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A follow-up post from guest blogger Wole Moses from the Windows Product Team.
Hi, it’s been a few weeks since my first post and during that time, Microsoft Management Summit, and a couple of international events have intervened. I’m actually typing this during a 16 hour plane ride from Dubai to LAX. In the time since my last post, we’ve come out with some great content to help you understand how to take advantage of User State Virtualization on the Microsoft Platform. In this post I want to pick up where we left off in the last blog and to let you know about a growing set of content to help you learn more about this topic.
In my last post, we took a trip down memory lane in an effort to level set and to describe the type of end user and IT scenarios that Windows User State Virtualization technologies (Folder Redirection, Offline Files, and Roaming User Profiles) were initially designed for. We also saw how end user work styles have changed dramatically since the inception of these technologies back in the Windows 2000 timeframe. The bottom line is that end users use laptops more, work from home via VPN, access data from many corporate network locations and work remotely more than they in just the middle and earlier part of this decade. Technology thus has to adapt. Below are some of the ways this has happened in the Windows USV technologies. Before you go any further though, first I want to give a shout out to a whitepaper that we just published that helps you figure out a strategy for which of these technologies you need to use to solve the specific end user or IT challenge you’re attempting to address. This paper helps to demystify the appropriate use cases for our USV technologies and you can find it here.
Now, on to some of the improvements.
First, I’ll start with Folder Redirection. The primary improvements in Folder Redirection have to do with an improved user experience for users who can benefit from having their data centralized on servers in the data center. Firstly, since we’ve expanded the number of folders that can be redirected (5 in Windows XP and 13 in Windows Vista/Windows 7). This makes sense today because as the Personal PC has become more personal (a trend we can describe as consumerization), end users have a lot more categories of data on their PC that they or the business may find beneficial to centralize. You can read more about this in a white paper that can be found here.
A second big improvement – this one comes exclusively in Windows 7, is a faster first logon experience for end users who have just had a folder redirection Group Policy applied to them by IT. This is all about improving the user experience of this technology which of course improves their perceptions of IT. You can read more about this new feature here.
Offline Files is the area where we’ve made the most numerous improvements between Windows XP to Windows 7. In general whenever deploying Folder Redirection you want to do it in conjunction with Offline Files. A key thing to remember about offline files is that when offline files was originally designed, because we had such a lower percentage of laptop users, ensuring that data was synched to the network was a very important design requirement. Folks tended to access the authoritative copy of all of their data from a file server not from their desktop PC. Today because so much work happens on the go, in many more cases, the authoritative data is on the laptop and is synchronized to the network at some later point. We had to evolve the technology to make this happen better and to do this we did lots of work to improve the offline to online transition, improve synchronization speed and performance, and to give IT better tools to manage what data was synchronized to the server and how much is cached on the pc. You can find an excellent whitepaper that details many of these improvements here.
Finally Roaming User Profiles (RUP). This technology has tended to be the one where we’ve seen the most questions and the one that quite frankly IT Pros experienced many challenges. From speaking to many many customers, what we’ve tended to see is that RUP is actually no longer a requirement for some of the things they needed it for in the Windows XP timeframe because much of what used to be exclusive to RUP can now be accomplished through folder redirection and group policy/group policy preferences. Shout out again to the USV Strategy Whitepaper. that I mentioned earlier as it will really help you make the decisions about which will be the best technology for your specific needs. Roaming User Profiles really benefits from the expanded list of redirect able folders because it means that you now have 13 folders that no longer have to be part of the users profile (and incurring potentially long logon and logoff times) because you can simply redirect those folders out of the users profile. This is major win for end users! Additionally we have a new group policy that enables user profile information to be synchronized even while the user is logged on (in the past the synch happened at logon/logoff). For end users like me who hibernate and seldom actually logoff from their PCs this means that we will eliminate some of the profile synchronization issues that this behavior would have caused in the past. To learn more about the RUP improvements we’ve made you want to take a look at a combination of two papers – one that details what we’ve done up to Windows Vista (which has naturally been inherited in Windows 7): and this paper details the Windows 7 improvements.
Overall I think you’ll find that for organizations that can benefit from deploying USV, Windows 7 will bring many improvements to both IT and to end users.
Please update CscCmd and CacheMov to work with future Windows versions and please create a decent GUI for USMT so it's easier to use it. I am not comfortable with command line tools.
Hi 7flavor, we're currently thinking about how to update this technology for future versions of Windows - thanks for this specific suggestion.