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I am planning on setting up a DFS root to house all of our departmental shares, and I also plan on having Home directories that automatically mount through AD profile. We will be using a NetApp for storage. Should I have the home dirs be part of the DFS or does it make more sense to have them on a separate partition/volume of the NetApp?

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I wouldn't do it. My two main reasons to do DFSN (DFS Namespace) don't apply to home folders: using DFSR to replicate folders and have AD figure out your closest copy, and second if you want users to have a consistant path to files reguardless of what file server they are on. I love DFS and use it with many clients/jobs but I see little advantage (and maybe some disadvantage) of using it for home dirs. Here's some thoughts in no particular order:

  • DO NOT USE AD PROFILE PATH SETTINGS. They are totally a NT-legacy setting that are superseded by GPO folder redirection. When you set AD profile path, it actually sets the computer to use that network path as the default location for all sorts of things, which will slow down everything from login to launching Word. Just leave that tab alone and learn to love GPO folder redirection which does so much more and is easier to manage for groups of people. Can't stress this enough. Microsoft should warn admins of the issues that tab can cause.
  • In XP, I remember there were issues with folder redirection if it was DFSN. In XP/2003 days we had to set user folder redirection to //server/share paths. DFSN for everything else still worked great.
  • You should rarely have users browsing each others home folders. Typically the rule is, if more then one user needs access, then it doesn't go in user home folders and belongs elsewhere in DFSN. You're likely setting folder redirection in GPO, so if you ever move those user home folders you'll change it in GPO and don't need the advantage of DFSN links.
  • FYI, If you have any Mac users, anything older then Lion 10.7 doesn't do DFS well or at all.
  • Note if you're using NetApp for NAS of your DFSN, then you can't do DFSR with it (as of last time I used it in 2009 with 7.0). You'd need to front-end NetApp with a Windows Server and use iSCSI to store files.
  • Personally if your near all Windows clients (Vista or newer), I've written off anything for file shares other then a Windows OS. SMB 2.0, then 2.1, and now 3.0 make file sharing so much faster and feature rich between Windows client and server, and IMO all other venders are always playing catch-up with Microsoft. It would be great if the whole industry moved forward together, but the reality is that even NetApp is years behind Microsoft in this protocol. If you need enterprise always-on file shares, use a file-server cluster in front of NetApp iSCSI.
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Bret, more information on your first bullet would be helpful and interesting to me. Do you have any articles with more info? – SturdyErde Aug 22 '12 at 11:37
Thanks Bret. I'll probably use DFS-N for our dept shares and use folder redirection GPOs for home dir's using a separate chunk of Netapp storage. We have more Macs than PCs but they are all the latest OS. I plan on a magic triangle approach where AD does authentication and GPOs for the Win clients, and I'll have a Mac server for managed prefs on the Mac side. – user132844 Aug 22 '12 at 12:13
@SturdyErde Bullet #1 is 100% based on months of work with 4,000 pc's ant 100+ WAN locations trying to resolve general slowness. AD profile path was the cause. Dive into what changes when you set AD profile path it all starts to make sense. Example: set the AD profile path to a remote system, re-login, and bring up a Command Prompt. Notice it's now defaulting to the remote profile path. Type set and notice how one or more paths are to the remote path. Then apps will start to save various things there because many use that environment var for saving. Using folder redirect doesn't do this. – Bret Fisher Aug 22 '12 at 20:43

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