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UAS Synchronization and Encryption

UAS managed computers utilize a background synchronization process to ensure user data is both backed up and encrypted.

Backed up: When on the campus network, your computer is configured to save files (Desktop, My Documents & Favorites folders) immediately to our servers. These files are synchronized to your local computer in an encrypted format. This ensures they are available when the network is not accessible (off campus, on a plane, etc).

Encrypted: With most home computers, if a nefarious person gains access to your computer, they can easily access the files on your hard drive using a second computer. UAS computers use encryption for your synchronized files. This adds an extra security layer to help protect user and institutional data. The only way for the files to be accessed is through a decryption using the associated user credentials. (Users should never keep their password(s) affixed to the laptop!)


1. What is encryption?

Encryption disguises data, rearranging the data bits so that nobody can read or see the information without the secret key, which consists of a password or a digital file.

2. What is synchronization?

Synchronization uses features built into Microsoft Windows to make sure your files are backed-up on a UAS file server.  It also ensures that files are encrypted so that others cannot access them without your password.  Both of these features are especially important for laptop computers which are easily lost or stolen.

3. What does synchronizing do?

The synchronization process makes sure the files on your computer and the files on the server are the same.

4. What is synchronized, and what isn’t?

Only files stored on your Desktop and My Documents folder are synchronized.  Any other files, including files on your local mail are not synchronized or backed up.

Further, Microsoft Access Database (*.mdb) files are unable to sync. If you have these files within your Sync folder, you will receive an error message indicating that the Access file(s) cannot be synchronized.

5. Should I try to synchronize everything?

Synchronization works best if you have less than 2 gigabytes of data. The synchronization process is not intended for extremely large amounts of data. If you have over 4 gigabytes of data, you should store your files outside of the "My Documents" folder and consult with IT services on an alternate backup strategy.

6. Can I access my synchronized documents elsewhere?

You can access your synchronized files just like a fileshare.  In the Folder/Address field, type \\sync-al\files$\computer name\username, or \\sync-al\files$\username, then click Connect.

Note: replace "computer name" and "username" with your specific information

7. When does my computer synchronize?

The computer should synchronize when you log on, log off, or while it is idle (you’re away from the keyboard).  The process will attempt to run when you’re away from the UAS network; however in that instance it will fail.  If you’re away from campus and it fails, this is normal and expected since the file server is not available.

8. Why does it take so long? Can I cancel it?

Windows File Synchronization should only take a few seconds. This happens in batches; instead of scanning file-by-file it will scan multiple files all at once. Depending on the file structure (large files such as videos or many smaller documents), it could take longer. You should not cancel the process unless absolutely necessary. If cancelled, items within My Document may show different versions than the last saved iteration, or be missing altogether. The first step in resolving sync issues will be to perform a full synchronization - for this reason we strongly recommend against cancelling the synchronization.

9. Why can’t IT Services just back up my computer over the network?

Network backup requires computers to be constantly turned on and consuming electricity.  It also requires laptops to be left connected to the campus networks.  Finally, hard drives have become so large that it is no longer possible to back up all campus computers even over an entire weekend.


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