The industry that I work in is extremely cloud friendly Irish worth added resellers (VARs) operating in the tiny-to-medium enterprise (SME) marketplace have made Ireland one particular of the most successful regions for Office 365, and it&#8217s no surprise that they and their clients are displaying a large interest in adopting Microsoft Azure. SMEs want rid of what&#8217s left of their servers, and oftentimes the remaining machine in the SME space is a file server.

Choices for Replacing a File Server with a Cloud Remedy

Can you replace a file server with a cloud selection? Yes, you absolutely can, but it&#8217s a matter of asking oneself a couple of concerns:

  • Is the cloud the greatest route for you?
  • What&#8217s the best selection for a cloud solution?

The 1st question is dictated by content material in the file server. Many occasions, I&#8217ve dealt with queries about engineers that use AutoCAD, which relies on enormous files. Because of this, this scenario isn&#8217t a wonderful selection because storing these files in the cloud often requires expensive appliance solutions. If you wants are acceptable for the cloud, then you have many different options to think about:

  • Workplace 365, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business. I get constant feedback that OneDrive for Enterprise is too fragile. I like SharePoint as a means for sharing content, but it calls for a lot of user education.
  • ExpressRoute. You can lift-and-shift a file server to Azure and use ExpressRoute to access the solutions. With a modern OS, there was really a bit of re-engineering of SMB and TCP to optimize activities, such as browsing folders. With out these kinds of optimizations, metadata operations may possibly have created the user expertise intolerable. I&#8217ve tested this option on customer broadband, and it works well for tiny data transfers.
  • RemoteApp/Remote Desktop Services (RSD). You can deploy an RDS solution in front of your file server, but this needs a certain quantity of scale prior to the expense becomes justifiable. Most of the scenarios that I have encountered have been SMEs, where cloud migrations have left the consumer with just a single on-premises server &#8212 the file server.
  • Dropbox Function Folders. This company-owned Dropbox answer enables customers to synchronize their personal folders with their devices. This allows disconnected customers to operate with their personal collection of files. Operate Folders also enables businesses to manage access, quotas, and kinds, and files that users are synchronizing, anything that shadow IT options avoid.
  • Network appliances. Something like RiverBed can make remote file solutions, such as Azure, function truly well. The appliances are clever, make latency a non-issue more than time, and can reduce the impact of bandwidth limitations. My 1st encounter with RiverBed was a proof of concept with AutoCAD file sharing over a website-to-website VPN, where the client purchased the appliances despite the higher cost.
  • BranchCache: Alternatively of using a network appliance, you can deploy a answer that can optimize remote access of file, net, and BITS application content material. This is the remedy that I want to focus on in this article.

File Server with no Optimization

The following diagram shows how you can deploy a file server in Azure without having any added optimization.

A file server in Azure without optimization (Image Credit: Aidan Finn)

A file server in Azure without optimization (Image Credit: Aidan Finn)

The servers in Azure are running Windows Server 2008 R2 or later. You might as nicely use Windows Server 2012 R2 if you&#8217re deploying new VMs in Azure since the OS license is incorporated in the hourly expense of the VM, and you do not need any Windows Server CALs to access Windows Server VMs that are operating in Azure.

There is a domain controller and a file server running in an Azure VNET in a single cloud service. It&#8217s up to administrators if they want to open up point-to-website VPN, Windows Server VPN, or Direct Access for roaming user access to services. The file server is a member of the domain, and the domain controller may be utilized to sync or federate with Azure Active Directory.

The PCs on the buyer network are running Windows 7 (or later) Pro (or Enterprise). DHCP runs on the buyer website by way of a network appliance. A website-to-internet site VPN is configured to connect the office network to the Azure VNET. The DHCP scope configures devices to use the in-Azure domain controller as the major DNS server. The PCs are members of the in-Azure domain, getting policy by means of GPOs.

I tested this situation out in my lab, employing a website-to-site VPN connection more than a 12 Mbps ADSL connection with 380 Kbps upload speeds, a connection that is really modest. I created shared folders on the in-Azure file server with 1600+ modest files of diverse sorts in every single. A domain user connects to the file server in the exact identical way as they would with an on-premises 1. Browsing was without latency and accessing modest files was fast. Tiny files was quick, but what about a bit file? I dropped a 64 MB file into a share and started a download. The file was downloaded in one minute, which is way beneath what a single would count on over a 1 Gbps connection to a neighborhood file server.



Windows 7 Enterprise and later consists of a feature named BranchCache that is designed to enhance the flow of site visitors between consumers and remote file servers, IIS servers, and applications that use BITS. The Enterprise edition of Windows was after only offered by way of Application Assurance, but clients can now upgrade the OEM installation of Windows Pro to an Enterprise edition utilizing Volume Licensing without having Software Assurance.

BranchCache gives a service were previously downloaded content is presented to a client for subsequent requests. The very first individual to download a file suffers the influence of latency and bandwidth in between the remote file server and their nearby client device. The file is used by the individual and cached locally by BranchCache. Subsequent requests by this user or other people will lead to metadata operations:

  • If previously cached blocks of a file are requested, then they are downloaded to the device from a nearby cache, topic to safety permissions on the file server
  • If the blocks of a file are not cached, then they are downloaded from the file server across the remote link

More than time, the cache will be populated with regularly accessed content and the general overall performance for users will improve.

There are two sorts of cache that can be deployed:

  • Distributed Cache: This is where PCs operate a transparent peer-to-peer network bounded by a subnet or VLAN. PCs that require a block will broadcast a request, and any local cache that includes that block will offer you it. Note that there is reduced functionality when PCs are shutdown or removed.
  • Hosted Cache: A Windows Server is designated as a single cache for an office. This can be employed by several VLANs or subnets and can be pre-seeded to boost overall performance on day 1.

Utilizing Azure File Servers with BranchCache

One particular of the perks of BranchCache is that you do not require any new hardware to allow it &#8212 though you do need to have to run the Enterprise edition of Windows on your client devices. I decided to test out the design and style that I anticipate will be of most interest in the SME space clients are asking to be rid of all of their servers so the Distributed Cache model of BranchCache will almost certainly be the 1 they want to use. You can see how minor the adjustments were in the design and style in the below diagram. I basically:

  1. Added the BranchCache role service on the file server
  2. Enabled BranchCache on my share (containing all of the folders with person permissions)
  3. Utilised Group Policy to enable the hashing of blocks that make up the BranchCache optimized files on the file server
  4. Used Group Policy in the domain to enable Distributed Mode BranchCache on the client devices
Adding BranchCache to optimize an in-Azure file server (Image Credit: Aidan Finn)

Adding BranchCache to optimize an in-Azure file server (Image Credit: Aidan Finn)

I logged into a Windows 8.1 Enterprise machine in the regional LAN and saw no improvement in browsing folders – this already performed excellently. I then downloaded my 64 MB file from the file server, and as anticipated the overall performance was as just before. But the second copy was so fast that the progress bar barely flashed on screen the file was being copied from the cache and became a nearby copy rather of a remote copy.


BranchCache can make using remote file servers, such as these deployed in Azure, a significantly far more pleasant encounter. It’s not ideal it will take time for the cache to construct up (can’t be seeded in Distributed Mode), it does not optimize uploads, and it calls for the Enterprise edition of Windows. Even so, large uploads operations by users are rare. The cache will likely construct up speedily in an SME scenario. And the Enterprise edition is no longer locked behind Software program Assurance (except the for Windows ten upgrades) and it offers several other attributes that must prove very useful.

The post Enhancing Microsoft Azure File Server Overall performance with BranchCache appeared 1st on Petri.

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