Before, the sharing of documents used to be the administrator’s job. The administrator has to post the shared documents and create a special security group to access them. However, with Windows Vista, it is possible for users to set up some share points of their own. The whole file and print sharing mechanism has been improved using a different design that allows the administrator to have a bit of security.
Windows Vista is designed to support multiple users. It uses a user profile folder structure that is similar to the one used within Windows XP with a few differences. For example, the Documents and Settings folder has been renamed to Users. The naming convention for the individual profile folders remains the same, but the structure of the profile itself has changed to reflect Vista’s ability to better index various file types.
Windows Vista also includes a Public folder. The Public folder is designed specifically for file sharing. If a user needs to share a document with others in the organization, they can place that document into the Public folder on their machine. That way, users can meet about their documents without having to actually create shares on their workstations. The administrator always has control over whether sharing is allowed or not. If you do decide to allow sharing though, you are somewhat at the mercy of the user, as far as security is concerned.
Since Windows Vista is still in beta testing, there are a lot of things can still happen. At present, you can just see the file and print sharing settings by opening the Control Panel and clicking on the Network and Internet, then the File and Print Sharing. The dialogue box allows you to control the behavior of file and print sharing for the machine. On a bigger and wider scale, you would probably want to control these settings via a group policy before sharing documents since is quite hard to take it all back as soon as it is shared.
So, what about the Public folder that I mentioned earlier? Just beneath this checkbox are a couple of buttons that you can use to control network access rights to the folder. This in turn brings up an interesting point about the Public folder. The rights that you apply here apply throughout the Public folder by default. Users can however, create sub-folders beneath the Public folder and set network access rights to those folders individually, undermining that authority over the network. .
The final thing I want to emphasize is the two links at the bottom of the File and Printer Sharing dialogue box. These links allow you to see, at a glance, which files on the machine are being shared and what shares exist on the machine. As you can see, file and print sharing works quite a bit differently in Windows Vista than it did in Windows XP. The Public folder feature now gives users a central place for sharing documents without having to involve an administrator.