Azure Storage Services – which should I use?

Data is the backbone of any Cloud platform. From data disks on virtual machines to elastic data warehouses, storage is the platform which all of these sit on for ingestion, ETL, analytics and data aggregation for presentation through Business Intelligence (BI) tools.

26 January 2018

There are three primary types of Azure Storage which administrators will interact with; Blobs, Disks and Files.

 

Blobs

Blob Storage is the back end for many products which are used globally, such as Office 365, Xbox and other Microsoft services. Blob Storage is also the storage layer for many Platform as a Service (PaaS) Azure products such as Data Warehouse, where storage is separate from the computer layer. It’s perfect for app, web, backup, archive and most other types of data, depending on business requirements.

Blob Storage Accounts can be configured to be “Hot”, “Cool” or “Archive” (preview). The Hot tier is best for frequently accessed Blobs or accounts, Cool works well for data which is infrequently accessed as it offers lower storage costs, and the Archive tier should be selected for data which does not need to be accessed but still retained; for example, data kept for compliance purposes. The Archive tier provides the lowest cost, although Blobs have a rehydration period to return to the Cool or Hot tier. A use case for Blob Storage would be a storage account with web images or videos and a CDN configured with the account. This then provides a full content delivery network for the images/video, which can be linked on a website or application.

 

Disks

Disks are based on Blob Storage and provide a persistent OS/Data disk for Azure Virtual Machines (IaaS). For most production or I/O intensive workloads, Premium Disks based on SSDs are available, whilst for dev/test workloads or non-critical workloads HDDs are available. Both of these have performance constraints and provisioned IOPS & Throughput.

Managed Disks within Azure provide greater resiliency and availability for virtual machines placed inside of an availability set, as disks are guaranteed not to share the same storage per Virtual Machine. Disks within Azure are encrypted within the storage “stamp”, which protects against physical theft. Further protection can be added by utilising BitLocker or DMCrypt and Azure Key Vault.

 

Files

File storage within Azure gives a mountable SMB 2.1/3.0 share which can be mounted to IaaS Virtual Machines or on-premise servers. This can be used as a great method of shifting apps off premises which require a file share.

Here's an example of something we delivered for a customer as part of a wider project. Rather than using an (s)FTP server with multiple disks in RAID, we built two Linux IaaS VMs and Load Balanced them whilst using an Azure File Share as the back end. This system replaced an on-premise Windows VM using proprietary software.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of Azure storage, or how this and other Azure workloads are being used in other organisations, contact us for a FREE consultation at enquiries@gcicom.net.

 

Tom Cox
Cloud Technologist

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