How to consolidate data for Headquarter and Branches in a smart way: Windows Admin Center and Azure File Sync

Windows Admin Center on Microsoft docs

As i mentioned in a previous post, explaining different alternatives to work in a colaborative way when your company has employees all over the globe , one of the best options in terms of simplicity to share data would be Azure File Sync as you can consolidate data for several file servers. But now as preview you can set up a whole sync folders strategy from Windows Admin Center to consolidate data from branches and head quarters on a file share with all the changes done during the working day.

The Azure hybrid services can be manage from Windows Admin Center where you have all your integrated Azure services into a centralized hub.

But what can kind of tasks can we do?

  1. Set up a backup an disaster recovery strategy. – Yes, you can define which data to backup from your file servers on premise to the cloud, retentions as well as determine an strategy to replicate your VMs in Hyper-V using Windows Admin Center.
  2. Planning an storage migration.– Identify and migrate storage from on premise to the cloud based on your previous assessment. Even more not just data from Windows file servers or windows shares but also Linux SMB shares with Samba.
  3. Monitoring events and track logs from on premise servers. – It quite interesting to collect data from on premise in a Log Analytics workspace in Azure Monitor.  Then it is very flexible to customize queries to figure out what is happening and when is happening on those servers.
  4. Update and patch your local servers. – With Azure Update Management you have the right solution using Automation that allows you to manage updates and patches for multiple virtual machines on premise or even baremetal.
  5. Consolidate daily work from a distributed data enviroment without limitations on storage or locations. – You can use Windows Admin center to set up as we told before a centralized point for your organization’s file shares in Azure, while keeping the flexibility, performance, and compatibility of an on-premises file servers. In this post, we are going to explain this feature more in depth.
  6. Other features:
    1. Extent your control of your infrastructure with Azure Arc and configure it with Windows Admin Center so, for example, you can run azure policies and configure regulations for your virtual machines a baremetal on prem.
    2. Create VMs on Azure directly from the console.
    3. Manage VMs on Azure from the console.
    4. Even deploy Windows Admin Center in a VM on Azure and work with the console on the cloud.

Now we know some of the important features that you can use with Windows Admin Center, let´s focus on Azure file sync configuration and see how it works.

Let´s start downloading Windows Admin Center from here

Now after installing you will see the console using the url from local called: https://machinename/servermanager where you can browse information and details of your local or virtual machine and leverage lot of features to manage it.

If you click on hybrid center you can configure an account on your azure portal to connect to your azure suscriptions. It will create an Azure AD application from which you can manage gateway user and gateway administrator access if you want in the future. Therefore you will need to first register your Windows Admin Center gateway with Azure. Remember, you only need to do this once for your Windows Admin Center gateway.

You have two options,create a new Azure Active Directory application or use and existing one, on the AAD your choose.

To pointed out here, you can configure MFA for your user later, or create several groups with users for RBAC to work with your Windows Admin Console. Now you will have available several wizards to deploy the strategy it suits better to your business case.

Let´s start configuring all the parameters. Maybe it takes some time to respond, it is on Preview right now (april 2021).

Choose an existing Storage Sync Service or create a new one..

Prepare the Azure File sync agent as needed to be installed on your Windows Admin Center host machine..and hit on “Set up” button.

And now register your server on the “Storage sync service”..

We got to register our new server on Azure File Sync service on Azure to syncronize data on a file share with other File Servers localted all over the world.

Register servers on my Azure suscription

In the next post we´ll configure the following steps to consolidate a global repository using this file share on Azure so all the employees, no matter where they work can be on the same page with the rest of braches and head quarter.

See you them..

Windows Admin Center to rule hybrid cloud solutions on Azure and on prem

Windows admin center is a free tool to configure and manage your windows servers and linux servers on premise as well as on the cloud. No matter if you want to monitor performance on lots of servers, maintain TCP Services for your network or active directory validations, check security updates history on several servers, manage storage massively even for several partner providers such as HPE, DELL-EMC, etc or last but not least you want to migrate VMs to the cloud.

