Windows Server 2012 R2 How To Setup A Virtual File Server To Host Files

An expert was just informing me about the dangers of using a Hyper-V Host for any other than... a Hyper-V Host and I realized how much I rely on the files that are on the physical drives of that host.

Is there a way to setup a dedicated Virtual File server? If so, what would that be? Should that also be my FTP server or should I use my IIS VM for that and link to shares?
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yes set up another windows VM and install the File server role. You get two virtual server licenses with each license you purchase. Once youhave your file server you can install teh FTP server role or use Filezilla FTP ( whits is easy adn pretty good).
Cliff GaliherCommented:
"Is there a way to setup a dedicated Virtual File server? If so, what would that be?"

I am not entirely sure what you mean by "what would that be?"  A grammatically odd question. You can create a VM, install the OS of your choice, and then configure whatever services that OS provides to act as a file server. So for Linux that is often Samba. For windows, that is the file server role. It just happens to be in a VM. Nothing odd or special.

If you need an FTP server, I am something of a purist and would limit anything that gets accessed from the internet to as few servers as possible. So an IIS server can be a good candidate.  But security is another consideration. A high volume website may need to be more isolated, and colocating FTP elsewhere is more appropriate. Or giving it its own VM altogether.

Of course, in general, I think FTP is  30 year old protocol and inherently insecure. I'd be hard pressed to be setting up a new FTP server at all and would be looking at retiring existing ones as quickly as possible.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
So would it be grammatically correct to ask what the preferred or popular alternative to FTP servers Is these days? I know my new Gigabyte board came with a cloud server app that looks pretty interesting
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Cliff GaliherCommented:
Why burn your internet bandwidth with a pseudo-cloud server app? I say pseudo because if it came with a server mobo, it is running on a server and therefore isn't really "cloud" at all...

But back to the topic. Instead of FTP, you have Onedrive (or OneDrive for business), dropbox, google drive, and on and on. Plenty of cloud storage and sharing platforms, many with business plans, and all put both the security/perimeter issues and the maintenance outside of your network. There is also a bandwidth savings as you upload a file once for many to download, instead of everyone downloading direct from your server. For them to get you files, obviously the bandwidth savings aren't really there, but is isn't going to be more bandwidth either.

Given the heavy competition, pricing for huge amounts of storage is crazy low. Running an FTP server is just a burden for all but the most bizarre scenarios.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
That is a good point. I do have Google Apps For Enterprise along with a high level of storage and it would take many, many billing cycles to come close to what I just spent on this hardware and OS but now I have it with several TB of storage so I probably need to make the best of it right?
Cliff GaliherCommented:
"so I probably need to make the best of it right?"

I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. Hardware is often not the driving factor of TCO. Not when I consider how much effort it takes to set up, properly maintain, and manage an FTP server, where time truly is money and that is time I could be doing other billable work or spending with my family. Yes, it is a shame to overprovision hardware (see my previous comments about trying to do bad things to justify the GPU you have.) But does that justify "throwing good money after bad" as the saying goes? Would you invest a ton of time rebuilding the engine on a car with hundreds of thousands of miles on it, a car who's value no longer can justify the cost of parts or labor, just because you own the car and fee you should be using it?

From a business perspective, it doesn't make sense to do so. Better to let the hardware be underutilized.
One little but of important information you forgot. Your data is not truly secure in any cloud platform.  

Own cloud is  great little server giving you dropbox like functionality and more.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
As far as setting up a file server- should I just create a VM and install File resource manager role? Do I need to set any certain policies on the host or just not have any shares?
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
That owncloud does look pretty good. Maybe a good idea to dedicate a VM with no file server roles and install owncloud server?
Please do not be offense but if you are not fully comfortable with managing and running a windows file server that will be exposed to the internet  and securing it I would recommend something like Owncloud its relatively simple to set up has an app to sync with phones and computer and lots of instructions. and can be locked down to user accounts. Run up a VM and install it have a play and see how it goes. If you still want to go down the windows path I'm sure every one will be more than happy to help you. me included.

