on-the-road users and have no home office. –  Dusty W Jan 18 '13 at 23:12

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