What Is Azure Files?
Azure Files is an Azure File Storage service you can use to create a file share in the cloud. It is based on the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol and enables you to access files remotely or on-premises via API through encrypted communications. Azure Files is a cloud storage service designed for sharing files, development or debugging tools, and applications that rely on native file systems.
With Azure Files, you can create and manage your file shares using the built-in UI, through the Azure CLI or PowerShell. Each file share is limited to 5TB but you can operate multiple shares.
Related content: read our guide to smb file sharing
In this article, you will learn about:
- What Is Azure Files?
- Azure Files Use Cases
- Azure Files Pricing
- Azure File Storage Pros and Cons
- Azure Files: Quick Deployment Guide
- Optimized Azure File Storage with NetApp Azure Files
Azure Files Use Cases
Azure Files is a flexible file service that allows for many use cases. It is commonly used for:
- File servers—you can use Azure Files to replace network attached storage (NAS) or on-premises file systems. By adding on Azure File Sync, you can replicate data to your on-premises locations for distributed caching and increased performance.
- Lift and shift migration— Azure Files enables you to migrate applications and data “as-is” by supporting current protocols. You can move either data, applications, or both.
- Application shares—you can configure Azure Files as a centralized file share for application data and configuration files. However, this method only supports SMB access.
- Monitoring and analytics—Azure Files enables you to centralize metrics and log files for ingestion by monitoring and analytics tools. This provides redundancy for monitoring and troubleshooting data.
- Development and testing—you can use Azure Files to create a centralized repository for code or utilities used during testing and development. Centralization supports collaboration and ensures standardization.
Azure Files Pricing
When developing your Azure Files budget, you should consider the role that the following factors play in pricing:
- How much data you’re storing
- How long you’re storing data for
- How frequently you’re reading or writing data
- What level of data redundancy you’re using
- Which storage tier you’re using
The two largest factors on your cost are your redundancy and your storage tier. Redundancy is available in three variations—locally redundant storage (LRS), zone redundant storage (ZRS), and globally redundant storage (GRS). As the distribution of your redundant copies increases, so do your costs.
Additionally, if you use LRS, you also have the option of choosing the premium storage tier. This tier provides higher performance and uses provisioned resources rather than on-demand. Unlike the normal tier, all data operations are included in the cost of provisioning.
The table below shows pricing for the US West 2 region to give you an idea of costs. To see details for more regions and configurations, visit the official pricing page.
|Redundancy Option||Normal Tier (per GB/month)*||Premium Tier (per GB/month)|
$0.24 for regular storage$0.20 for snapshots
* This cost is in addition to the cost of operations, which start at:
- $0.0188 for 10,000 put or create ops
- $0.015 for list ops
- $0.0015 for all other ops (except delete, which is free)
- $0.0 for geo-replication data transfers
Azure File Storage Pros and Cons
The primary benefit of Azure Files is its familiarity. Most users are already comfortable working with traditional file systems and can easily transition to Azure Files.
Below are some additional pros of using Azure Files:
- Fully managed service—management and maintenance tasks are handled for you, eliminating overhead.
- Shared access—since it is based on SMB it is broadly compatible with most on-premises applications and services. This means you can easily migrate applications and share across distributed teams.
- Redundancy—data stored in Azure Files is 99.999999999% durable and is automatically replicated to prevent loss due to resource failure.
- Easy automation—Azure Files is compatible with most common automation tools and can be managed through a variety of interfaces, including PowerShell, Azure CLI, Azure Storage Explorer, and Azure Portal.
- Easy APIs—includes a built-in REST API and client libraries for simplified interfacing and integration with other services.
While Azure Files can provide numerous benefits, it also has limitations that you should be aware of. These limitations are most relevant for larger enterprises or those managing large volumes of data.
Below are some important limitations of Azure Files:
- Security and access—to access files you must share your account key with users. This means users have access to your entire storage account. Additionally, files can be accessed externally via a UNC path and your key. You cannot block this access.
- Backup—Azure Files does not include a built-in mechanism for snapshots or automatic backups. To ensure that data is recoverable in case of accidental deletion or user error, you need to perform backups manually.
- Performance—throughput is limited to 60MB/s on the standard tier. The premium tier offers higher limits but may cost significantly more.
- Size limitations—you can only store up to 5TB per standard storage account and up to 100TB spread across 20 accounts. The premium tier can scale up to 100TB per account but may cost significantly more.
- File system limitations—individual files are limited to 1TB. You can store up to 200k system objects per account and file names can be up to 255 characters. These limitations primarily present issues for legacy migrations.
Azure Files: Quick Deployment Guide
Deploying data to your Azure Files file share is relatively easy, with three main methods supported by the service.
