How to safely mingle personal and business data in a Windows world

Work Folders helps sync, and wipe, some data while leaving personal photos and the like alone.

big data

Work Folders is a new feature of Windows Server 2012 R2 that is designed to allow personally owned Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 tablets and laptops to sync business-related files and folders with a share on the corporate network.

Additionally, administrators can wipe the synced data because it is stored in a segregated way, and it's signed by a separate encryption key, so that the user's personally owned content, like photos and files, can be left intact after a wipe.

The key bit in all of this is the sync share. The sync share is essentially how Windows Server 2012 R2 manages which files to sync for which users. You set up a sync share by establishing a folder locally accessible to a Windows Server 2012 R2 server, and then pointing a wizard to that location. Within that shared folder, each user will have a subfolder that will contain the files that the Work Folders feature will host and sync.

In this piece, we'll walk you through the required steps to get Work Folders going on your network. We'll start with the server configuration, get the networking steps out of the way next and then discuss the client experience. At the end, you will come out with a working setup that you can build on later.

Setting up Work Folders on the server side

First off, you need to install the Work Folders role, which is an integrated part of Windows Server 2012 R2. You can do this through the Server Manager feature in the GUI, using the Add Roles and Features Wizard. Alternately, through PowerShell, a one-line command gets it done for you without all the clicking:

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