Back in January 2014, I wrote a series on 4sysops on one of the new features in Windows Server 2012 R2: Work Folders. Work Folders is an server role that allows you to run a Dropbox-like service that allows end users to sync a folder from your on-premises file server using just a vanilla copy of Server 2012 R2. No special software required, no special licenses, and no extra downloads. When Server 2012 R2 was launched, only Windows 8.1 clients were supported for connecting to a Work Folders server. A little over five months after the GA of Server 2012 R2, a Windows 7 client was released.
So where are the clients for Mac, iOS, and Android???
Update – January 26, 2015 — Microsoft has released the Work Folders app for iPad. You can read my review on 4sysops here.
Update – April 3, 2015 — Microsoft has updated the Work Folders app on iOS to make it a Universal App supporting both iPad and iPhone. You can read my review on 4sysops here.
The short answer is that they don’t exist for Android and Mac… yet. There’s no release date, no timeline, no road map… nothing. If you’re working on a project and need file-sync functionality running on-premises for anything other than Windows 8.1, domain-joined Windows 7 computers, and iOS, you’ll need to start looking at 3rd party software.
The evidence is everywhere that the feature is planned, but no one at Microsoft seems to want to talk about why there aren’t clients for Mac, iOS, and Android yet.
As evidenced by the release of the update iOS apps, the team writing code for Work Folders is chugging along… but there’s still no road-map or release schedule as to when Android or Mac will be added to the fold.
TechEd North America 2013
When Windows Server 2012 R2 was announced and shown off at TechEd North America 2013 in New Orleans, LA, Nir Ben-Zvi from Microsoft was interviewed by Rick Claus on the Edge Show and non-Windows clients were briefly mentioned:
Edge Show 65 – Windows Server 2012 R2 Work Folders – June 12, 2013 – Rick Claus, Nir Ben-Zvi
18:24 – [Nir Ben-Zvi] Another important thing here – and I’m sure that Adam and Joey [Snow] talked about it – the set of devices that we are going to support is not only Windows. It’s going to be, of course, Windows 7 which is the previous version, as Windows 8 and Windows 7, as well as iPad and other devices as we move forward.
A few weeks later, a post on the TechNet forums addressed the issue a little further, but still didn’t give an indication about availability:
Work Folders Client Support (TechNet Forum Post) – July 11, 2013
As you indicated above, at general availability, Work Folders will be supported on Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT
Shortly after (ETA to be announced) we will release a Windows 7 download and an iPAD app (version/s to be announced as well)
We don’t have anything firm on Android and MAC yet so I would leave that open for now. Same goes for phone form factor
As always, your feedback on this would be great
Nir Ben-Zvi (Microsoft)
TechEd North America 2014
At TechEd North America 2014 in Houston, TX, there were two sessions on Work Folders. The issue of a Work Folders client came up, but “stay tuned,” was the only answer:
Deploying and Managing Work Folders – May 14, 2014 – Jian Yan, Gene Chellis
30:57 – [Jian Yan] I think you speak for the mind of a lot of others sitting here in the room. The question is: when are we going to introduce iPad or Android apps for Work Folders. [laughing by speaker] We have answer. Gene, do you want to answer that one?
31:16 – [Gene Chellis] We don’t have any specific dates, but we have heard that loud and clear. Stay tuned and you’ll hear more.
59:00 – [Gene Chellis] At the moment, this is designed to enable device access and sync for file server data, but OneDrive is really focused on cloud data. So, if you’re moving your data to the cloud and you’re using Office 365, go use OneDrive. If the Enterprise has its data for users on file servers and wants to keep it there, at least for now… use Work Folders. Eventually, we’ll have to rationalize this more than what we have now, but for now that is the simple story.
Same for the deep dive session:
Windows Server Work Folders: A Deep Dive into the New Windows Server Data Sync Solution) – May, 15, 2014 – Fabian Uhse
5:20 – Our vision is that with Work Folders, we’re going to enable the user to use any device that they choose.
5:55 – We also know that you’re being asked to support iPads. And, although there is nothing new around iPads that I can talk to you about today, I can say that we’re working on it. It’s going to be great. And other form factors such as phones and operating systems such as Android, they’re certainly within our vision, but we gotta take one step at a time.
Work Folders Timeline
June 2, 2013 – Windows Server 2012 R2 announced at TechEd North America 2013
September 9, 2013 – Windows Server 2012 R2 released to TechNet and MSDN subscribers
October 18, 2013 – Windows Server 2012 R2 released to the public
April, 23, 2014 – Work Folders for Windows 7 released
January 25, 2015 – Work Folders for iPad released
April 3, 2015 – Work Folders for iPhone released
The development of the Work Folders product seems to be moving at an incredibly slow pace. What happened? Has the engineering team hit snags implementing on other platforms? Was the product released too soon? Was it released early to fill a niche area of the market?
Work Folders is really only an option to you if:
- You’re ready to start using Windows Server 2012 R2.
- You need an on-premises solution.
- You only need support for Windows 8.1, [domain-joined] Windows 7 computers, and iOS.
- You don’t need support for Mac,
iPhone/iPad,Android, or non-domain joined Windows 7 systems.
- You don’t need support for synced folders that are shared among groups.
Otherwise, you need to start looking at 3rd party solutions.
Kyle is also the Vice President of the Atlanta Windows Infrastructure and Virtualization User Group (WINVUG).You can find additional articles he's written on 4sysops.com.
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