Running Azure File Sync on Windows Server 2016 or Windows Server 2019?

3 min read

Introduction

Azure File Sync will help you centralize your files in Azure Cloud by installing a sync agent on Windows Server whether it’s on-premises or in Azure (IaaS VM) to provide fast local access to your files. Your Windows Server and Azure Files are constantly in sync, so you have one centralized location for your files with multi-site access powered by fast local cache and cloud tiering.

The cloud tiering feature enables frequently accessed files to be cached locally such that the full file content is present on the server, whereas less frequently accessed files are tiered to the cloud. The tiered files (AFS reparse points) will be recalled on-demand when a user or application accesses it on the local server.

To learn more about Azure File Sync, please make sure to check my previous articles.

I often get asked by customers, if there is any difference when running Azure File Sync on Windows Server 2016 or Windows Server 2019.

In this quick article, I will discuss what is the difference between running Azure File Sync on Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019.

Azure File Sync and Windows Server

As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, Azure File Sync is fully supported on Windows Server 2012 R2 or newer OS.

If we start by looking at Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016, Azure File Sync functionality is exactly the same. Microsoft developed the agent for each specific OS version. The big difference in Windows Server 2012 R2 that Data Deduplication with Azure File Sync is supported only on volumes where cloud tiering is NOT enabled, however, Windows Server 2016 supports Data Deduplication on volumes with cloud tiering enabled.

Here is a quick PowerShell script that will help you to download the latest Azure File Sync agent (at the time of this writing, it’s version 7.2) based on Windows Server that you are running (2012 R2, 2016, or 2019).

# Gather the OS version
$osver = [System.Environment]::OSVersion.Version

# Download the appropriate version of the Azure File Sync agent for your OS.
# Azure File Sync Version 7.2
# Windows Server 2019
if ($osver.Equals([System.Version]::new(10, 0, 17763, 0))) {
    Invoke-WebRequest `
        -Uri https://download.microsoft.com/download/1/8/D/18DC8184-E7E2-45EF-823F-F8A36B9FF240/StorageSyncAgent_WS2019.msi `
        -OutFile "StorageSyncAgent.msi" 
}
# Windows Server 2016
elseif ($osver.Equals([System.Version]::new(10, 0, 14393, 0))) {
    Invoke-WebRequest `
        -Uri https://download.microsoft.com/download/1/8/D/18DC8184-E7E2-45EF-823F-F8A36B9FF240/StorageSyncAgent_WS2016.msi `
        -OutFile "StorageSyncAgent.msi" 
}
# Windows Server 2012 R2
elseif ($osver.Equals([System.Version]::new(6, 3, 9600, 0))) {
    Invoke-WebRequest `
        -Uri https://download.microsoft.com/download/1/8/D/18DC8184-E7E2-45EF-823F-F8A36B9FF240/StorageSyncAgent_WS2012R2.msi `
        -OutFile "StorageSyncAgent.msi" 
}
else {
    throw [System.PlatformNotSupportedException]::new("Azure File Sync is only supported on Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016, and Windows Server 2019")
}

Starting with Azure File Sync agent version 5.0.2.0 or newer, Microsoft announced Data Deduplication support on volumes with cloud tiering enabled on Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019. Enabling Data Deduplication on a volume with cloud tiering enabled lets you cache more files on-premises without provisioning more storage. For more information about Data Deduplication and Azure File Sync, please refer to the following guide from Microsoft.

There is an important difference between Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019. Azure File Sync functionality is also the same except for Data Deduplication.

At the time of this writing, Data Deduplication and Cloud Tiering are NOT supported on the same volume due to an issue on Windows Server 2019 only. Microsoft is actively working to get a fix as soon as possible before it’s fully supported again.

Last but not least, if you want to upgrade from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2016 or to Windows Server 2019, you need to uninstall the agent first, restart your server, and then install the corresponding agent for your Windows Server. Please note that Azure File Sync configuration settings on the server are retained when the agent is uninstalled and reinstalled.

As a side note, Azure File Sync agent version 4.x will expire on November 5th, 2019. To continuously improve Azure File Sync, Microsoft will only support old versions of the agent for a limited time. On November 5, 2019, Azure File Sync agent version 4.x will be expired and stop syncing. If you still have Windows Servers with Azure File Sync agent version 4.x, please update to a supported agent version (5.x or later).

Hope this helps!

Summary

Azure File Sync extends on-premises file servers into Azure providing cloud benefits while maintaining performance and compatibility. Azure File Sync provides:

  • Multi-site access – provide write access to the same data across Windows servers and Azure Files.
  • Cloud tiering – store only recently accessed data on local servers.
  • Integrates with Azure backup – no need to back up your data on-premises.
  • Fast disaster recovery – restore file metadata immediately and recall data as needed.

I hope you find this quick guide useful. To learn more about Azure File Sync, please check the following articles.

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

About Charbel Nemnom 503 Articles
Charbel Nemnom is a Cloud Architect, ICT Security Expert and Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), totally fan of the latest's IT platform solutions, accomplished hands-on technical professional with over 17 years of broad IT Infrastructure experience serving on and guiding technical teams to optimize performance of mission-critical enterprise systems. Excellent communicator adept at identifying business needs and bridging the gap between functional groups and technology to foster targeted and innovative IT project development. Well respected by peers through demonstrating passion for technology and performance improvement. Extensive practical knowledge of complex systems builds, network design and virtualization.

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