This is a turn key solution Pretty much ready to go. Somebody has done all the hard work for you download the VM boot up follow instruction and your good to go.

As you are using hyper v you will probably be best to download the turnkey iso and boot off that and follow instructions.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
"As you are using hyper v you will probably be best to download the turnkey iso and boot off that and follow instructions. "
turnkey of owncloud?
Cliff GaliherCommented:
"Your data is not truly secure in any cloud platform"

Patently false. There are severs providers that encrypt the data both in flight and at rest.
That may be incorrect as a blanket statement.  I will correct it. Your data it not secure in on alot of  cloud platforms.

However what you proposed is far from secure and as bad as FTP if not worse.
Cliff GaliherCommented:
I proposed a cloud storage platform. I did *not* endorse a specific one. So saying my "recommendation" is less secure is, again, patently false.
My apologies cliff if i am going to offend you with my below statements.

You state that you did not endorse a specific cloud storage platform yet you names many options (OneDrive, Google Drive & Dropbox) that we all know cannot be 100% secure due to recent discoveries. By naming products you are in turn recommending/endorsing/proposing. The only time this isn't the case if you state that you do not recommend them.

I would 'propose' that next time you name items as examples that you put your 'recommended' solutions.

In answer to A_AmericanELectric question, turnkey is a company that provides simple 'ready-to-go' virtual machines configured for a certain solution. This takes care of most of the setup of the os, software and basic config. You can find them at
Cliff GaliherCommented:
If you can cite a single data breech from OneDrive for business or Google apps for business then by all means, do so. Otherwise, FUD.
You never proposed Google Apps. You proposed Google Drive, and don't forget Dropbox.

Not a hack however loss of access to data.

This is getting off topic and I would appreciate if we can get back to helping A_AmericanELectric. By providing him with all our opinions so that he can make an informed decision.

I will not be commenting any further on your opinions as this is not what Expert exchange is about

p.s. Out of all of the cloud solutions Microsoft's offerings is the best in my opinion.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
I have configured owncloud on a 2012 VM. Now- most of the files I want to server are obviously on the host.
What is the best way to mount/serve these folders.  
I mean lets use a folder called "OS" for example:
Do I just provide the network path of the Hyper-V host with the share?
 This cannot be a good method and I'm pretty sure LDAP is not going to auth owncloud users. I know that theres an LDAP AUTH app but I don't really want to make everyone I share a folder with a domain member.

Also, I would really like to dedicate a user/data folder outside of the webroot
Do I need to setup StoragePool first?   (take it easy on me cliff LOL)
Cliff GaliherCommented:
"Do I just provide the network path of the Hyper-V host with the share?"

I'm going to *hope* you meant guest and not host. You shouldn't be collocating filesharing duties with Hyper-V.

And we are still all the way back to the beginning of your question. A file server alone is not a good choice for sharing files with public internet users...basically for the reasons you mentioned in your last reply. You don't want to make them domain members, and windows requires CALs, etc etc etc.

You'll need to install some sort of interface to share files (an FTP server or a web application that offers such features) and configure it yourself. You'll also need to consider licensing. If users are being tracked *at all* (even by the FTP server or web app, it doesn't need to be by Windows) then you'll either need CALs or an external connector.

All reasons why I am still going to recommend a business cloud solution (despite the recent debate in this thread.)  That's basically all they are...a web app or an FTP server in front of their managed (and patched, if they are reputable) servers. Doing this yourself is just re-inventing the wheel....a much more expensive, hard-to-maintain, difficult to install and manage wheel.

A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
Okay but conceptually speaking. I have not assigned any file sharing duties to the host but this is obcviously where the physical disks originate from. So no matter how I would be serving the files up they would come from those drives which brings me back around to my original question again.
Lets say we had an interoffice environment that we wanted to setup a virtual file server to be responsible for all file server tasks. How would one go about granting the file server access to these drives without pointing it directly to the physical host?
Cliff GaliherCommented:
Let's take virtualization out of the discussion for a moment. How would you do this the "old" way. Take a machine. Install a hard drive. Configure your file server, FTP server, <whatever> to store/serve files from a folder on the hard drive.

