Extensible File Classification Infrastructure in Windows Server 2008 R2
Managing storage is something administrators struggle with. I know when I was in Microsoft IT one of the biggest issues we had was data that was aged and no longer being accessed but still taking up an enormous amount of space. Organisations need to manage data more efficiently and they need to gain insight into their data so they can reduce the cost of storing it, maintaining and managing it. The next frontier for administrators is to be able to manage data based on business value.
Windows Server 2008 R2 introduces the File Classification Infrastructure (FCI) which is a built in solution for file classification that enables manual processes for classifying data to be automated with predefined policies based on the value of that data to the business. FCI’s out of the box functionality provides the ability to define the following:
- Classification Properties
- Automatic Classification – Using these automatic rules FCI can classify files according to the folder in which they are stored or based on the contents of the files.
- Manual Classification – Files can be manually classified based on the file properties interface built into Office system files. When you use this interface FCI will recognize the properties.
- LOB Applications and Scripts – Using an API LOB applications and scripts can set classifications on files
- File Expiration – This is probably going to be the biggest one for organizations. What do you do with stale or unused data? It’s often a manual task. When I was in IT we used third party tools to scan data that was aged or unused. I remember one scan we did that showed the 75% of the data we had on our file servers had not been touched in 18 months! Yet it was taking an enormous amount of space on our file servers. It was also a convoluted process to analyse this data. Now with FCI administrators can now run scheduled tasks that expire files based on age, location and other classification properties. Administrators can move the files to another location, alert users when data is going to be moved and backup that data in case it needs to be called upon in the future.
- SharePoint Integration – FCI integrates with Office SharePoint Server 2007 so any file classification defined for Office files carries through to files uploaded to SharePoint sites.
In addition to what FCI provides in box; perhaps the powerful feature is that FCI is an extensible API which allows ISV’s and developers to build end-to-end solutions based on the FCI architecture. Check out some of the partners that already have solutions in this space.
So I wanted to spend the rest of this post talking about how you install it on Windows Server 2008 R2 and what you can do with it.
- Installation is easy. The File Classification Infrastructure is installed when you install the File Services role in Windows Server 2008 R2. I’ve done this already on one of my highly available file server virtual machines.
- During the install you will be asked to install role services for for the File Server Role. Make sure you choose the File Server Resource Manager. This will give you the FCI UI plus all the other tools to manage your file servers.
- Once you have the File Services role installed you will see a section under the File Resource Manager called Classification Management. This is where you configure Classification Properties, Classification Rules and run File Management Tasks.
- Next you are going to want to setup some classification properties for your data. In the example below I’ve setup some basic properties to include Business Impact, Expiring Files and Personally Identifiable Information.
- The next thing is to setup Classification Rules which are used to evaluate which values should be assigned to properties for files on the server. For example I’ve setup a Classification Rule that uses the Content Classifier mechanism and the Business Impact Property with a value of Medium. This was defined in classification properties.