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Azure Storage Options Explained

Azure Storage is a cloud service provided by Microsoft. It provides a secure, highly available, redundant and scalable cloud storage. Azure storage offers multiple options to store information like audio, video, images, sensor data or log files. In addition, Azure lets you easily access and analyze this information when needed.

There are four types of Azure storage, two storage account types, three file storage tiers, and four levels of data redundancy. This article explores each option in detail to help you figure out which offer suits your storage requirements.

Azure Storage Accounts

 

Azure storage account allows you to access all the components of the Azure storage domain. Users can choose the level of required flexibility and resilience and Azure takes care of the rest. You can store a maximum of 500 TB of data on a single storage account and leverage the pay-per-use pricing model.

Azure offers a few types of storage accounts. Each type has its own pricing model and provides different features. You have to determine the type of account that is best for your applications before creating a storage account. The list below reviews the different types of accounts.

  • General-purpose v1 accounts—legacy storage for files, blobs, tables and queues. 
  • General-purpose v2 accounts—basic storage for files, blobs, tables and queues. Recommended for most Azure Storage scenarios.
  • FileStorage accounts—premium performance storage for files. Recommended for high performance applications or enterprise storage.
  • BlockBlobStorage accounts—premium performance storage for blobs. Recommended for low storage latency, high transaction rates, small objects, or constant quiring scenarios.
  • BlobStorage accounts—legacy storage for blobs only. Prefer using General-purpose v2 accounts instead when possible.

Azure Blob Storage

 

Binary Large Objects (Blob) storage is Microsoft’s object storage service. It’s ideal for large amounts of unstructured data, which does not comply with any other data model or definition, such as images, text, video or binary data. 

Blobs are stored in containers, which are a directory-like storage structure. Users can leverage blob storage to get data consistency, access and storage flexibility, and also high availability by using geo-replication.

Blob storage is used for:

  • Video and audio streaming
  • Delivering documents or images directly to a browser
  • Creating log files
  • Storing data for analysis
  • Storing data for archiving, backup, disaster recovery, and restore.

Azure provides 3 Blob storage tier types that you can select while creating an account:

  • Cool Access Tier—suitable for cases when data is stored for a minimum of 30 days and is not regularly accessed. 
  • Hot Access Tier—suitable for cases when data is accessed frequently. Unlike Cool Access Tiers, hot tier offers higher costs of storage and lower access costs.
  • Archive Access Tier—for data that is stored for a minimum of 180 days and is barely accessed. Archive Access Tiers offer higher data access latency and data retrieval costs. 

Azure Table Storage

 

Table Storage is a service that stores large amounts of structured NoSQL data in Azure. It is based on a schemaless design, and each table has rows that are comprised of key-value pairs. 

You can use table storage to store adjustable datasets like address books, web application user data, device information, or any other type of metadata. The table storage is limited by the capacity limit of the account. Additionally, Azure Table Storage allows developers to build applications in the cloud without schema lock-downs. 

Azure Table Storage is useful when you have to store terabytes of data while keeping low storage costs. Another scenario is when you need to include disaster recovery in your strategy or have to store up to 500 TB without sharding logic implementation.

Azure File Storage (AFS)

 

Azure Files is a public cloud file storage service that allows you to access cloud-native Server Message Block (SMB) file shares. You can set these shares as part of the Azure storage account. AFS provides a way for virtual machines application running on cloud to share files by using standard protocols like Readfile or WriteFile.

Here’s a review of different scenarios for using AFS:

  • Cloud migration of a system that requires file shares using the lift and shift approach. Azure File system allows you to configure a shared storage drive without creating a specialized virtual machine to deal with workloads of file sharing.
  • Simplifying development in the cloud by setting up a shared resource for sysadmins and developers.
  • A central resource for monitoring logs and config files.

Here’s a list of Azure Files benefits:

  • Management—to create a shared file, all you have to do is log into your storage account and generate a new file share process.
  • Secure storage—files are encrypted using HTTPS and the Server Message Block (SBM) protocol.
  • Support—the SMB protocol is supported natively by many tools, libraries andOS APIs.
  • Scalability—you can choose between a 5 TB of storage option or 100 TB in the premium tier.
  • Access—SMB and REST protocols allow you to access data from anywhere. Azure Files offers a way to share files with on-premise systems by creating a local cache and providing local access through protocols such as FTPS, NFS and SMB. This sort of synchronization enables users to get highly-available access to their files.

Azure Queue Storage

 

Azure provides persistent and reliable messaging between services. Those messages are stored in the Azure Storage Queues service. Messages can be arrays of bytes or text strings containing any type of information in formats like CSV or XML. A message size can be up to 64 KB and it can stay in a queue up to 7 days. A single queue can store up to 200 TB of messages. 

Furthermore, queues allow users to receive incoming information and process it when possible. To illustrate, imagine a scenario where an eCommerce website user places over 50 items in the shopping cart, during peak times. The order information is processed and stored in the database. If a queue is not generated, this situation can create a bottle-neck and knock down the entire website.  

Queues offer a fault-tolerant mechanism that ensures all of these orders are stored for a limited period of time, and then get executed according to the system bandwidth. This way you can ensure that each item in the queue receives attention.

Conclusion

 

Azure offers a lot of great storage options for developing an application, database solutions, data analytics systems or data warehouses. Cloud storage environments allow you to store, ingest and manage your data more easily. Hopefully, this post has helped you understand all the different cloud storage options on Azure.

 

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Author Bio

 

 

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.

 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/giladdavidmaayan/

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