Build a Windows Server 2019 file server cluster for more stability

If a Windows file server goes down, it shouldn’t take the entire organization with it.

A Windows file server fulfills a critical infrastructure role as a central storage area for the data that users and applications need to function. A file server without the added security of high availability tempts fate if a failure takes files and application data offline until repairs can be made.

One way to avoid downtime is to create a Windows Server 2019 file server cluster.

Editor’s Note: This article is adapted to the latest server operating system from Microsoft. The servers must be joined to the domain. A separate server is required to host a cluster shared volume for cluster file servers.

Create an iSCSI target

The first step is to create a cluster shared volume that will act as shared storage for the file servers within the cluster.

Log in to each of the file servers and start the iSCSI initiator, which can be found in the Tools menu of the server manager. When prompted to start the iSCSI service, choose Yes.

Then go to the Configuration tab in the properties of the iSCSI initiator and record the name of the initiator. Do this for each file server.

Note the name of the initiator for each of the file servers.

Configure the iSCSI Target Server

Then install the ISCSI target server on the server that will host the cluster shared volume.

Open Server Manager and launch the Add Roles and Features Wizard and check the iSCSI Target Server box.

Configuring the iSCSI Target Server
Use Server Manager to configure the iSCSI target server on the server hosting the cluster shared volume.

Once the installation process is complete, click File and Storage Services, followed by iSCSI.

Next, choose the New iSCSI Virtual Disk option from the Task menu to launch the iSCSI Virtual Disk Wizard. Specify the location to create the iSCSI virtual disk and give the virtual disk a name.

Then add the Access Servers. To complete this step, click on the To add and enter the name of the initiator in the Value field. Repeat this step for each initiator.

Name of the initiator of the access server
Type the name of the initiator in the value field for each Access Server.

Go back to each file server, open the iSCSI initiator, and go to the Discovery tab. Click it Discover the portal and enter the IP address of the iSCSI target.

Next, select the Targets tab to see the iSCSI target listed in the Discovered Targets list. Select the target and click on the Connect button. When the Connect to Target dialog box appears, select the Enable multiple paths check box. Click on Okay then repeat this procedure for each file server.

Select Enable multipath for target
Select the Enable multiple paths check box when configuring discovered targets.

Next, open the Disk Management console (diskmgmt.msc) on one of the cluster nodes to bring the disk online and create a volume.

Create the Windows Server 2019 file server cluster

After the clustered shared volume is attached, the next step is to create the failover cluster. First, install the Failover Clustering feature on each file server. After this installation process, launch Failover Cluster Manager from the Server Manager Tools menu.

Then run a validation test to check the hardware and software settings for issues. Click it Validate the configuration and provide the configuration validation wizard with the names of the file servers.

File Server Failover Cluster Validation
Validate the file server failover cluster to avoid any potential issues with hardware or software settings.

Run all validation tests. It is normal to receive warnings, but the tests should return no errors.

Then click on Create Cluster to start the wizard. Provide the file server names and Windows Server 2019 file server cluster name. When complete, the cluster should be listed in Failover Cluster Manager.

Configure the file server role

Next, install the file server role on each cluster node through the Add Server Manager Roles and Features wizard.

Add the file server role to each cluster node
For each server in the failover cluster, install the file server role on each.

The last step is to make the file server role highly available.

Return to the Failover Cluster Manager, expand the cluster, and select the Roles container. Click the Configure Role link located in the Actions pane to launch the High Availability wizard. Choose the File Server option from the list of roles.

File server role high availability option
Use the Failover Cluster Manager to run the high availability wizard and select the file server role.

One section of the high availability wizard requires the selection of a file server type; choose a general-purpose file server rather than a scalable file server, which is not ideal for large ones metadata operations, such as opening and closing files.

Assign a name to the client access point and associate the file server role with the iSCSI volume created earlier.

Assign cluster role
Bind the file server role to the cluster disk to complete the high availability configuration.

When completed, the file server role will be highly available.