Looking at Azure Storage – by Will Jones

Categories: Cloud Infrastructure
Tags: Microsoft Azure
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As a Cloud Infrastructure and Applications consultant at Vuzion, I’ve worked with Azure for the past three years, solving business challenges with IaaS and PaaS solutions.

In my last blog, The challenge of getting files into Azure, I wrote about solving a challenge around getting large amounts of data into Azure Storage. Today, I am going to dive a little further into what Azure Storage is.

Azure Storage is a cloud storage solution available in every Azure Region. One of the first services to come online in Azure, it has undergone some fairly big changes over the years.

When you provision a storage account within Azure, the first thing to do is choose the Storage Account type – General Purpose (Standard or Premium) or Blob Storage.

A General Purpose Standard Storage account supports storage of blobs, queues, tables and files. A Premium Storage account supports page blobs, and a Blob Storage account supports only block blobs and append blobs. However, you can move blobs between tiers of Hot, Cold and Archive.

Therefore, when you provision a storage account, you need to know what you will be storing. So, let me clarify what all these terms mean.

  • Blob stands for Binary-Large Object and there are three types.
  • A block blobs is essentially any file, such as a JPEG or Word document.
  • Page blobs are optimised for random read/write and are used for objects such as virtual hard disks.
  • Append blobs are optimised for writing data to the end of the blob such as log files.
  • Queues are for storing messages, generally for a process to drop files into and another process to pick up from.
  • Azure files are a storage account wrapped around an SMB file share, and can allow you to connect via the SMB protocol to read/write files.  
  • Tables are a form of NoSQL storage for key/attribute data storage, ideally used for flexible data sets, such as metric logging.

And finally, Standard Storage is hard disk backed storage and Premium is backed by SSD (solid state drive). 

If all of that is a bit overwhelming, let me give you some use cases:
You have a large number of financial documents that require storing for compliance reasons. You wish to ensure these documents are stored securely and can be accessed via an application for reading the documents. 

You would use Azure Blob storage. This account type stores blobs just like a General Purpose Blob account, but you can also move files between cold and archive storage, to save costs.

  1. You have a customised virtual machine hard disk file, that you use as a seed for all the virtual machines that you deploy. You want to use this for virtual machines you deploy in Azure.

  2. You would upload this image into a General Purpose Storage account as a page blob.

So, now you have an idea of which type of storage account you would want to provision.

In my next blog, I will be talking about protecting your data in a storage account, from security settings, to replication and backup.

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