One of the most important offerings that is part of Microsoft Azure, is Azure storage. Azure storage provides various storage options, that are used in different Azure services. Azure storage can be used to store virtual harddisk of virtual machines, can be appointed as a backup target or can be used as a store just to save files. Azure storage can also be used for queuing, and provides nosql storage options. In this article I will have a closer look at the various options Azure storage provides.
Azure storage types
First of all, it’s good to remember that Azure offers different types of storage, that are:
- Blob storage: used to store binary files (pictures, documents) and virtual harddisks;
- Files: storage that has the SMB 3.0 protocol in front of it, this type storage can provide an SMB share that can be mounted by servers and/or clients;
- Queues: Queues is a messaging queue service. You can put this queue service in front of a cloud service or website, the application pulls of messages from the queue.
- Tables: A table is a nosql datastore, this is structured data (key/value pairs) and allows rapid access to structured data.
Queues and tables are more used in PaaS environments, while blog and files storage is more of an IaaS solution. Of course there’s some overlap, but you’ll get the point.
Azure replication options
Azure storage offers different options in terms of replication, this is the layer underneath the storage type. We have:
- LRS or locally-redundant storage which will maintain three copies of data on separate nodes, within the same facility;
- ZRS or zone-redundant storage, which means data will be replicated to two or three facilities within the same region or accross regions;
- GRS or geo-redundant storage, which will maintain six copies of your data, replicated across different regions with a geographical dispersion of several hundreds of kilometers (for example between Amsterdam and Dublin);
- RA-GRS or read-access geo-redundant storage, which will maintain six copies of your data, replicated accross different regions with the read/write access to the primary site and read-only access to the secondary site.
Storage account and data access
All storage types are linked to a storage account. You can create different storage accounts within your Azure subscription. Each storage account can contain different storage types. Your storage account and underlying storage containers are internet accessible, for example through https://<account>.blob.core.windows.net/<container> for blob storage or https://<account>.table.core.windows.net/<table> for table storage.
Depending on the setting (private for private storage, blob for read access, container for read/list access) your data will (or not) be publicly available. Read/write access is granted through access keys. The combination storage account name and one of the access keys is required to get full access to the storage. If you want to connect an application to Azure Storage you have to provide the storage account name and an access key. There are two access keys available, if you want to replace/regenerate a key you can seamlessly update your applications.
Note that you don’t necessarily need a VPN/direct connect connection into Azure to access your data. The URL is enough, of course depending on the use case.
Moving data to or from Azure
There are various options to move data to or from Azure storage. AzCopy for example is a command line tool for copying date to or from Azure, the tool can also be used to copy data within a storage account or across storage accounts. With Azure Powershell you can also access your storage, you also use the Azure CLI.
Another tool that I personally like is the Microsoft Azure Storage Explorer. With Azure Storage Explorer you get a Norton commander like interface to access the data in your Azure storage account. Just provide your storage account and the access key and you can browse your storage account(s).
With the tool you can copy, rename, move files around your storage account as well as upload or download files. Azure storage explorer is a very powerful solution, which certainly worth to take a look at!
I hope this was helpful for you, you can leave any comments below.