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Azure Storage Types: Pricing, Features & More

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18th Sep, 2023
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Azure Storage Types: Pricing, Features & More

Azure Storage is a cloud-based storage service provided by Microsoft. It is a fundamental component of many Azure storage services and applications and is designed to handle a wide range of data storage needs for businesses and developers.

In this blog, you will gain a thorough understanding of the diverse types of Azure Storage models, dissect their Azure Storage pricing structures, and uncover their wealth of features.

About Azure Storage Account

The Azure Storage account is a fundamental and versatile cloud storage service provided by Microsoft Azure, designed to store and manage a wide range of data types, from structured to unstructured data. 

What is an Azure Storage Account?

Azure comes with two distinct types of storage accounts: General Purpose v2 (GPv2) Storage Accounts and Blob storage accounts. Choosing the appropriate storage account type is important based on your application requirements. 

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Types of Azure Storage Account

  • General Purpose v2 (GPv2) Storage Accounts: GPv2 storage accounts are versatile and can handle a wide range of data types and workloads, making them the default choice for many Azure applications. 
  • Blob Storage Accounts: Blob Storage Accounts are specialised for storing large amounts of unstructured data, such as documents, images, videos, and backups. 

Comparison of Azure Storage Account Types

Storage Account TypeGeneral Purpose v2Azure Blob Storage
Primary Use CaseVersatile storage for various data typesSpecialised for blob data
Performance TiersStandard and Premium optionsOptimised for cost-effective blob storage
Replication OptionsLRS, GRS, ZRS, GZRSLRS, GRS, ZRS
Access Tiers (Blob Storage)Hot and CoolHot and Cool
Blob VersioningSupported for blob dataSupported for blob data
Lifecycle ManagementSupports automation for data managementSupports automation for blob data
Cost FlexibilitySuitable for diverse workloadsCost-effective for blob storage

More About Azure Storage Types

Microsoft Azure Storage offers various storage services, each optimised for specific use cases. Each of these Azure Storage types serves specific use cases, and choosing the right one depends on your application’s requirements for data storage, access patterns, scalability, and cost considerations.

Azure Block Blobs

Azure Block Blobs (Binary Large Objects) are designed for storing large amounts of unstructured data, such as documents, images, videos, and backup files. They are highly scalable and suitable for scenarios requiring efficient streaming and random access to data.

Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2

Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 combines the capabilities of Azure Blob storage and Azure Data Lake Storage Gen1. This type of Azure data storage supports hierarchical file systems and integrates with various analytics and data processing tools.

Azure Managed Disks

Managed Disks is a form of Azure disk storage used for simplifying disk management by handling tasks like replication, scalability, and backups. 

Azure Files

Azure Files provides fully managed file shares accessed via the Server Message Block (SMB) or Network File System (NFS) protocol. It is suitable for storing shared application data, configuration files, and user home directories. 

Azure Page Blobs

Azure Page Blobs are designed for efficient random read/write operations and are commonly used as the underlying storage for virtual machine disks. 

Azure Table Storage

Azure Table storage is a NoSQL data store that provides a schema-less way to store structured data. It is well-suited for applications that require fast and scalable access to semi-structured or tabular data, such as IoT telemetry, user profiles, and session state.

Azure Queue Storage

Azure Queue storage offers a simple and reliable way to decouple and scale different parts of your application, helping you build more resilient and responsive systems.

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Microsoft Azure Blob Storage

Azure Blob Storage, provided by Microsoft Azure, is a cloud-native object storage solution designed for storing and handling unstructured data like files, images, videos, and backups.

Azure Blob Storage Use case

Azure Blob Storage is versatile and serves a wide range of use cases, including:-

  • Storing and serving media assets
  • Data backup and disaster recovery
  • Long-term data archiving
  • Big data analytics
  • Web and mobile application data

Azure Blob Storage Pricing

Azure Blob Storage pricing is based on data storage, transfer, and access tier. Some key pricing considerations include:

  • Data storage costs are based on usage
  • Data transfer costs may apply to data movement
  • Three access tiers with varying costs

Hot Access Tiers

Suitable for frequently accessed data. Provides low-latency access to data.Higher storage costs but lower data retrieval costs than Cool and Archive tiers.

