How to Setup FTP Server for Windows Server 2019

In this guide we will show the steps to setup FTP Server for Windows Server 2019 using IIS.  Microsoft started with shaping the field of personal computing with their famous operating system, Windows. Since then, the technology giant has conquered many other areas like software suites, cloud computing, and AI services. It has also acquired many smaller enterprises and has evolved to become one of the most prominent players in the field.

Apart from a large and diverse collection of proprietary products, Microsoft has ventured into the computer networking world with the server operating systems (OS) Windows Server. It is an extension of Microsoft Windows and is intended for ease of use for network administrators and engineers. One of the most significant advantages of having an interface-based server OS is that installing other functionalities becomes easy, like configuring it into an FTP server.

This article gives a quick guide to setting up an FTP server on Windows Server that a user will need to ensure that the process is smooth and successful. It will also give some information about what a server OS like Windows Server is supposed to do and what an FTP server is.

Setup FTP Server on Windows Server 2019

Understanding FTP Server & Windows Server

The server we intend to set up follows the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and is hence called an FTP server. The protocol follows the client-server model and thus requires a server on the receiving end to satisfy the client’s request to upload or download a file. An FTP server acts as a midpoint, and then it can be configured to restrict transfers of files and from folders that it contains.

An FTP server utilizes two ports for its functions. The client uses one to send over commands and other communications, and the other is used to channel data back and forth. It can run in mainly two modes:

  • Active: In this mode, the client connects with the command port to specify the need for file transfer and the port that the server should connect for the transfer. The server then requests to connect to the client’s specified port and satisfies any data requests.
  • Passive: In this mode, the first step happens as in the active mode. However, the client then tries to connect to some random port of the FTP server. Data transfer ensues once the connection is secured.

Windows Server is one of the most popular server OS used in the industry. It possesses Microsoft’s powerful PowerShell command-line and the classic Windows GUI for complete user control. It allows the user to set up virtual machines and configure the server to whatever use it serves. It offers built-in installation and configuration support through installation wizards that let the user install services and specify roles as desired.

With each update, Microsoft has tried to instill Windows Server with every new groundbreaking technology that has hit the computer networking industry. Latest updates have introduced containerization, more notable security features, encrypted networks, and better network performances, to name a few. The most recent update was in 2019, and the next update is intended for 2022.

Configuring an FTP Server For The Windows Server 2019

Having a GUI-based server OS like Windows Server significantly simplifies many mundane tasks related to network administration. Traditionally, a command-line interface was the only way to interact with a server or a network, which could get quite complicated. With Windows Server, administrators can use the built-in installation wizards and the robust PowerShell command-line to get tedious tasks done in much less time.

The answer to the question ‘how to setup FTP server’ is a straightforward process thanks to Windows Server’s powerful capabilities. The process will first set up the FTP server using an installation wizard, select appropriate server roles, configure the FTP in passive mode, and finally set up its Firewall support.

Note: The process is specifically described for Windows Server 2019, so it is a vital prerequisite to the following guide.

Configuring The Server To Perform As An FTP Server

Firstly, we will head to the Server Manager software because that is where a user can specify the roles of the server. There, we click on the “Add Roles and Features” option.

You are greeted with a page signifying the functionality of the Server Manager software. After clicking “Next,” we arrive at the installation type. There, select “Role-based or feature-based-installation” and then click “Next”.

install FTP Server on Windows Server

Now, we have to select the destination server. The destination server will be the NFS system, where all the files are or will be hosted. You can either choose one from the server pool on your network or select a virtual hard disk to act as the server. Once done, move onto the next step by clicking “Next”.

Now, we select the role our server will occupy. Making our server an FTP server will require it to become an Internet Information Service (IIS) server, Microsoft’s proprietary server technology for web hosting. It is commonly used to host applications made on Microsoft’s own .NET framework. Select the “Web Server (IIS)” checkbox, and after clicking “Next”, read through the features that the wizard will install. Click “Add Features” to move forward.

Windows FTP Server Roles

You have just selected the role and the features of the FTP server-to-be as well. Move ahead by clicking “Next” on the next window and on the “Web Server Role (IIS)” stage too.

We come to the selecting the role services now. Among the options, ensure that the “Security” checkbox and the “Request Filter” under it, the “FTP Server” checkbox and the “FTP Service” under it, and the “Management Tools” checkbox and “IIS Management Console are checked. Afterward, you can go ahead and click “Install” in the window after confirming all the configurations in the same window.

Windows Server FTP installation

Configuring The FTP Server Ports & Setting Up Firewall Support

We should also set up the FTP server to work in passive mode. We open Server Manager, select “Tools”, and then select “IIS Manager”. After it opens, click on your server in the left pane to open the middle pane where all the different functionalities are present.

IIS FTP Site

Click on “FTP Firewall Support” and click on “Open Feature” on the rightmost pane. You will have to input the range of port values for the data channel in the first box. You will have to open the ports that you had put in your Firewall configurations. Afterward, click “Apply” in the rightmost pane. After allowing the port range by clicking “OK” on the popup that follows, you will have to restart the server.

Open the Services app, right-click on “Microsoft FTP Server”, and click “Restart”.

Restart FTP Service

You now have a Windows FTP server up and running. After this, you can move on and create an FTP website to provide an easy interface for your server. Additionally, you should thoroughly test your site and server to ensure everything is working as intended.

An FTP Server Up And Running On Windows Server

Network configurations of enterprises are growing more complex with the inclusion of cloud services and strategies like hybrid cloud services. The stakes for administrators and network engineers were already high and are higher with the added complexity. Helpful and robust software like Windows Server makes it easy to monitor a network and ensure its stability. Tasks like installing an FTP Server now take much less effort and time, thanks to Windows Server.

Avatar for Emad Bin Abid
Emad Bin Abid

I'm a software engineer who has a bright vision and a strong interest in designing and engineering software solutions. I readily understand that in today's agile world the development process has to be rapid, reusable, and scalable; hence it is extremely important to develop solutions that are well-designed and embody a well-thought-of architecture as the baseline. Apart from designing and developing business solutions, I'm a content writer who loves to document technical learnings and experiences so that peers in the same industry can also benefit from them.

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