Now....back to virtualization.

Most hypervisors have the concept of a virtual disk which is really a large file on a physical disk.

You'd create the virtual disk. The VM sees the virtual disk as a hard disk. You enable whatever role will serve files (fileserver, FTP, etc) and you point it to a folder on *that* hard disk. Yes, the data is *technically* stored on the host. But it is compartmentalized by the hypervisor. It has a solid grasp of that virtual disk (in Hyper-V, this is a .vhd file) so no other physical process (like an antivirus program) can come clobber it.

And more importantly, what is actually serving files is running on the VM. So if you have a traditional file server (we'll call it fileserver) running on a host (we'll call it HyperV), then you don't access the file share with \\hyperv\share ....or its IP.  You access it via \\fileserver\share.  The virtual machine will respond to the request, access *its* data on the virtual hard drive, and serve it up.

So when I say don't collocate roles, I mean don't have actual network services trying to serve data from \\hyperv\share at the same time that the host is also trying to run VMs. That's a great way to muck up your server. But accessing \\fileserver\share is just fine. The host is *not* serving files directly. It can concentrate on what it does best...monitor VMs, manage CPU, manage physical NICs for QoS, etc. And the fileserver can do what it does...track SMB (or FTP or HTTP) connections, optimize traffic, all that fun stuff.

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A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
Thank you Cliff! Excellent explanation!
So would you create this VHD on the host and then point the virtual file server to it or would  you setup this up on the virtual file server?
Can you give me the quick step procedure example to the above scenario just assuming the VHD will be shared with a 2012 R2 VM running file server roles?

Is this the same thing as shared vhdx?
Cliff GaliherCommented:
No. Shared vhdx is a new way to share one virtual disk with multiple guests at the same time. You'd only do that for a guest cluster.  

"just assuming the VHD will be shared". ...why would you share it?

If you need to know how to create virtual disks, that is very basic knowledge. It sounds like you are trying to run when you don't even know how to crawl yet. At this point, my suggestion is hit up a bookstore (and/or amazon) and buy a hyper-v basics book. I can't write tutorials that in-depth (or I don't feel compelled to without a publisher writing me royalty checks.)
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
I know how to create a VHD...
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
"You'd create the virtual disk. The VM sees the virtual disk as a hard disk. You enable whatever role will serve files (fileserver, FTP, etc) and you point it to a folder on *that* hard disk. "
Is VHD created on the host and data to be shared copied over to this VHD then virtual file server serves up this VHD residing on the host?
Cliff GaliherCommented:
The file server doesn't serve up th VHD (in your situation.) I serves up files that are stored in (or on, if you prefer) the VHD. A bare metal file server doesn't sound rve up an entire monolithic hard drive. It serves up files *on* the hard drive. This is no different. The VHD is not shared. It is accessed exclusively by the host.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
Tell me the procedure please.
I can create a VHS anywhere I need but here is the part that's escaping me:

Physical box that has 2 duties- run the hardware (including the disk array) and hosting hyper v.

Now I have the new guest file server. How to I setup the VHD on the file server that is a virtual representation of the files that are already on the physical disks?

Disk D on physical server has D:\ videos

I need to setup a VHD to give file server access to it


How do I create this association using a VHD?
Cliff GaliherCommented:
Ideally, you don't. How do you have a new host with existing files?!? How did these vidos get onto the host??

In a proper world, you'd create a VHD and the files would be inside the VHD. They'd not be on a physical file system at all. So howevere they got there, it'd be best to move them.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
Videos was of course an example.
"They'd not be on a physical file system at all. So howevere they got there, it'd be best to move them."

So the 3TB RAID would mainly be storage for the VHDs?

The problem is Cliff that I have lots and lots of data that I want to share with customers, employees, friends and family as wel as myself remotely. This is why the answer is not clear to me.

