Setting up & managing a file server in Windows 2003

by Andrew Z. Tabona [Published on 22 Jan. 2004 / Last Updated on 22 Jan. 2004]

A file server is a computer responsible for the storage and management of data in a central location. Network clients can access these files, therefore saving them from having to physically transfer data from one computer to another. Users are able to access files and applications at the same time. This will serve as a step-by-step guide on how to setup a file server in Windows 2003.

A file server is a computer responsible for the storage and management of data in a central location.
The specifications of a file server would normally consist of a large hard drive, a high CPU rate and decent amount of RAM. However, this may vary depending on the scale of how many requests the computer will be required to handle at once. Network clients can access these files, therefore saving them from having to physically transfer data from one computer to another. Users are able to access files and applications at the same time.

The administrator can configure the machine to be a dedicated fileserver; which would mean that the machine will only be used as a fileserver. Also, a non-dedicated fileserver; which would allow the fileserver to be used simultaneously as a workstation.  File servers provide the ability to back up data with ease as everything is stored on one computer. Quotas can be set so that each user will have a certain amount of space on which he/she can save data.

Setting up a File Server

Navigate to the "Configure your server wizard" icon on the start menu and click it to open the configure your server application. Select the "File Server" role from the list and click next.

You will be asked whether or not you want to enable the indexing service (which allows people to search the contents of the file server). My recommendation is that you leave it off so as to better performance. However, this depends entirely on the way users would utilize your file server.

After this screen, click next again to run the "share a folder wizard". In the first screen, you are able to set which folder you wish to share. Type the location in the folder path or press browse to navigate to one.

In the next screen, specify the share name, description, and offline setting of the folder. The offline option allows you to specify if the contents of the folder will be available offline.

The last step is to set the permissions for the folder. This is a highly important part of the process as you will be specifying who is allowed to do what with the contents of each folder. The type of permissions you assign depends on the contents of the folder and, the person who is going to view it. As a general example, I have given administrators full, and everyone else read and write access to the public folder. This will allow people to view and edit documents or create a sub folder to store their personal files, for example.

Click Finish to confirm your actions and close the wizard. You can add more folders by opening the share a folder wizard from the file management console.

File Server Management

The file server management console acts as a central administration point for managing shared folders. The following is a list of all the features available to the file server administrator:

  • Shares - displays the list of shares available to network clients
  • Sessions - shows who is connected to what share
  • Open Files - lists all the open files that the network clients are accessing
  • Disk Defragmenter - allows you to analyze and defragment the hard drive
  • Disk Management - lets you manage, partition, format and change the drive letter of hard disks

The shares section of the console also gives you the option to backup the contents of the file server. To do this you must click on "Backup File Server" on the right hand side of the window. This will bring up the backup wizard that will require you to make a choice of backing up or restoring files, what data is to be backed up and where the backup should be saved. Once all the choices have been made, the files will be backup up and saved to the location you specified.

Select "Send a console message" from the main window and you will be able to select a computer, or a number of computers, to send a message to. The recipient will receive a message box with whatever you have typed. This is useful if you want to send a quick message to users to tell them that the server will be down for maintenance, for example. Once you have selected the computers you want to send the message to, click OK.

The "Configure shadow copies" option can serve to be very useful. It allows you to keep a copy of a folder at different points in time. If there is an accidental deletion of the contents of a folder then it can be restored with this shadow copy. It also helps if the users want to view files they created in the past. Choose the volume of which you want to create a shadow copy, set the time at which you want the service to run and click OK. Alternatively, you can press "Create Now" to produce a shadow copy of the volume as it is at the present time.

If you right click on a share you can easily stop sharing that folder, view the contents of the folder by pressing Open or select Properties to bring up the window that will allow you to change permissions, set the user limit for the folder and change the description.

The rest of the options include "Refresh", which when clicked will refresh the list of shares, and "Add a shared folder", which brings up the wizard explained previously. This allows you to create and customize another shared folder.

The Sessions window displays which users are in a session and how long they have been connected. It also gives you the ability to disconnect the user from the session at any time by right clicking a certain user and pressing "Close session". You can also close all sessions by clicking the "Disconnect All Sessions" option in the main window. As you can see below, in this example, the administrator using a computer, Client02, has been connected to the session for one minute and 30 seconds, and has one file open.

The "Open Files" window shows who is connected to which file and allows you to disconnect all open files at any time.

Disk Defragmenter is a very useful tool which organizes files and in turn, makes file access faster. You can first analyze a partition and view the report to see whether or not degfragmentation is required. Press the Analyze button to start the analysis - if defrag is needed, it will give you the option to start defragmentation straight away. Should you wish not to analyze first, just press the Defragment button to start the process.

The Disk Management window allows you to manage disk partitions and CD-ROM drives and displays disk information in a list and graphical view. You can change drive letters, create and format a partition, and also set quotas and security permissions from the properties of each drive. The bottom half of the screen gives a graphical view of the drives and states their name, size, file system type, and status.

That concludes the File Server Management section of this article. We have taken a look at the features available in the file server management console and how to utilize them. The specific settings for each option depends on the type of system and the administrator's personal preferences.

With Windows 2003, the enterprise can benefit from the fact that employees are able to be more productive due to less downtime and easy retrieval of files and resources. As you have seen, the setup and configuration offered by the file server package in this operating system is quite user friendly and effective. The right configuration can provide stability, good performance and security to a company of any size.

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