Offline File Policies

Windows 7 has several Offline File polices that helps systems administrators maintain users productivity when a temporary disruption occurs or when a user is out of the office, however, it is worth noting that among the 28 polices there are some vital ones that gives administrators the control needed to manage this feature appropriately.  In this post I will discuss the policies that allow you to exclude specific file types from being available offline, how often background synchronization occurs in slow-link mode and other important parameters.

To access and configure these policies, start the Local Group Policy Editor by typing gpedit.msc in the Start search text box and go to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Network\Offline Files node:

Performance features

Exclude files from being cached – This policy enables administrators to exclude certain file types from being made available offline. You need to specify file extensions of the file types that should be excluded. A user will then be unable to create a file of this type in the folders that have been made available offline.

Configure Background Sync – This is a machine-specific setting which applies to any user who logs onto the specified machine while this policy is in effect. This policy is in effect when a network folder is determined, as specified by the “Configure slow-link mode” policy, to be in “slow-link” mode. You may also configure Background Sync for network shares that are in user selected “Work Offline” mode. This mode is in effect when a user selects the “Work Offline” button for a specific share. When selected, all configured settings will apply to shares in user selected “Work Offline” mode as well.

Configure slow-link mode – This policy setting enables computers running Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 to use the slow-link mode of Offline Files (it is enabled by default for computers running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2). This policy also controls when client computers running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 transition to the slow-link mode.

Configure Slow link speed – This configures the threshold value at which Offline Files considers a network connection to be “slow”. Any network speed below this value is considered to be slow *

* A good way to force users of Windows 7 computers to use the local Offline Files cache instead of the share on the server would be to set a low latency threshold such as 1ms in this policy for the user’s Documents share. It will keep the share in slow-link mode so that the user will always be working directly from their local Offline Files cache.

Security features

Administratively assigned offline files – This policy setting lists network files and folders that are always available for offline use. This ensures that the specified files and folders are available offline to users of the computer.

Encrypt the Offline Files cache – Offline files reside on a user’s hard drive, not the network, and they are stored in a local cache on the computer. Encrypting this cache enhances security on a local computer. This setting determines whether offline files are encrypted.

At logoff, delete local copy of user’s offline files – This setting specifies that automatically and manually cached offline files are retained only while the user is logged on to the computer. When the user logs off, the system deletes all local copies of offline files. Caution: Files are not synchronized before they are deleted. Any changes to local files since the last synchronization are lost.

Event logging level – Determines which events the Offline Files feature records in the event log. Offline Files records events in the Application log in Event Viewer when it detects errors.