Set Up Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center Version 1910

5 min read

Introduction

Windows Admin Center (WAC) is a flexible, locally-deployed, browser-based management platform and solution. It contains core tools for troubleshooting, configuration, management and maintenance for Windows Server, Windows Client, Software-Defined Storage (SDS), Software-Defined Network (SDN), Microsoft Hyper-V server, and more.

Microsoft announced several Azure hybrid services with Windows Admin Center such as Azure Backup, Azure File Sync, Azure Network AdapterAzure Site Recovery and more. Please check the following document for the current list of all Azure hybrid services.

Earlier this year, Microsoft released the first extension support of Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center. However, version 1.0 was incomplete since you need to complete the Storage Sync Services, Sync groups, and Server endpoints in the Azure portal and not in Windows Admin Center.

At MS Ignite 2019, Microsoft announced the GA release of Windows Admin Center version 1910. With the latest release, the Windows Admin Center team added a lot of new features and improvements, and one of them is the new Azure File Sync extension version 2.0. You can read all about the new update and enhancement of Windows Admin Center 1910 in the following article.

With the new version of the Azure File Sync extension, you can configure the Storage Sync Services and set up Azure File Sync (AFS) for your on-premises servers without ever leaving Windows Admin Center web browser. This is awesome!

In this blog post, I will show you how to set up Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center version 1910 using the new AFS extension.

Azure File Sync

If you are new to Azure File Sync, Microsoft announced the GA release for Azure File Sync in July 2018. With Azure File Sync, you can centralize your files in Azure and then install storage sync agent on a Windows Server whether it’s on-premises or in Azure (IaaS VM) to provide fast local access to your files. Your 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.

For more information about Azure File Sync, please check my previous step-by-step guide on how to get started with Azure File Sync. Configuring Azure File Sync with PowerShell or with the Azure Portal is a lengthy process. Thanks to Microsoft of adding Azure File Sync extension in Windows Admin Center to make that process a lot easier.

The Prerequisites

The prerequisites are very simple as follows:

  1. You need to make sure you are running Windows Admin Center (WAC) Version 1910 or later.
  2. Make sure you have installed the latest Azure File Sync extension under Settings | Gateway | Extensions. At the time of writing this article, I am running version 2.15.0 of the Azure File Sync extension.
  3. The server of which you want to enable Azure File Sync should be running Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016, or Windows Server 2019.
  4. Finally, make sure to connect Windows Admin Center gateway to Azure. Please check the following article to see how to register Windows Admin Center gateway with Azure.

Once Windows Admin Center version 1910 is deployed in your environment with all prerequisites, you are ready to start.

How To Set up Azure File Sync

Launch the Windows Admin Center portal and take the following steps:

  1. Choose the desired server, then select the Azure File Sync from the left-hand-side, and then click Set up to enable Azure File Sync feature.
  2. In the Set up Azure File Sync page, review and edit the Azure Settings (Subscription, Resource Group, Storage Sync Service), and then choose the Azure File Sync agent (installation path, update schedule). If you have an existing Storage Sync Service you can use it or create a new one. If you are using a proxy in your environment, then enable the custom proxy settings. In my case, I am not using a proxy. Click Set up to continue. Set Up Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center Version 1910 1
  3. Behind the scene, Windows Admin Center will register the server with your Azure subscription, preparing/creating the resource group, preparing/creating the Storage Sync Service, and finally download and install the agent. The entire process will take only couple of minutes. Set Up Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center Version 1910 2
  4. Once you are all set, click Close and then click +Sync a folder to continue setting up Azure File Sync. Set Up Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center Version 1910 3
  5. In the Sync a folder page, browse to a local folder name, select “Tier the least-accessed files to the cloud” and set the “Minimum volume free space %” if you want to enable tiering, then select/create a new Sync group, and finally select/create a new Azure File Share to sync with. Microsoft also added deep links, if you can click on the Storage Sync Service: name, it will take you directly into that specific Sync service so you can do more advanced configuration directly from the Azure portal. You can also edit the Azure settings if you want before you continue. Set Up Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center Version 1910 4
  6. Finally, click Set up sync. After couple of seconds, the new folder (server endpoint) will be synced to Azure. You can also add additional folders to sync to Azure by selecting +Sync a folder. Set Up Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center Version 1910 5
  7. Last but not least, you can click on the Sync group name, it will take you directly into that specific Sync group in Azure so you can do more advanced configuration directly from the Azure portal.

