During a recent implementation of XenMobile 10 Enterprise (build 10.0.0.62300)  I created a ShareFile Administrator Account within the ShareFile control plane to be used for the XenMobile integration.While I was still doing some testing and configuring a simple, non complex password was used for the ShareFile Administrator account. Soon as everything was working correctly I logged in to the ShareFile Control Plane and updated the password used for the ShareFile Administrator account for a complex one. Well so far so good. Next step in the process would naturally be to update the ShareFile Administrator account within the XenMobile Server (XMS) settings.

I logged in to the XenMobile 10 console and went to Configure > Settings > More > ShareFile and finally clicked Sharefile. Almost immediately I was confronted with an Error message “Username or Password was incorrect”.

XMS - Username or Password was incorrect

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Since the initial community release of SFGuru Explorer on 25-10-2014 we (Daniel Nikolic / Rink Spies) have been busy developing the application. Every time when we detect repeating, or labor intensive tasks within our ShareFile support team we try to improve the job by integrating an optimized task in SFGuru Explorer. Currently we have lots of ideas and beta versions which we need to do some further testing on, but before releasing these features we want to be 100% sure everything runs stable. While all the coding and testing needs to be done in our spare time it could take some time before we can release all new features.

Meanwhile we made some great improvements, which have been fully tested. Improvements of which we are proud of 🙂 We decided to add all the tested features to a interim release, which will be released as SFGuru Explorer version 1.2!

So lets’s start with the new features we added:

Multitenancy
SFGuru Explorer stores its configuration in an encrypted .config file. While working on several ShareFile environments we had to constantly switch .config files, or change the login information to connect with the correct site. We added a multitenant option, which supports multiple .config files in the SFGuru Explorer folder. As Soon as the application detects multiple .config files on startup it will display a menu in which you can select the desired environment:

Logon-Multi

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Citrix ShareFile Files can be hosted in the Citrix Managed cloud, or a Customer Managed Cloud. For a Customer Managed Cloud a StorageZone Controller needs to be placed within the boundaries of your own datacenter. Up to and including StorageZone Controller version 2.2, Citrix Sharefile stored all the files within one single folder. In very large environments this could lead to some challenges due to the large amount of files within one single folder. Some time ago I wrote a blog “Citrix ShareFile : Lessons learned in real life“, in which I discussed the maximum number of files supported by the storage array.

Up to and including StorageZone Controller 2.2 all zone files were stores in a single folder.

Recently Citrix ShareFile released a new StorageZone Controller version 2.3, which contains some interesting new features:

  • More files per zone
  • File upload latency testing

With this new release, according to the eDocs StorageZone Controller version 2.3 is able to handle more files per zone. Unfortunately the documentation about this new feature is limited. Let me start to explain how ShareFile accomplished this, how to enable and configure this new feature.

By default the feature to support more files per zone is switched off. To enable this new feature you need to update a registry key on all StorageZone Controllers in your zone.

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Citrix\StorageCenter]
"PathSelection"="1"

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ShareFile consist out of two different storage location, the Citrix Managed and the Customer Managed. The first one, the Citrix Managed storage location is hosted by Citrix in their public cloud. The second one, the Customer Managed storage location is hosted by the customer in his own datacenter. In this article I’ll go into the backup and restore procedures for the Customer Managed StorageZone.

Recycle Bin / Retention

Before I’ll go into the backup and restore process, let me clarify how ShareFile processes deleted files and folder. Every file being uploaded to ShareFile is registered in the ShareFile Metadata. In case of a customer managed StorageZone, the ShareFile cloud only contains the metadata, but not the actual files. These files are stored within your datacenter. When a file or folder is deleted from ShareFile it will be kept in the recycle bin for 7 days, within these 7 days its very easy to recover files. After 7 days the deleted files and folder are purged from the recycle bin and permanently deleted from the persistent storage folder. Unfortunately the 7 days recycle bin retention time cannot be changed, it’s hard coded.