Cool Access Tiers

Designed for infrequently accessed data that doesn’t require immediate access. Lower storage costs compared to the Hot tier but slightly higher data retrieval costs.

Archive Access Tiers

Ideal for long-term data archival where data access is rare and latency is not critical. Lowest storage costs but the highest data retrieval costs and longer retrieval times (hours).

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Azure Storage Files

Azure Storage Files provides scalable and highly available file shares that can be accessed from anywhere and is particularly useful for organisations looking to share and manage files across cloud and on-premises environments.

Azure Storage File Use case

  • Shared file storage: Storing files for concurrent access by users or applications
  • Application data: Hosting shared app data and configs
  • User home directories: Providing remote user home directories
  • Content sharing: Distributing media and docs among teams or externally

Azure Blob Storage vs File Storage

FeatureAzure Blob StorageAzure File Storage
Data TypeUnstructured data (blobs)Structured file data (shares)
Access ProtocolsREST API, SDKs, HTTP/HTTPSSMB (Windows), NFS (Linux)
Use CasesObject storage, media, backupsFile sharing, application data
Hierarchical NamespaceNoYes
Access ControlRole-based SAS tokensAzure AD, shared access signatures
VersioningYesNo (at the file level)
Data Tiers (Hot/Cool/Archive)YesNo
Maximum File SizeLimited (depends on API version)1 TiB (with Premium file shares)
File LockingNot directly supportedYes (SMB protocol)

Azure File Share Pricing

  • Storage Costs: Pay for data storage (GB/month)
  • Data Transfer: Costs for data in/out
  • Operations: Charges based on operations (e.g., reads, writes).
  • Premium vs. Standard: Premium offers higher performance at a higher cost than Standard

Azure Storage Queues

Azure Storage Queues enables asynchronous communication between different components of a distributed application, allowing for decoupling and scalability while ensuring reliable message delivery.

Azure Storage Queues Use case

  • Decoupling: Allows components to communicate without tight coupling
  • Load Balancing: Distributes workloads across multiple instances
  • Scheduled Tasks: Supports deferred task execution
  • Event Handling: Processes messages in response to events
  • Workflow Management: Manages multi-step workflows

Azure Storage Queue properties

  • Messages: Contains data for delivery
  • Peek-Lock: Retrieves messages without immediate removal
  • Visibility Timeout: Message invisibility duration
  • Message TTL: Maximum message retention
  • Durability: High data durability
  • Scalability: Auto-scales for varying workloads

Azure Storage Queue Pricing

  • Storage Costs: Pay for data storage
  • Operations: Charge per queue operation
  • Data Transfer: Costs for data in/out
  • Message Size: Pricing is based on message size
  • Request and Capacity: Varies by performance tier and request type

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Azure Table Storage

Azure Table Storage is a NoSQL data store in Microsoft Azure designed to store structured data in a highly scalable and distributed manner.

Azure Table Storage Use case

  • Structured Data: Stores structured data like IoT telemetry
  • Scalable Apps: Supports scalable data access
  • Querying: Enables data querying and indexing
  • Session Management: Manages user session states

Azure Table Storage Pricing

Azure Table Storage’s pricing model is based on the amount of data you store, operations, and the data transfers involved. It offers cost-effective scalability for applications with structured data needs.

Pricing for Data Storage

You pay for the amount of data stored in Azure Table Storage, typically measured in gigabytes (GB) per month.

Pricing for Operations and Data Transferring

Charges are based on the number of read, write, and delete operations performed on the data. Costs may also apply for data transferred in and out of Azure Table Storage. Pricing varies based on data transfer type (e.g., in/out of Azure, across regions).

Azure Disk Storage

Azure Disk Storage is designed to provide scalable and high-performance block storage for virtual machines and other resources in the Azure cloud environment.