That’s it there you have it!

Summary

Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center is an easy way for you to set up a File share sync into Azure without logging in into your file server. Even if you have actually set up the share sync to Azure, Azure File Sync in Windows Admin Center will show you the existing server endpoints, and walk you through in a way that is easy to set up without ever leaving the web browser. Behind the scene Azure File Sync version 2.0 extension in Windows Admin Center will do the following:

  • Installing the Azure File Sync agent.
  • Updating Azure File Sync agent to the latest version when available.
  • Creating and registering the file server to the Storage Sync Service in Azure.
  • Configuring Sync Groups and Server endpoints end-to-end without leaving the Windows Admin Center portal.
  • Microsoft also added deep links, if you can click on any Web links in Windows Admin Center, it will take you directly into that specific Sync group so you can do more advanced configuration directly from the Azure portal such as (file share, sync group, cloud/server endpoint).

As you can see, setting up Azure File Sync using Windows Admin Center version 1910 is very simple.

Windows Admin Center is a freely available management tool for anyone to use and makes managing a set of servers with or without GUI remotely, very easy, especially for “day-to-day activities”. Download the latest copy of Windows Admin Center from here, deploy it in a failover cluster, and enjoy the modern server management.

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Thank you for reading my blog.

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

-Charbel Nemnom-

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About Charbel Nemnom 578 Articles
Charbel Nemnom is a Cloud Architect, Swiss Certified ICT Security Expert, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), 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 the performance of mission-critical enterprise systems. Excellent communicator is 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, business continuity, and cloud security.

2 Comments

  1. Hello Charbel,
    We have a file-server running on-premise and we configured AFS to sync files to Azure, now when we backup the server using Veeam the files stored in Azure will also be retrieved and backed up. We would like to backup only the files locally stored on the server and use Azure Backup to backup the storage account. Is this possible? if yes then how?
    We also wonder if it possible to see which files have been not been synced to Azure, is this possible?

    • Hello Jan, Thanks for the comment!

      Yes, this is possible. However, if cloud tiering is enabled, applications that directly back up the server endpoint (share) on which the server endpoint is located should not be used. Cloud tiering causes only a subset of your data to be stored on the server endpoint, with the full dataset residing in your Azure file share. Now depending on the backup solution used (in your case is Veeam), tiered files will either be skipped and not backed up (because they have the FILE_ATTRIBUTE_RECALL_ON_DATA_ACCESS attribute set), or they will be recalled to disk, resulting in high egress charges. Please contact Veeam to see if they support the FILE_ATTRIBUTE_RECALL_ON_DATA_ACCESS attribute set for Azure File Shares. More info here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/storage/files/storage-sync-cloud-tiering#how-can-i-tell-whether-a-file-has-been-tiered

      Please note that if you prefer to use an on-premises backup solution, backups should be performed on a server in the sync group that has cloud tiering disabled. When performing a restore, use the volume-level or file-level restore options. Files restored using the file-level restore option will be synced to all endpoints in the sync group and existing files will be replaced with the version restored from backup. However, Volume-level restores will not replace newer file versions in the Azure file share or other server endpoints. Just something to be aware of.

      Personally, I recommend to use Azure Backup for both tiered and non-tiered files and stop using on-premises backup solutions for various reasons. Check here for more details:
      https://charbelnemnom.com/2019/10/how-azure-backup-integrates-with-azure-file-sync/
      https://charbelnemnom.com/2020/05/how-azure-backup-integrates-with-azure-file-sync-part-ii/

      Hope that helps!
      -Charbel

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