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Configuring File and Storage Services Windows Server

Disk storage is a requirement for just about every computer and application used in any corporate environment. Administrators have some familiarity with storage, whether it is internal storage, a locally attached set of disks, or network attached storage (NAS). In this tutorial, we will examine the various aspects of Windows Server 2012 storage and firewall services. The various types of storage technologies, this tutorial will primarily focus on iSCSI because of the native features in Windows Server 2012. We will also look at how to protect your disk and system by using Windows Firewall.

Storage in Windows Server 2012

As an IT administrator, you'll need to ask many questions before you start setting up a server. What type of disks should be used? What type of RAID sets should be made? What type of hardware platform should be purchased? These are all questions that must be asked when planning for storage in a Windows Server 2012 server. In the following sections, we will answer these questions so that you can make the best decisions for storage in your network's environment.

Initializing Disks

To begin, we must first discuss how to add disk drives to a server. Once a disk drive has been physically installed, it must be initialized by selecting the type of partition. Different types of partition styles are used to initialize disks: Master Boot Record (MBR) and GUID Partition Table (GPT).

MBR has a partition table that indicates where the partitions are located on the disk drive, and with this particular partition style, only volumes up to 2 terabytes (2,048 gigabytes) are supported. An MBR drive can have up to four primary partitions or three primary partitions and one extended partition that can be divided into unlimited logical drives.

Windows Server 2012 can boot off only an MBR disk unless it is based on the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI); then it can boot from GPT. An Itanium server is an example of EFI-based system. GPT is not constrained by the same limitations as MBR. In fact, a GPT disk drive can support volumes of up to 18 exabytes (18,874,368 million terabytes) and 128 partitions. As a result, GPT is recommended for disks larger than 2 TB or disks used on Itanium-based computers. Below the process of initializing additional disk drives to an active computer running Windows Server 2012. If you're not adding a new drive, then stop after step 4.

Initializing Disk Drives

  1. Open Computer Management under Administrative Tools.
  2. Select Disk Management.
  3. After disk drives have been installed, right-click Disk Management and select Rescan Disks.
  4. A pop-up box appears indicating that the server is scanning for new disks. If you did not add a new disk, go to step 9.
  5. After the server has completed the scan, the new disk appears as Unknown.
  6. Right-click the Unknown disk and select Initialize Disk.
  7. A pop-up box appears asking for the partition style. For this section, choose MBR.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Close Computer Management.

The disk will now appear online as a basic disk with unallocated space.

Working with Basic and Dynamic Disks

Windows Server 2012 supports two types of disk configurations: basic and dynamic. Basic disks are divided into partitions and can be used with previous versions of Windows. Dynamic disks are divided into volumes and can be used with Windows 2000 Server and later releases.

When a disk is initialized, it is automatically created as a basic disk, but when a new fault-tolerant (RAID) volume set is created, the disks in the set are converted to dynamic disks. Fault-tolerance features and the ability to modify disks without having to reboot the server are what distinguish dynamic disks from basic disks.

A basic disk can simply be converted to a dynamic disk without loss of data. When a basic disk is converted, the partitions are automatically changed to the appropriate volumes. However, converting a dynamic disk back to a basic disk is not as simple. First, all of the data on the dynamic disk must be backed up or moved. Then all of the volumes on the dynamic disk have to be deleted. The dynamic disk can then be converted to a basic disk. Partitions and logical drives can be created and the data restored.

The following are actions that can be performed on basic disks:

  • Format partitions.
  • Mark partitions as active.
  • Create and delete primary and extended partitions.
  • Create and delete logical drives.
  • Convert from a basic disk to a dynamic disk.

The following are actions that can be performed on dynamic disks:

  • Create and delete simple, striped, spanned, mirrored, or RAID-5 volumes.
  • Remove or break a mirrored volume.
  • Extend simple or spanned volumes.
  • Repair mirrored or RAID-5 volumes.
  • Convert from a dynamic disk to basic after deleting all volumes.

Converting a Basic Disk to a Dynamic Disk

  1. Open Computer Management under Administrative Tools.
  2. Select Disk Management.
  3. Right-click a basic disk that you want to convert, and select Convert To Dynamic Disk.
  4. The Convert To Dynamic Disk dialog box appears. From here, select all of the disks that you want to convert to dynamic disks. In this section, only one disk will be converted.
  5. Click OK.
  6. The Convert To Dynamic Disk dialog box changes to the Disks To Convert dialog box and shows the disk/disks that will be converted to dynamic disks.
  7. Click Convert.
  8. Disk Management will warn that if you convert the disk to dynamic, you will not be able to start the installed operating system from any volume on the disk (except the current boot volume).
  9. Click Yes.
  10. Close Computer Management.

The converted disk will now show as dynamic in Disk Management.