A simple pane of glass to work with your infrastructure on a hybrid model increase efficiency, reduce human errors and improve rapid response when needed.

Previously there were lots of “mmc consoles” to manage several aspect of daily sysops tasks. With Windows admin center, you solve this problem and also provide a unique approach to manage a hybrid cloud. Something that not all the cloud providers are facing right now. And believe me, it’s pretty useful.

What are the most important features that brings this tool?

  • Extension to integrate Servers hardware details– Let’s say you need to know the health of several components on your on prem HPE Servers, Fujitsu, Lenovo, Dell-EMC,etc. Now you have extensions to manage all this information and check the power supply status, the memory usage, CPU,storage capacity and other details. Even if you want an integration with ILO or IDrac, for example, well, through the Window Admin Center it’s possible.
  • Active Directory extension- It is crucial for a sysop to maintain the Active Directory and to work with quite usual tasks such as:
    • Create a user
    • Create a group
    • Search for users, computers, and groups
    • Details pane for users, computers, and groups when selected in grid
    • Global Grid actions users, computers, and groups (disable/enable, remove)
    • Reset user password
    • User objects: configure basic properties & group memberships
    • Computer objects: configure delegation to a single machine
  • Manage a DHCP Scope- Another cool option, DHCP extension allows you to manage connected devices on a computer or server.
    • Create/configure/view IPV4 and IPV6 scopes
    • Create address exclusions and configure start and end IP address
    • Create address reservations and configure client MAC address (IPV4), DUID and IAID (IPV6)
  • DNS extension –  allows you to manage connected devices on a computer or server.
    • View details of DNS Forward Lookup zones, Reverse Lookup zones and DNS records
    • Create forward Lookup zones (primary, secondary, or stub), and configure forward lookup zone properties
    • Create Host (A or AAAA), CNAME or MX type of DNS records
    • Configure DNS records properties
    • Create IPV4 and IPV6 Reverse Lookup zones (primary, secondary and stub), configure reverse lookup zone properties
    • Create PTR, CNAME type of DNS records under reverse lookup zone.
  • Updates– allows you to manage Microsoft and/or Windows Updates on a computer or server.
    • View available Windows or Microsoft Updates
    • View a list of update history
    • Install Updates
    • Check online for updates from Microsoft Update
    • Manage Azure Update Management integration

To summarize Microsoft is supporting now daily sysops duties through Windows Admin Center.

  • Storage extensions– allows you to manage storage devices on a computer or server. For example, let’s say you want to use the Storage Migration Service because you’ve got a server (or a lot of servers) that you want to migrate to newer hardware or virtual machines on Azure. You can install the Storage Migration Service extension on your Windows 2019 version 1809 or on a later operating system to work. Previous OS versions don´t have this extension available. With this extension you can do cool staff as follows:
    • Inventory multiple servers and their data
    • Transfer files, file shares, and security configuration from the source servers to destination. Even some Linux Samba repositories if needed.
    • Optionally “Copy&Paste” the identity of the source servers (also known as cutting over) so that users and apps don’t have to change anything to access existing data
    • Manage one or multiple migrations from the Windows Admin Center user interface in parallel
  • Create Virtual Machines on Azure- Windows Admin Center can deploy the Azure VMs, configure its storage, join it to your domain, install roles, and then set up your distributed system. This integrates VM deployment into the Storage Migration Service that i was explaining above. So you don’t need to connect to the Azure Portal or run a powershell script for example. But create and configure directly the VMs you need on the Windows Admin Center Portal.
  • Integration with Azure File Sync- Consolidate shared files using Azure File Sync. This is pretty useful if you have lots of small branches and want to centralize all the daily documents on a cloud repository with backup included. We will explain how it works in the next post.

As you can see , Microsoft has done a big effort providing a tool to work daily tasks as maintain TCP Services or manage your data, no matter if it is on premise on a Fujitsu Server with local disks, a SAN or on the cloud. Even helps you to leverage the cloud functionalities to remove old servers and hardware.

See you them in the next post. I hope you enjoy the journey to the cloud…