Data, Technology

A Complete Guide To Distributed File System Replication (DFSR)

Often used by organizations, Distributed File System Replication (DFSR), as its name suggests, is a replication engine that aids in synchronizing folders....

A Complete Guide To Distributed File System Replication (DFSR)

Often used by organizations, Distributed File System Replication (DFSR), as its name suggests, is a replication engine that aids in synchronizing folders. It is designed to make your work more accessible in this digital era wherein web traffic has increased significantly and backup procedures are strenuous. With DFSR, you can access data from several locations in an easily secure, convenient, and scalable manner. 

If you want to understand facts such as how to clear the DFSR backlog, read this comprehensive guide on DFRS.

What Is DFSR?

Before diving deep into this guide, it is best to understand what DFSR is and why it is vital today. DFSR is a replication engine designed to duplicate data by replicating the copies to various locations. You can synchronize each physical file at more than two locations.

When replicating a file using DFSR, the process starts once the file is closed. As a result, DFSR is not ideal for use in replicating databases. This is because databases tend to run their files during the database management system. Instead, DFSR is suitable for changing data which can then be replicated in any replication group member, such as the multi-master replication technology. 

DFSR groups are groups of servers that participate in replicating one or more folders. Once a folder is replicated, it is synchronized between the group members. A special Remote Differential Compression (RDC) algorithm is often used in DFSR to detect all changes and copy them, but not all of the existing data. By utilizing this approach, DFSR saves you time while reducing replication traffic in the network.

However, DFRS is carried out asynchronously, so you may experience delays between highlighting the changes to a source location and then replicating them to your target location.

How Does DFSR Work?

DFSR replicates folders referred to by the Distributed File System Namespace path across various sites and servers. It incorporates multi-master replication technology allowing DFSR groups to make changes to available data.

As previously mentioned, RDC is a special algorithm used by DFSR in detecting changes. This algorithm is very efficient in detecting changes and only copies the changes done instead of the whole file.

When changes are carried out, the file is then synchronized among the replication group members. The communication between various member groups of DFSR forms a DFSR topology.

A DFSR group setting consists of schedule, bandwidth throttling, and topology. These settings are applied to all replicated folders present in a DFSR group. Every replicated file in a DFSR group features a unique setting consisting of subfolders and file filters. Different subfolders and files are filtered in each folder that has been replicated. A replicated file can be available on different volumes in DFSR group members and doesn’t require a part of a shared folder or namespace.

The most vital aspect to consider when checking how DFSR functions is that it starts replicating files once closed. It’s important to note that you cannot use DFSR to replicate constantly running files, such as database files. To replicate files such as database files, you should consider something different such as Storage Replica, which operates parallel with a running file.

DFSR Topologies

DFSR features two main topologies;

  • Full Mesh. This technique is ideal for use if you have less than 10 members in your replication group. This technique allows each replication group member to replicate their data to their colleagues.
  • Hub and Spoke. In this technique, you need a minimum of three members. One member will act as a hub, while the other two will act as the spokes. If you’re a central source of data origin (the hub) and you’d love to replicate your data to various locations (the spoke), the Hub and Spoke is the best technique to utilize. 

Why Should You Use DFSR?

There are various reasons you should use DFSR; here are just a few.

  • Reliability. DFSR can be designed with hundreds of nodes that run together, allowing it to tolerate faults. Even when one machine fails, the system will not undergo any disruption, allowing it to run effectively.
  • Replication. DFSR makes it easy to share data among its members. Its data replication aids in enhancing accessibility, fault tolerance, and reliability by having great consistency among unnecessary resources like hardware and software components.
  • Performance. Data transfer can be challenging since the workload tends to be intense; however, this is not the case with DFSR. With it, replicating data is relatively efficient.
  • Horizontal Scalability. In DFSR, computation occurs in different nodes. Therefore, creating more nodes as required is straightforward as well as cost-effective.
  • Heterogeneity. DFSR components and nodes are asynchronous with several middlewares, hardware, operating systems, and software. As a result, it is easy to expand the system by adding new components.

