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New Add-in: WSE WorkFolders


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Disclaimer: This message contains content about paid add-ins written by me.


Hi Everyone,


Just wanted to let folks know that I have finished writing a brand new add-in for use with Windows Server 2016 Essentials and Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials (including the Standard/Datacenter editions with the Windows Server Essentials Experience server role installed). The add-in is called WSE WorkFolders and it allows you to use Microsoft's Work Folders server role with your Essentials server.


For those of you that do not already know, Work Folders allows your users to sync their work files to your very own server, making their files available to them from all of the PCs and devices they use, even when they are offline. Basically it's a lot like OneDrive or DropBox, but instead of your user's work files getting synced to the cloud, they are synced to your own on-premise server instead (complete with encryption while in transit and while at rest). Windows Sever Essentials makes a great server for hosting Work Folders due to its secure Remote Web Access website functionality (allowing secure access to your users files from anywhere they happen to be). However, since Work Folders is in-and-of-itself a web server (that uses the same standard HTTP and HTTPS ports as the Essentials server's IIS website does), it conflicts with Windows Server Essentials and cannot be installed without disrupting the Anywhere Access/Remote Web Access functionality of your server.


WSE WorkFolders comes to the rescue here and takes care of everything behind-the-scenes, allowing you to use Work Folders with your Essentials server without fear of conflict! It even goes as far as allowing you to configure quotas (which determine how much Work Folders storage space your users will have available on the server for syncing their files), and file screens (which determine the file types that your users will NOT be allowed to sync with the server). Everything is controlled effortlessly from the comfort of the Windows Server Essentials Dashboard, just as you'd expect it to be.


WSE WorkFolders requires Windows Server Essentials 2016 or 2012 R2 (earlier server versions such as Windows Server Essentials 2012 and Windows Home Server 2011 do not support/contain the Work Folders server role, and so they cannot be used), and the Remote Web Access feature of the server must be turned on and properly set up with a trusted SSL certificate (all of which is easily handled for you by the Anywhere Access Set Up wizard that's included with the Essentials server). In addition, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Android, and iOS PCs and devices are all supported as Work Folders clients (either through the Work Folders applet that is located in the Control Panel, or through the Work Folders app that is downloaded from the app store and installed on the device). Windows 8, Mac, and Windows Mobile/Phone clients are not supported.


With all of that jargon out of the way, let's dig in...


WSE WorkFolders is installed just as any other Essentials add-in is. You simply download and run its .WSSX setup file from any of your Essentials client PCs, or directly from the Essentials server itself. Once installed, you can then start the server Dashboard application and enable Work Folders on your server as follows:


Click on the new "WORK FOLDERS" item in the Dashboard's navigation pane.



Click on the "Enable Work Folders" task.



NOTE: If Anywhere Access/Remote Web Access has not yet been configured on your server, then you will be prompted to do so before proceeding.



If Anywhere Access/Remote Web Access is properly configured on your server, then you will be prompted to enable Work Folders.



WSE WorkFolders will suggest a file storage location to be used for storing your user's work files on the server. The drive with the most amount of free space, that is NTFS formatted and local to the server, will be the suggested drive. If you would like to change the drive, then you may do so by clicking on the "File storage location" item. Note that the file storage location CANNOT be changed once it has been created on the server, so please choose wisely here (actually, it can, but you'll need to contact me for a bit of help there).


You can specify an administrative email address where your users can report issues and request help from within their Work Folders client apps by clicking on the "Administrator email address" item.


Next up is the real meat and potatoes of WSE WorkFolders... Since the Essentials server's Remote Web Access website uses the standard HTTP (80) and HTTPS (443) ports, you must setup an alternative HTTPS port number to be used by Work Folders on the server. The recommended port number is 8443, but you can change it if there is a conflict with that port number on your server by clicking the "Work Folders URL port" item.


If you have a UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) router on your network, then WSE WorkFolders will do its best to enable UPnP port forwarding on your router. If you have disabled UPnP port forwarding in your router, if your router doesn't support UPnP port forwarding, or if you plan to manually forward port 8443 to the IP address of your server from within your router, then you may uncheck the "Enable UPnP port forwarding" checkbox.


Click "Yes", and sit back and marvel as WSE WorkFolders takes care of all the hard work of setting up Work Folders for you behind-the-scenes.



If WSE RemoteApp detects that the Work Folders URL isn't accessible, then it will prompt you to address the issue.



Once everything has been properly setup, you will be prompted with information on how allow your user's access to Work Folders, and how they can download and set up Work Folders on all of their various client PCs and devices.







At this point you should go ahead and connect the allowed user's client PCs and devices to Work Folders. Here's an excellent article that walks you through the entire process (no sense in me reinventing the wheel here):


How to Set Up and Use Work Folders


Once you have your users all set up, you can go ahead and configure a quota on the server by clicking the "Configure Quota" task in the Dashboard. If this is the first time you are configuring a quota, then you will be prompted to install the File Server Resource Manager server role on your server.













Over on your user's client PCs and devices, they will see the new quota.



Similarly, you can configure file screening on the server as well.













Over on your user's client PCs and devices, they will see the new file screen.




Well, that pretty much sums up the new WSE WorkFolders add-in. I hope that everyone likes what they see. I originally started out this project with the hopes that it would be a quick and easy little add-in that I could just give away to everyone for free. However, I  quickly realized the absolutely crazy amount of work that it was going to take in order to make this thing work properly, and so it was shifted over to being a commercial product. If you're interested in trying it out, then you can download the fully functional 21-day evaluation from my website here:


WSE WorkFolders 2016 (for use with Windows Server 2016 Essentials)




WSE WorkFolders 2012 R2 (for use with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials)


I'm still in the process of setting up the add-in's website, etc. It'll probably take me another week to get all of that work finished, but if you're interested in trying it out now, then please feel free to do so. I look forward to hearing your feedback here or over on my support site (both good and bad is welcome).


Mike Craven (The Office Maven)

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick heads up to let folks know that the latest release of WSE WorkFolders can now revoke access to the work files stored on your Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 network computers when they have been lost or stolen, when they are no longer being managed by your organization, or when they have been otherwise compromised. For all of the details see:

Revoke Access to Work Files on Compromised Computers

I hope everyone enjoys the new feature!

Mike Craven (The Office Maven)


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