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Walking into a new organization, permissions are a mess.

Over time, many many users have been given access to folders and files explicitely as needed instead of having established group policies for users to fall into. There are some groups, but for the most part- individually assigned permissions are all over the place.

Can anyone offer any advice as to how they would approach such a situation? This is one of the first tasks handed to me. I am left staring at about 400,000 lines of file/folder permissions, each associated account and its permissions in an excel spreadsheet.....

I assume the first step would be to establish which common files are needed by everyone within the department, and then go from there?

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I'm sorry, but I don't see how Group Policy fits in here. It sounds like you're talking about NTFS permissions, which should be based on group membership, but this is entirely different than group policy. – MDMarra Jan 21 '13 at 21:52
Yes, my mistake. – Matt Jan 21 '13 at 21:55
I agree with MDMarra. Sounds like you need to set up some groups. It sounds like you have lots of folders or files with individuals added to the permissions rather than done at a group level. (oh... another Matt :) – Matt Jan 21 '13 at 21:55
Yes, that is correct. I am trying to establish groups for everyone to fall into; meanwhile, everyone has access to their files through individually assigned NTFS permissions. – Matt Jan 21 '13 at 21:56
I wonder if you could do some sorting on the spreadsheet to group people by folder. Or maybe export the data into a little sql database and run some queries to achieve the same thing. 400k lines of permissions may take some time by hand. – Matt Jan 21 '13 at 21:58
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Oh, you poor devil.

Now that's out of the way, I've faced this problem in the past. There is no easy way to go about it, since rights-structures like these are typically accompanied with rather ad-hoc directory structures as well. Fixing the rights will require fixing the directory layout as well.

The biggest problems you'll face are going to be political. That pile of random directories represents the random organizational tics of a bunch of different people, and you're going to attempt to force a unified organizational method on it. This will break a bunch of other people's organization and that'll cause resentment, which will make acceptance of your changes harder to sell.

Step One: Figure out the organization

You're new there. You don't know how the organization fits together yet, or how it manifests in that pile of badly permissioned directories. Start asking questions of your coworkers, or the departments/people you're going to be reorganizing. Start making friends too, since you're going to need it.

Once you know who goes where, why, and what kind of data they stash...

Step Two: Draft an organizational method

Now that you have the intel, start building a new model for how to organize that volume. Keep aware of cross-communication between areas, since that'll impact where you put certain directories. Due to how NTFS rights work, it's best to keep such directories flat as possible.


If you need to keep the top level directory small, you may need to make things like...


Where public browse is set at the department level, but clamped down to just the working-groups at the sub-group level. It'll keep the top directory neater.

Creating groups for this kind of structure is fairly easy, but you do need input from those friends in step one to make sure you're making the right groups.

Step Three: Get Buy-in

Now that you have a plan, float it by those friends you made in step one. Does it work for them? What needs to change?

Revise as necessary. Go to step four only when everyone likes what they see. This may take some time.

Step Four: Implementation Plan

Start drafting an implementation plan. Start with a department or sub-group at a time to move their stuff around and re-permission it. Once you have the process of converting a group down, start hunting volunteers to go first.

And start working on the schedule for the rest too.

Step Five: Do it!

Do your first group! Work with the entity in question to make sure they're happy.

Step Six: Revise your Implementation Plan

Something probably went unexpected, so revise your plan.

Step Seven: Do it again

Now that you've revised start working through the rest of the departments and groups. You'll probably have to keep tweaking your plan, but that's the nature of these kinds of things.

It's a rather political process, but it can be done with the right legwork.

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