‘Secret’, ‘Top-Secret’, ‘Classified’ ….finally built into Windows File Server

Reliance on data and storage resources continues to grow in importance for almost all organizations. CIOs face increasing regulations and concerns about data leakage, while IT administrators face the steadily growing challenge of overseeing larger and more complex storage infrastructures. Simultaneously, IT departments are being tasked with maintaining the total cost of ownership of storage at reasonable levels. Managing storage resources is thus no longer just about storage volume or data availability—it is also about the enforcement of company policies and knowing how storage is consumed to enable efficient utilization and compliance to mitigate risk.

Currently, IT administrators deploy a variety of tools to manage their data. Because these tools manage different and overlapping sets of data, storage tends to be structured around data management. Classification allows the organization to structure storage for business instead, while still allowing the efficient management of data.

I am reminded of the numerous customer meetings with our Defense customers where I had to suggest some third party software for File classification , as it has been a requirement in their file storage and communication systems. Not only is it followed religiously and diligently with respect to physical data files, it is made sure that any kind of data file stored on the file server must be classified (Secret, top secret, unclassified etc.).

Well, tagging data files and project files in many scenarios comes quite handy in many respects. Not only does it specify the level of access to the file, it can even be used to specify the ways the data needs to be dealt with, and the way it will be disposed of. It makes it really simple for administrators to handle content in the data files as information rather than just a bulk of storage. It not only secures the files (office files, project reports etc ) from the very time it is created, it even makes sure that the required level of security stays with that piece of information during it lifecycle and that it expires in the proper way specified.

The Windows Server 2008 R2 File Classification Infrastructure (FCI) automates classification processes so that you can manage your data more effectively. You can save money and reduce risk by storing and retaining files based on their business value or impact. The built-in solution for file classification provides expiration, custom tasks, and reporting. The extensible infrastructure enables you to meet additional customer classification needs by building rich end-to-end classification solutions that are built on the classification foundation of Windows Server in a consistent and supported way and within the existing Windows file serving platforms. IT administrators can use the new functionality to automatically classify files, run reports, and apply classification-based file expiration and custom operations to files on servers.

The file classification feature in Windows Server 2008 R2 provides an extensible end-to-end mechanism to automatically assign classification information to files on file servers and apply policy to them based on that information. User interaction can be minimized to reduce overall TCO and enable Compliance scenarios.

FCI’s out-of-the-box functionality includes the ability to define classification properties, automatically classify files based on location and content, apply file management tasks such as file expiration and custom commands based on classification, and produce reports that show the distribution of a classification property on the file server.

Classification includes:

  • Automatic classification—Using automatic classification rules, FCI can classify files according to the folder in which the file is located or based on the contents of the file.
  • Manual classification—An end user can manually classify a file using the file properties interface built into the Microsoft® Office system files, and FCI will recognize these properties.
  • Line of Business (LOB) applications and IT scripts—Using an API, LOB applications and IT scripts can set classification properties to files.

FCI also provides the following data management functionality with no additional third-party applications.

  • File expiration—Dealing with stale, unused data can be a paramount data management issue for organizations. Expiring files based on usage and business value can reduce both the cost of storage and management and the risk of information leakage on file servers. The out-of-the-box FCI solution provides automatically scheduled tasks that expire files based on age, location, or other classification categories.
  • Custom tasks—FCI empowers administrators to run custom commands to automate management tasks based on file name, age, location, or other classification categories. For example, IT administrators can automatically move data based on policies for either centralizing the location of sensitive data or for moving data to a less expensive storage facility.
  • Reporting—Reports can provide administrators with a powerful tool to assess the risk of files being in the wrong place on their servers. Using the built-in capabilities of FCI, administrators can create reports in a variety of formats that contain details—including location—about files that have a particular classification. The FCI reporting infrastructure can also be used to generate information that can be used by another application.

This feature is available in all editions of Windows Server 2008 R2.

You can use file management tasks to perform the following actions:

  • Create and update file expiration tasks, which move all files that match a set of criteria to a specified directory where an administrator can then back up and delete the files. Files can be set to expire based on classification values, or after a specified number of days since the file was created, modified, or last accessed.
  • Create and update custom tasks, which allow you to run a command or script in a specified working directory.
  • Send e-mail notifications, send a warning to the event log, or run a command or script at a specified number of days before the file management task is scheduled to run.

However, administrators should be aware of the following issues when using file classification and file management tasks:

  • Encrypted files cannot be classified, and properties cannot be stored for them. If a file that was previously classified becomes encrypted, policy will no longer be applied to that file.
  • File classification makes use of alternate data streams. Any file system or file container (such as an archive, e-mail attachment, or embedded file) that does not support alternate data streams may not retain classification properties by default.
  • Files that are not readable by SYSTEM cannot be classified.
  • Files that are not writable by SYSTEM will not retain their classification when moved.

Here is a video on How to use the FCI in windows Server 2008 R2



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