The 7 Days Recycle Bin retention time is hardcoded at this time

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While setting up the first ShareFile StorageZone Controller you need to enter a Passphrase. The Passphrase will be used to protect your file encryption key (SCKeys.txt) which is located in the CIFS root folder. Without the Passphrase you won’t be able to add additional StorageZone Controllers, reinstall or recover the current StorageZone or create configuration backups. A running StorageZone controller will still work fine, but you can’t make any changes. I can’t stress out the importance of this passphrase!

Be sure to archive the ShareFile Passphrase and encryption key (SCKeys.txt) in a secure location 🙂 !

Of course you will archive the ShareFile Passphrase and encryption key (SCKeys.txt) in a secure location, but in case the ShareFile Passphrase gets lost Citrix won’t be able to help. According to the eDocs and ShareFile support the Storage Zone should be considered as lost.

Citrix support won’t be able to recover your Passphrase!

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When designing environments, we always think about the high availability of the different components. Two is one, one is none! So when designing a ShareFile environment I want at least two StorageZone Controllers (SZC) for every StorageZone. Because most Citrix environment already contain a NetScaler it’s my preferred method to also use the NetScaler for load balancing the StorageZone Controllers. Nowadays the Citrix NetScaler has some nice wizards build in to assist you deploying the ShareFile configuration.

Two is one, one is none. Load balance the StorageZone Controllers!

The wizard however will use the “tcp-default” monitor to check the service state. This means the NetScaler appliance establishes a 3-way handshake with the monitor destination, and then closes the connection, to check if the destination is up. Although this is configured by the wizard and a best practice, I believe this is a weak spot in my HA setup. I have seen situations where the SZC server was running, but the ShareFile services were not responding correctly. A simple tcp monitor will not notice this!

The NetScaler ShareFile wizard uses the default tcp monitor

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After being involved in several small an midsize Sharefile environments I recently migrated a Enterprise customer to ShareFile. They had a great vision in terms of flexible working, which was really nice, but very challenging from a technical perspective. Beside the number of users, this customer didn’t start with ShareFile as a greenfield environment, but decided to migrate all data into ShareFile. The customer didn’t want to use CIFS or ShareFile connectors, all data had to be placed into on premise Storage Zones.

Data would be accessible only through ShareFile, no other file services would be offered

Clients

Although Citrix ShareFile offers a client for almost every platform, the different clients don’t have the same functionality. For example the Windows and Mac OSX Client are not able to display the ShareFile CIFS connector. We were told Citrix has a different vision/idea about a classic Windows/Mac OSX client, on these clients users are supposed to use a classic drive mapping. From a user perspective I hope ShareFile will add this functionality in a upcoming release of the Windows and MAC OSx clients, one interface for all data across all clients is much simpler and transparent for end users!

The “Sync for Windows” & “Sync for Mac” client don’t support CIFS Share integration

For Mac OSX and mobile devices the client to choose is evident. There is only one choice. For Windows it is a different ball game. Windows has several options available:

In our case we have chosen to use the “Sync for Windows” client on all Windows devices in the environment. An environment which exists of desktops, laptops and a Citrix XenDesktop farm. For desktop and laptops the installation was pretty straight forward and we didn’t need to customize much. With the ShareFile preferences GUI, users are able to determine which folders need to be available for them, after which the selected files are cached offline. For a desktop or laptop I don’t mind the files being cached offline, for my Citrix XenDesktop server however I don’t want all users caching all files locally. Lucky the Sync for Windows client is RDS aware and behaves different, in this case on-demand sync is used! Because of the on-demand sync, we wanted to present all files and folder a user was authorized for. This could easily be achieved by using the ShareFileOn-demand.admx to configure the Sync for Windows client on an RDS server. We added all root RemoteFolderId’s to the On-demandFolderIds part of the policy. Users are presented a full list of files and folders to which they have access and are only synchronized when accessed.

ShareFile On-Demand Sync is designed for integration with hosted desktops and applications running in XenApp and XenDesktop environments. Unfortunately the on-demand sync options is not available on desktops or laptops, in my opinion this would be a nice addition

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