Azure File Sync
Azure File Sync is a service that you can use to centralize the maintenance of file shares while maintaining the compatibility, performance, and flexibility of on-premises servers. You can use this service to cache file share files on your Windows Server resource and sync changes back to Azure Files. This means you retain local access to files, and can easily upload new files as needed.
Robocopy is a tool that comes by default with Windows Server and Windows OS. You can use this tool to transfer file data to Azure Files by mounting your file share and setting it as the copy destination in Robocopy.
Using Robocopy works as follows:
- Mount your file share on a local PC or the server that your data is stored on. The latter is preferable for faster copy time. The command to mount should look something like the following:
net use <destinationDrive>: \\<storageAccount>.file.core.windows.net\<shareName> <storageKey> /user:Azure\<storageAccount>
- You can then use Robocopy to transfer your files with a command similar to:
robocopy <localPath> <fileSharePath> /E /Z /MT:32
AzCopy is a tool designed for multiple Azure storage services that you can also use with Azure Files. To use this utility you must first download it from Microsoft or import it with a package manager.
To use AzCopy:
When using Windows, you can use a command like the following in your preferred CLI:
azcopy /Source:<localPath> /Dest:https://<storageAccount>.file.core.windows.net/<shareName>/ /DestKey:<storageKey> /S
When using Linux, the command should look something like this:
azcopy --source <localPath> --destination https://<storageAccount>.file.core.windows.net/<shareName>/ --dest-key <storageKey> --recursive
Optimized Azure File Storage with Azure NetApp Files
Azure NetApp Files is another file storage alternative from Microsoft Azure built on NetApp technology, giving you enterprise file share capabilities that can support even your core business applications.
Get enterprise-grade data management and storage to Azure so you can manage your workloads and applications with ease, and move all of your file-based applications to the cloud.
Azure NetApp Files solves availability and performance challenges for enterprises that want to move mission-critical applications to the cloud, including workloads like HPC, SAP, Linux, Oracle and SQL Server workloads, Windows Virtual Desktop, and more.
Want to get started? See Azure NetApp Files for yourself with a free demo.
Learn More About Azure Files
Read more in our series of guides about Azure Files and file storage on the Azure cloud.
Migrating databases to cloud? Here is why you should consider Azure NetApp Files
When moving operations to the cloud, moving databases can present a challenge. You need to be able to transfer data securely, often while keeping databases live and in sync. Database compatibility and robust, native tooling can make this process much easier.
In this article you’ll learn about the benefits of cloud databases for enterprises, how you can manage databases in Azure, and how to deploy database workloads in Azure.
Overcome Windows File Share Challenges in the Cloud
Transferring file systems to the cloud is essential for lift and shift migrations. It is also an easy way to transition users to the cloud since most are already familiar with the structure of file shares. To help simplify this process, NetApp partnered with Azure to offer Azure NetApp Files, a fully managed service for SMB file shares.
In this article you’ll learn the differences between Azure NetApp Files and Windows File Sharing, how to set up file shares in Azure NetApp Files, the benefits of snapshots for protecting your data, and some additional benefits of Azure NetApp Files.
Azure NetApp Files + Shared Services Model: A Conduit for Transformation
One of the benefits of cloud-based file shares is the ability to collaborate across departments. These shares make it easier for IT to manage data and ensure that users have access when they need it.
In this article you’ll learn how file shares are being used in the cloud, the role that automation plays, and how cloud-based file shares can significantly increase your productivity and decrease wait times.
A CEO Speaks: Why Azure NetApp Files Delivers Better Cloud Transformation
The decision to move to the cloud can provide significant opportunities and growth for an organization. However, when transitioning, you need to have the right tools to ensure that your migration is efficient and cost effective.
In this article you’ll learn how cloud services add value to your operations, the specific benefits Azure can offer, and how Azure NetApp Files can provide superior performance during and after migration.
Benefits of Native Cloud File Services for File Shares
A significant portion of enterprise operations rely on file data, either on-premises or in the cloud. Finding fast solutions for file shares on any platform are essential to growing your operations, particularly when moving to a hybrid or cloud environment.
In this article you’ll learn what the benefits of cloud native file shares are.
Cloud Native Batch Processing Just Got 6x Faster with Azure NetApp Files
Azure NetApp Files is a natively supported partner designed to make the transfer and storage of your data easier. Through built-in integration, you can manage your data and services smoothly and reliably.
In this article you’ll learn how to perform faster batch processing with Azure NetApp Files.
Solving File Services Challenges: Migration and Synchronization
Understanding the challenges you're likely to face during a cloud migration can help you plan ahead and reduce complications.
In this article you’ll learn about migration challenges related to migration and synchronization.