What Are The Requirements For DFSR?

If you’re thinking of deploying DFSR, there are a few considerations you should keep in mind. A few of them are as follows:

  • Active Directory Domain Services schema should be updated to include a Windows Server 2003 R2. No read-only folders are replicated on Windows Server 2003 R2.
  • DFSR can be installed on all servers that act as replication group members.
  • The servers of DFSR groups should be located in one Active Directory Forest (ADF). This means that servers present in different ADFs cannot be replicated.
  • You need to locate the folders you want to replicate using DFSR on a New Technology File System. However, you should note that DFSR doesn’t support FAT or ReFS files. Furthermore, it doesn’t replicate folders stored on the Cluster Shared Volumes.
  • You must have proper antivirus software while using DFSR as the process can trigger false virus alerts.

How To Install DFSR?

DFSR is a part of the File and Storage Service Role, and the installation of management tools (DFSR Windows PowerShell module, DFSR Management, and the command-line tool) is done separately. They are installed as a part of Remote Server Administration Tools.

To install DFSR, you need to use Windows Admin Center, PowerShell, or Server Manager. The steps are detailed below:

  • Open your server manager and click on Manage. Once this is done, click on Add Roles and Features, and the Add Roles and Features Wizard will appear.
  • On Server Selection, select the virtual hard disk or the server of the offline virtual machine on which DFSR will be installed.
  • Choose role services along with the features you want to be installed. Select DFSR on Server Role if you want to install DFSR.

Note that the installation process can differ when using Windows Admin Center or PowerShell.

Features of DFSR

DFSR incorporates various features, six of which are discussed below.

1. Transparency

In DFSR, transparency is used as a security mechanism, as it protects the details of one file system against other users and file systems. The four main types of transparency offered by DFSR are:

  • Access Transparency. DFSR displays the file resources of a user following a successful login, irrespective of their location.
  • Naming Transparency. The filename doesn’t show the file’s location, and nor does it change when the file is moved within the storage nodes that DFSR supports.
  • Structure Transparency. The structure of DFSR, such as the file server’s number and the storage device, is hidden and cannot be accessed by users.
  • Replication Transparency. The replicated files are kept in different DFSR nodes and cannot be accessed by other file system nodes.

2. Performance

DFSR can be compared to the local file system, as it measures the time required in processing requests for user file access, including the time for processing, the time required to access a storage device, the time for network transmission, and the time for delivering the content requested.

3. Availability

Just like any other storage drive, a device running on DFSR shouldn’t be disabled or interrupted. Nonetheless, when an issue arises, such as a drive crash or node failure, DFSR will continue operating while reconfiguring quickly to alternate the storage resource to keep the operation uninterrupted. A data recovery plan should consist of storage devices and provisions for recovering and backing up DFSR servers.

4. Scalability

Users tend to deploy an additional storage capacity as their storage need increases. DFSR is powerful, allowing its users to scale up their storage capacity. This system is designed to handle additional resources while giving its users top-notch performance.

5. Data Integrity

DFSR allows two or more different users to access the same file or even the same file storage system on the go. This means you won’t encounter disruptions or damage when accessing a file with your workmate simultaneously.

6. Highly Secure

Data security is vital today, and DFSR has been designed to offer just that to its users. DFSR offers data protection against cyberattacks that can destroy or damage existing data. This system features high-end data encryption both in transit and at rest, enhancing data protection and security.


The primary function of DFRS is to allow users to share resources and data using the common file system. This helps make your work easier and lowers the risk of data loss and disasters while enhancing solution performance. Data availability is crucial in distributed systems, and DFSR addresses this issue with utmost ease, increasing customer satisfaction, and decreasing latency.


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Written by Robin Khokhar
Robin Khokhar is an SEO specialist who mostly writes on SEO. Thus sharing tips and tricks related to SEO, WordPress, blogging, and digital marketing, and related topics.

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