In order to facilitate automatic backup of important faculty and staff data, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences uses a feature in Microsoft Windows called Folder Redirection and Offline Files.
This redirects the My Documents folder (normally located at C:\Users\username\Documents) to a remotely-stored home drive located on the College's SAN (Storage Area Network) Server.
Additionally, the user's computer automatically stores a copy of the home drive and its contents on the local hard drive. This allows users to access their files even when offline, or not connected to the storage server. When logging on or off on campus (or when reconnecting the VU network through the VPN gateway) Windows synchronizes any changes between the copy on the server and the offline copy.
Technical Explanation of the Sync Process
The sync process is enabled by a user Group Policy in the Windows domain (VUAD), which tells your Documents folder to redirect to your home drive folder (//artscistore.vuad.villanova.edu/users/%username%).
Additionally, the policy tells your windows user profile to make the home drive available offline, a feature that creates a copy of everything in the home drive/My Documents to an Offline Files folder buried within the C drive of the computer. This special folder is only accessed by the operating system, and only for the purpose of creating and syncing with the offline backup.
Offline Files allows a laptop user to disconnect their computer from the network without losing access to their personal files -- instead of referring to the server copy, Windows refers to the offline copy.
When a user reconnects to the campus network, the sync process automatically compares the offline copy with the server copy and updates the server copy with any modifications made to the offline copy. While still on campus, the home drive refers to the server copy and makes all changes directly to that copy. When they disconnect from the network or shut down, any files that were changed on the server are copied back to the Offline Files folder.
Contact an IT Coordinator with any questions.