See Our Additional Guides on Key Cloud Storage Topics
We have authored in-depth guides on several other topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of cloud storage.
File shares support some of the most important workloads that enterprise businesses rely on, and the resources of the public cloud have created interesting new possibilities. Every major public cloud provider now offers its own cloud file sharing service, each with its own target workloads and considerations. But not every enterprise will find what they’re looking for in a fully managed, all-cloud service.
See top articles in our cloud file sharing guide:
- File Share Service Challenges in the Cloud
- Cloud File Sharing Services: Open-Source Solutions
- Cloud Availability Nightmares and How to Avoid Them in Cloud File Sharing
Multicloud strategies are becoming more popular as organizations seek to optimize their cloud services and deployments. These strategies can help you prevent vendor lock-in, increase your flexibility, and help you optimize costs.
This guide explains what multicloud storage is, how it works, what it’s used for, the core requirements for this storage, and how Cloud Volumes ONTAP supports it.
See top articles in our multicloud storage guide:
- One Cloud Out of Many: Why Enterprises Are Turning to Multicloud and Hybrid Cloud Architectures
- Multicloud Architecture: Partitioned, Cloud Burst and DR
- Multicloud Deployment: Creating a Plan With Cloud Volumes ONTAP
AWS offers a range of database services and support to try and meet all its clients needs. Many of these services are fully managed to help reduce your IT workload and enable you to store and use data as simply as possible.
This guide explains what AWS database support is available, what database services are available, and how you can migrate your databases to AWS.
See top articles in our AWS database services guide:
- AWS Database as a Service: DBaaS Types and Case Studies
- SQL Server in AWS: Managed Service vs Managed Storage
- AWS Oracle RDS: Running Your First Oracle Database on Amazon
Snapshots are a common method for natively backing up cloud data and services. This method enables you to save point in time backups which can be restored when needed.
This guide explains what types of storage snapshots are available, what AWS snapshots are, and how to use AWS snapshots.
See top articles in our AWS snapshots guide:
- Azure and AWS Snapshots Deep Dive: Cloud Volumes Snapshots
- Snapshots Deep Dive: AWS Snapshots and Azure Snapshots
- Understanding AWS Snapshot Pricing: Data Transfer and Storage Costs
Azure provides a wide variety of services to its users to help you manage your cloud data and services reliably. Azure Backup is one such service that can help provide data loss protection and peace of mind.
This guide explains what Azure Backup is and how to use it to backup your Azure data.
See top articles in our Azure Backup guide:
- Storage Options for Lower Azure Storage Costs and Azure Backup Costs
- The 5 Enterprise-Grade Azure Features You Need to Know About: Azure Backup, Security, and More
- Using Azure Backup Server to Backup Workloads and Files to Azure
Storing file data in Azure is simple through Azure File Storage service. This service enables you to store files across cloud and on-premises resources, enabling you to flexibly and securely share data and workflows.
This guide explains what Azure File Storage is, common use cases for Files, management concepts and components of the service, how data is accessed and the architecture of the service, and some best practices for securing your data.
See top articles in our Azure file storage guide:
Google Cloud offers a variety of storage options for you to choose from. These services form the base of many other services in the cloud and understanding what your options are can help you manage your cloud more efficiently.
This guide explains what Google Cloud Storage options exist and their common uses.
See top articles in our Google Cloud storage guide:
- Cloud File Sharing Services: Google Cloud Filestore
- Google Cloud Storage Encryption: Key Management in Google Cloud
- Google Cloud Storage Pricing: Get the Best Bang for Your Buckets
Google Cloud’s specialty is flexibility and integration of services and this extends to its database services. In Google Cloud you have a wide variety of database deployments, models, and support to choose from.
This guide explains your options for deploying databases in the cloud, what Google Cloud database services are available, and how to choose the right service for you.
See top articles in our Google Cloud database guide:
- Google Cloud SQL: MySQL, Postgres and MS SQL on Google Cloud
- SQL Server on Google Cloud: Managed Service Vs. Managed Storage
- Google Cloud SQL Pricing, Quotas, and Limits: A Cheatsheet for Cost Optimization
Software developers and DevOps engineers are packaging applications into lightweight units called containers. Kubernetes helps manage and scale containers across clusters of physical machines.
In this environment, Kubernetes storage becomes a significant challenge. By default, containers are ephemeral, meaning that any transient data on the container is lost when it shuts down. However, Kubernetes provides several options for persistent storage.
See top articles in our Kubernetes guide:
- An Introduction to Kubernetes
- Understanding Kubernetes Persistent Volume Provisioning
- Kubernetes Persistent Storage: Why, Where and How
Learn the basics of storing data in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon’s first cloud service and still one of its most popular.