Azure File Sync Nearing General Availability

Microsoft has launched the final preview release of Azure File Sync, a service that I, and many of my customers, have been anticipating.


What Is It?

Azure File Sync (AFS) is a new service that is designed to integrate on-premises file servers with Azure in several ways:

  1. An agent is installed on the file server and will synchronize selected folders to the Azure Files service in a general purpose storage account. The Azure copy will become the master copy.
  2. Azure Backup will protect the master copy of the files in Azure, this making on-premises backup redundant (and not recommended, anyway).
  3. If you lose the file server, you can connect a new one and bring your shares/data back online in a matter of minutes by pressing the metadata of the shares/folders/files and downloading files on demand.
  4. File servers in different offices can synchronize files/folders via Azure, instead of DFS-R … And no, file lock synchronization is not there yet but Microsoft knows you want it.
  5. The best bit is tiering. You can set per-server policies to remove cold data from the servers without users noticing. Metadata is presented in place of the folders/files with the same permissions and names as before. Cold files will be downloaded from Azure on demand.

In short, AFS solves lots of problems that we have with file servers today and it can do it non-disruptively. You install an agent, don’t have to migrate data onto an appliance, and no one will notice.

Refresh 2

AFS has been in preview for quite a while with the agent being updated by Windows Update, which I really like! The latest update, Refresh 2, was made available on May 22nd. This update brought a number of improvements:

  • Azure Backup (and restore) are supported in the Azure Portal.
  • Proxy settings are supported in the agent.
  • If you move tiered files outside of the scope of synchronization, those files will be downloaded in a background task.
  • Antivirus integration has been improved. You don’t want antivirus downloading your cold tiered files during a scheduled scan!
  • The registration user interface supports Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) accounts.
  • A script, FileSyncErrorsReport.ps1, will identify files that fail to synchronize.
  • Numerous improvements to reliability and performance.
  • Files/folders with Unicode characters are now supported.

The best news was that Refresh 2 is the final preview update. That means that sometime in the coming months, Microsoft will finally make AFS generally available.