How to use Office 365 Containers with Microsoft UPD to roam OneDrive, SharePoint, Outlook, and Search on remote desktops

Posted by Christiaan Brinkhoff on Aug 16, 2018 9:53:32 AM

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Are you using User Profile Disks (UPD) in your Remote Desktop Services environment? Do you want to extend that with the support for Outlook Search roaming, OneDrive, and SharePoint for Business in your Virtual Desktop environment? Did this all make you curious? Please read the rest of the blog.

Microsoft delivers a reasonably new profile solution named User Profile Disks for Remote Desktop Services (RDS), which was introduced in Windows Server 2012. UPD is very lightweight, and it works by moving the complete User Profile to a VHD file so settings follow users. The VHD is mounted and appears in its proper location through the use of a junction point. UPD can be useful in certain scenarios, there are limitations that leave the door open for the additional functionality provided by FSLogix Profile Container and Office 365 Container.

What problems can FSLogix solve?

As mentioned at the beginning of this article - Microsoft uses symbolic links / junction points (Microsoft calls them “junction points,” but they’re commonly called “symbolic links” or “symlinks” in other OSes.) as the underlying technology for their folder mountings. This works in many scenarios, but for technical reasons it will never support Microsoft OneDrive and Teams. Both programs only work when the OS thinks it locally installed, and with junction points it doesn’t.

Likewise, UPD lacks a few additional features, like:

  • It doesn’t help address the long-standing problem of not being able to use Windows Search in non-persistent VDI environments.
  • It also doesn’t help enable Outlook Search capabilities in RDSH environments.
  • It doesn’t include multi-session support, so nested remote desktops or connections to different servers run into problems with empty, inconsistent profiles.

Where FSLogix fits

FSLogix has technology that enables all of the features mentioned above. For example, our filesystem filter driver masks the folder where the VHD is mounted, so it behaves as if it’s locally-mounted, avoiding the problems introduced by using junction points and enabling the use of Teams and OneDrive.

From an Outlook and Windows Search perspective, our FSLogix Office 365 Container product hooks the indexing database of the server (and desktop) operating system and stores it into a user’s profile. Even Microsoft admits that Windows Search is working better with FSLogix. Please read this official Microsoft docs article with the title – Dealing with Outlook search in non-persistent environment.

Also, FSLogix’s Container products (meaning both Office 365 Container and Profile Container) include multi-session support for the container, but the UPD Container does not. If you only use UPD, the second remote desktop session will be empty and stored on the local OS drive. To solve this issue, you’ll need either Office 365 Container or Profile Container. Office 365 Container will only roam the Office data (Outlook OST, OneDrive cache, etc…) with the user between multiple sessions, whereas with Profile Container the entire user profile will be available in all sessions.

A closer look

While it looks like junction points are sufficient to redirect user activity to a remote location, Windows treats that scenario differently. In fact, you can tell if a folder is a junction point right from Windows Explorer.

Junction points can be detected by the following icon below next the users profile.

Image1-1

You can also see it in the Disk Management Console of Windows – when you open the Cache Drive Letter and Paths for User Disk window:

Image2

OneDrive and SharePoint will never work in this configuration, because OneDrive detects the junction point and fails to configure. You’ll get the error below:

Image3

All the FSLogix products let the operating system think that the folders are local. We can do that by using smart filter drivers in Windows, which inject the folder mountings of Office 365 on the file system level so the operating system cannot detect any mounting points. Because of this approach, Microsoft OneDrive and Teams are work inside FSLogix container products.

See below how FSLogix operates to the operating system in a more architectural concept.

Image4

When using FSLogix Office 365 Containers along with Microsoft UPD, you’ll have 2 (see picture below) Virtual Hard Drive containers attached to your session – one to store your user profile in, and another one for all the Office 365 files of the end user. By using different exclusions for the folder location, FSLogix makes it possible to work together as one solution for all your Office 365 Applications, such as:

  • Outlook
  • OneDrive for business
  • Search
  • SharePoint folder synchronization
  • Skype for Business GAL

Image5

It’s all about to get better!

It’s worth mentioning that our FSLogix Container solutions are getting a new major feature upgrade in the next upcoming weeks, named Cloud Cache. This new functionality adds the possibility to add multiple storage repositories to our existing products to provide high availability to on-premises and cloud environments.

Imagine a digital workspace scenario where you are running a VDI environment entirely in Microsoft Azure. Typically, you store your profile data on a Windows file share in Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Our Cloud Cache Driver makes it possible to provide the store of the Containers directly much less expensive Azure Blob Storage. This is just one of the significant use-cases which we’re solving with this tremendous new Cloud technology.

Other uses of Cloud Cache include high availability in the event of storage or network interruptions, profile storage server migrations, cloud migrations, offline access to FSLogix containers, and more. To catch up on Cloud Cache, check out our blog, Introducing Cloud Cache.

For a walkthrough on setting up FSLogix Office 365 Container with Microsoft UPD, head over to our FAQ section (which includes lots of information on using our products), or just click here.

 

Topics: Microsoft, Outlook, FSLogix Office 365 Container, OneDrive for Business, UPD, Cloud Cache, SharePoint, Remote Desktops

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