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SQL Server 2012 : Native File Streaming - Enabling FILESTREAM

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Like many other features, FILESTREAM is disabled by default in SQL Server 2012, and you must first enable it before the feature can be used. Enabling FILESTREAM is slightly more involved than enabling other SQL Server features because it requires two distinct steps. First, the feature needs to be enabled for the machine, and then it needs to be enabled for the server instance. These two independent FILESTREAM configuration layers are by design, and they draw a separation of security concerns between the role of Windows administrator and database administrator.

Enabling FILESTREAM for the Machine

The first step is to enable FILESTREAM for the machine by setting an access level. This step can actually be performed at the time that SQL Server is initially installed by choosing a FILESTREAM access level during setup. To enable FILESTREAM for the machine after SQL Server has been installed, use the SQL Server Configuration Manager to set the access level. (This tool can be launched from the Configuration Tools folder of the Microsoft SQL Server 2012 program group on the Start menu.)

The SQL Server Configuration Manager opens with a treeview on the left. In the treeview, click SQL Server Services to display the list of available services in the main panel. Right-click the SQL Server instance that you want to enable FILESTREAM for, choose Properties, and in the Properties dialog box, select the FILESTREAM tab. The three check boxes on the FILESTREAM tab allow you to select the various levels of FILESTREAM access. Figure 1 shows the Properties dialog box with all three check boxes selected.

Enabling FILESTREAM for the machine to support file I/O streaming access by remote clients.

Figure 1. Enabling FILESTREAM for the machine to support file I/O streaming access by remote clients.

When all three check boxes are cleared, FILESTREAM is completely disabled. Selecting the first check box enables FILESTREAM, but only for Transact-SQL (T-SQL) access. This provides for utter transparency, where SQL Server will store BLOBs contained inside varbinary(max) FILESTREAM columns in the file system behind the scenes just as we’ve discussed. But it won’t allow you to take advantage of direct file streaming between the database and your client applications using more advanced FILESTREAM features, such as SqlFileStream and FileTable that you’ll be learning about soon.

The real power of FILESTREAM comes into play when you enable direct file I/O streaming, which delivers the best possible BLOB performance with SQL Server. You enable direct file I/O streaming access by selecting the second check box. Streamed file access also creates a Windows share name that is used to construct logical Universal Naming Convention (UNC) paths to BLOB data during FILESTREAM access, as you’ll see further on when you use SqlFileStream and FileTable. The share name is specified in a text box after the second check box and is set by default to the same name as the server instance (MSSQLSERVER, in Figure 8-1).

In most cases, client applications will not be running on the same machine as SQL Server, and so you will usually also need to select the third check box to enable FILESTREAM for remote client file I/O streaming access with SqlFileStream. In addition, the new FileTable feature in SQL Server 2012 requires that you check this option in order to expose its data as a file system through the Windows share created by FILESTREAM (you’ll examine FileTable after you finish learning about FILESTREAM). So practically, you must check all three checkboxes to get the most out of FILESTREAM . An exception to this general practice might be when using Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Express edition as a local data store for a client application with everything running on the same machine. In this case, you could use the more secure setting and leave the third check box cleared. Doing so would enable SqlFileStream and FileTable access for the local client application but deny such access to remote clients. If you are using SQL Server Configuration Manager to change this setting after SQL Server has already been installed, you must remember to restart the SQL Server instance for the setting change to take effect.

Note

More Info There is no T-SQL equivalent script that can set the FILESTREAM access level for the machine. However, Microsoft posts a VBScript file available over the Internet that allows you to enable FILESTREAM from the command line as an alternative to using SQL Server Configuration Manager.

Enabling FILESTREAM for the Server Instance

The second step is to enable FILESTREAM for the server instance. The concept here is similar to what we just described. Varying levels of access correspond to the checkboxes in Figure 1. Naturally, the access level defined for the server instance must be supported by the access level defined for the machine. Typically, therefore, the machine and server instance access levels should be set to match one another. FILESTREAM can be enabled for the server instance with a simple call to the sp_configure system stored procedure, as follows:

EXEC sp_configure filestream_access_level, n
RECONFIGURE

In the preceding code, replace n with a number from 0 to 2 to set the access level. A value of 0 disables the FILESTREAM feature completely. Setting the access level to 1 enables FILESTREAM for T-SQL access only, and setting it to 2 enables FILESTREAM for full access (which includes local or remote file I/O streaming access as enabled for the machine in the first step).

You can also set the FILESTREAM access level for the server instance in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) from the Advanced Server Properties dialog box. Right-click any server instance in Object Explorer, choose Properties, and then select the Advanced page. The various levels are available as choices in the Filestream Access Level drop-down list, as shown in Figure 2.

Note

You can use either SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) inside Visual Studio or SSMS to set the access level, but only SSMS provides the ability to set it in the graphical user interface (GUI). Using SSDT, you can view the setting’s property from the SQL Server Object Explorer, but you can only change it by running the EXEC statement in a query window.

Selecting the FILESTREAM configuration level in SQL Server Management Studio.

Figure 2. Selecting the FILESTREAM configuration level in SQL Server Management Studio.

Other  
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