I know its probably getting pretty frustrating to you but should I use File and ISCI Services Role on the Host in order to share the contents of a volume (virtual or not).
I one way or another the data has to originate on the physical disks which is on the physical Hyper-v host and I really like the owncloud app but in order to serve up the data that I want to serve on the virtual file server I need to create a link or a mirror to that data.
This is probably so simple its ridiculous but I'm not sure how to create a VHD mirror of the physical host volumes on the guest  so that I can then serve it on owncloud
Cliff GaliherCommented:
"So the 3TB RAID would mainly be storage for the VHDs?"


"should I use File and ISCI Services Role on the Host in order to share the contents of a volume (virtual or not)."

The answer is still no. Not on the host.

"one way or another the data has to originate on the physical disks"

Why? Why can't the data be within the VHD? Why dies it have ti be on the physical file system??

"how to create a VHD mirror of the physical host volumes"

Because you don't.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
So what would be the most efficient way to server the data from the virtual file server?

Add disk(s) in Hyper-V manager and then move the data from the host location to the VHD(s)?

I can dedicate a 1TB partition on host to VHD1 amd a 1TB to VHD2

Am I getting closer here?
Cliff GaliherCommented:
"Add disk(s) in Hyper-V manager and then move the data from the host location to the VHD(s)?"

If the data us on the host, yes. But that is why I asked how the data got on the host in the first place. From thus and other questions you've asked, I was under the impression that thus was a new machine you built for this purpose. There is no reason for data you want to share to be on the host file system. So if this was a new purpose-built machine, you'd never want to copy or create data on the host at all. You'd create the VM, create the shares on the VM, and copy/move/save data straight into the guest.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
Yes sorry. The machine was built new as a hyper-v host but all company files, software etc resided on the old server so all the data was copied from the old raid config to the new until I could sort things out. When I built server#2 I wanted to use the almost-new 2TB drives for that raid so I had to move that data onto the storage I had before it got wiped.

Now that you know where my data is sitting_
I need to still dedicate most of my storage on host for  VHDs  and add new hard drives in Hyper-V manager and move that data over to VHDs or VHDXs on the virtual file server, right?
Cliff GaliherCommented:
That is what I'd do.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
Ok Thanks!
i created (4) 250GB Dynamic VHDX and I used the QOS feture on the host for all of them (not too sure...) and then I added the 4 new VHDX to a Pool on file-server (not to sure how that helps).

I'll ask a new question if needed but I still have server commited to nothing but Hyper-V but should I add the guests to server manager for server pooling or should I do that on a VM?
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
Dont really need server pooling for my little 4 server farm but don't like seeing errors in the server manager rgarding auto refresh and performance data
Cliff GaliherCommented:
"and then I added the 4 new VHDX to a Pool" why'd you do that? If you want more storage, why not create a larger VHD? If you went this route, I wonder if you are still confused by my advice...

"should I add the guests to server manager for server pooling or should I do that on a VM?"  what do you mean by server pooling? That isn't usual terminology for serves so I don't want to misunderstand your new question.
A_AmericanELectricAuthor Commented:
No I understood and I appreciate the 'scNo I understood and I appreciate the 'schoolin'. I know I could have created one large VHD but I had never had the option to use the disk pooling before and I thought there was some speed and redundancy benefits to using disk pooling.

I guess server pool was a bad term but I had the idea that if I added all the guests to server manager that I would have a better product. Not that important I guess...
Cliff GaliherCommented:
"and I thought there was some speed and redundancy benefits to using disk pooling."

Both the speed and the redundancy benefits come from having extra spindles in the mix. Which to be managed effectively means pooling is always best done as close to hardware as possible. So I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't pool. I'm just saying you shouldn't do it in the guest. There is no benefit to pooling multiple VHDs on one disk or RAID array. And if you are keeping the disks as JBOD and creating multiple VHDs across those disks and pooling in the guest, you are creating a complicated management environment. You'd instead pool at the host (giving you speed and redundancy) and then one VHD on the pooled storage. Also, keep in mind running a pool on RAID is never a good idea.
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Windows Server 2012

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