How to Configure Azure File Sync

Over the years there have different ways files are shared and how access is given to people. One of the popular ways of sharing files has been mapping drives from servers to domain-joined computers in the organization.

I will be showing how files can be shared using Azure File Sync making the files to be highly available across the organization. The files are automatically replicated on the server to a central Azure storage location, allowing cloud tiering which allows files that are not often used to be moved from on-premises to Azure Storage while the frequently accessed files are cached on the local server and the amount of local disk space used for caching can be controlled. Administrators continue to support local data access and permissions.

 

What is Azure File Sync?

Azure File Sync enables centralizing your organization’s file shares in Azure Files while keeping the flexibility, performance, and compatibility of a Windows file server. While some users may opt to keep a full copy of their data locally, Azure File Sync additionally has the ability to transform Windows Server into a quick cache of your Azure file share. You can use any protocol that’s available on Windows Server to access your data locally, including SMB, NFS, and FTPS. You can have as many caches as you need across the world.

Now that we know what Azure File Sync is let’s go straight to setting one up.

I have a computer that is domain joined to the server and another that is not and I will create a file share drive that will be mapped to the computer that is not domain joined while on the other hand, I will map a network drive from my local server to the domain joined computer.

At the end of this, you will see how the file will be available to all devices and how files from the local server will be synced to the cloud.

Creating a Storage Account

Step 1: Sign into the Azure portal

Step 2: Under Azure services, select Storage account or search for Storage and select the Storage accounts.

 

Step 3:  On the Storage Accounts page, click on create.

Step 3: On the Basics blade, select the Subscription, the desired Resource group, or create a new Resource group.

Step 4: Enter the name of your storage account, for this tutorial we will be using abcofcloudstorage. The name must be unique across Azure. The name must also be between 3 and 24 characters long and may include only numbers and lowercase letters.

Step 5: Select the region for the storage account.

Step 6: Select the performance tier for the storage account.

Step 7: Choose how you want the Storage account to be replicated.

Step 8: Additional options are available on the Advanced which you can select based on your requirement.

Step 9: Select Review + Create to have a review of all the options you selected then Click on Create.

Creating a File Share

Now that we are done with creating the Storage account, we will go ahead to view the storage account and create a file share.

Step 1: Click on the storage account (abcofcloudstorage) that was created.

Step 2: From the left menu, Under Data storage select File shares then click on the plus (+) button beside File share.

Step 3: On the right pop-out, Name the New file share, for this tutorial we will be using abcofcloud-hrdept leave the tier set to Transaction optimized and then select Create.

Step 4: Now double-click on the new File share you created.

Step 5: Now click on Upload then on the pop up click on the folder icon. You can browse through your local disk and select any file you want to upload and Click the upload button.

 

What we will be doing now is connecting this New File share to a computer that is not domain-joined to our local server just to show how every file will sync together at the end.

Connecting Azure File Share from Windows

Step 1: Click on the Connect button on the pop-out by the right, select Windows, and Under the Drive, letter select the letter you want to use for the drive from the drop-down.

Step 2: Choose the Storage account key and copy the script that will be displayed to you.

Step 3: Log in to the computer, Open PowerShell and paste the script, then hit the enter key.

 

 

Now that we have successfully created and connected the file share to our computer we can then move to the next part.

We will be creating the Azure File Sync

Step 1: Search for the Azure File Sync in Azure portal.

Step 2: In the search results, select Azure File Sync.

Step 3: Select create to open the Deploy Azure File Sync tab.

Step 4: Select the Subscription.

Step 5: Select the desired Resource Group.

Step 6: Give the Storage sync service name a unique name, we will be using abcofcloudsyncfile.

Step 7: The Networking and tags can be selected based on your requirements and after that click on Review and create.

 

Creating the Sync Group

A sync group defines the sync topology for a set of files. A sync group must contain one cloud endpoint, which represents an Azure file share. A sync group also must contain one or more server endpoints. A server endpoint represents a path on a registered server. To create a sync group:

Step 1: Go to the Resource Group and select the Storage Sync Service we just created.

Step 2: On the left menu under Sync, select the Sync groups and then click on the plus(+) button to add a Sync group.

Step 3: Name the Sync group with a name that is unique within the Storage Sync Service, but can be any name that is logical for you.

Step 4: Select the subscription where the Storage Sync Service is deployed.

Step 5: Select the storage account of the Azure file share that was created.

Step 6: Select the Azure File share that was created.

 

How to Register Windows Servers

Registering your Windows server with a Storage Sync Service establishes a trust relationship between your server (or cluster) and the Storage Sync Service. A server can only be registered to one Storage Sync Service. It can sync with other servers and Azure file shares that are associated with that Storage Sync Service.

Step 1: While you’re still in the Storage Sync Service, on the left menu click on Registered servers.

Step 2: Click on the Azure File Sync agent to download it and install it on all the servers you want to sync.

Step 3: Select the agent depending on the Windows server you have, for this tutorial we will be using Windows Server 2016, click next and run the agent.

Step 4: Accept the defaults when installing the Storage Sync Agent Setup Wizard and select Finish.

Step 5: When the Server Registration UI opens on the local server, select Sign in.

Step 6: Now select the subscription that contains the Storage Sync Service.

Step 7: Then the Resource group that contains the Storage Sync Service.

Step 8: And finally the Storage Sync Service.

You have now successfully registered your server.

 

Adding a server endpoint

A server endpoint represents a specific location on a registered server. For example, a folder on a server volume. To add a server endpoint:

Step 1: Browse to the newly create sync group.

Step 2: Now Select Add server endpoint.

Step 3: On the right pop-out use the drop-down under Registered server and select the Windows server that was registered.

Step 4: Paste or type the Windows server path to the drive you want to share, for this tutorial the path I will be sharing is the C:\Shared\HR-DEPT and then create.

The Cloud Tiering and Initial sync can be configured based on your requirement. I left the Cloud Tiering blank for this tutorial.

By the side menu under Sync click on Registered servers to confirm the server state is online.

Comparing the files now, you will notice the file Staff Data on the Windows Server has now been synced to Azure File Share and the file What is Cloud computing on Azure File Share has now been synced to the Windows Server.

Windows Server Showing the File Synced from the cloud.

Client computer showing the file synced from Windows Server.

Click on this link for Troubleshooting File Sync

References: Tutorial: Extend Windows file servers with Azure File Sync

What is Azure File Sync?

 

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