Azure Disk Storage Use case

  • VM Disks: Used for attaching disks to Azure VMs for OS, apps, and data storage
  • Database Storage: Serves as storage for databases on Azure VMs
  • Data Redundancy: Supports redundancy (e.g., LRS, ZRS, GRS) for data reliability
  • Workload Scaling: Scales storage to meet changing workloads for any application
  • Data Backup: Stores data backups for disaster recovery and compliance

Azure Disk Pricing

  • Disk Size: Charged based on provisioned disk size (GB)
  • Disk Type: Costs vary by type (HDD, SSD, Premium SSD, Ultra SSD)
  • Redundancy: The choice of data redundancy (e.g., LRS, ZRS, GRS) affects pricing
  • Operations: Extra costs for read-and-write operations
  • Data Transfer: This may incur costs for moving data to and from Azure Disk Storage

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Azure Storage Account Encryption

What is Azure Storage Account Encryption?

Azure Storage Account Encryption is a security feature that helps protect data stored in Azure Blob Storage, Azure Files, Azure Queue Storage, and Azure Table Storage. It ensures that data at rest is encrypted to safeguard it from unauthorised access.

Key Management Options for Azure Storage Encryption

  • Microsoft-Managed Keys (SSE): Azure handles encryption keys, offers automatic key rotation, and simplifies management. Default for Azure Storage encryption.
  • Customer-Managed Keys (SSE-CMK): Customers control encryption keys, enabling key management tasks like rotation, revocation, and auditing for enhanced security and compliance.

Azure Storage Data Redundancy Options

  • LRS (Locally Redundant Storage): Data replicated within a data centre to guard against hardware failures. Cost-effective redundancy.
  • GRS (Geo-Redundant Storage): Data copied to a remote secondary region for extreme durability and availability during region-wide issues.
  • ZRS (Zone-Redundant Storage): Data replicated across availability zones within a region, ensuring high availability and protection against data centre failures.

Redundancy Options vs Azure Storage Account

AspectRedundancy OptionsAzure Storage Accounts
PurposeData replication for durability and availability.Comprehensive storage management and data access.
FocusPrimarily data replication.Encompasses storage, access control, security, and service management.
Replication ScopeLRS, GRS, and ZRS options.Manages Azure storage services and spans regions.
Data Center and RegionAddresses data centre or regional redundancy.Manages storage accounts, often spanning multiple regions.
Key ConsiderationFocuses on data protection.Concerned with storage, data, and service management.
Primary UsageData durability and high availability.Diverse storage and service management capabilities.

Azure Storage Billing

Azure Storage Billing refers to the overall cost of using Azure Storage services, including Blob Storage, File Storage, Table Storage, Queue Storage, and Disk Storage.

Azure Storage Account Billing

Azure Storage Account Billing includes the costs associated with a specific Azure Storage Account, comprising various storage services, data transfer, and related operations.

Best Practices to Optimise Using Azure Storage

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Here are some recommended best practices for optimising Azure Storage usage:

  • Right Account Type: Choose the right storage account type
  • Access Tiers: Use access tiers (Hot, Cool, Archive)
  • Redundancy: Select the right replication option
  • Managed Disks: Use managed disks for VMs
  • Lifecycle Policies: Implement data lifecycle policies
  • Blob Performance: Optimise Blob Storage performance
  • Security: Implement Azure AD and SAS tokens
  • Monitoring and Alerts: Set up monitoring and alerts
  • Encryption: Enable encryption at rest
  • Versioning: Use blob versioning
  • Cross-Region Replication: Consider for critical data
  • Clean Up: Remove unused resources
  • Cost optimisation: Adjust access tiers and redundancy
  • Backup and DR: Implement backup and disaster recovery
  • Documentation and Compliance: Maintain documentation and compliance records

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Conclusion

Understanding the different forms of Azure Storage is pivotal for harnessing the full potential of Microsoft Azure’s cloud capabilities. As addressed in this blog, each storage type offers specific features tailored to diverse data management needs. 

A general idea of each storage type, features, and pricing structure empowers businesses and developers to make informed decisions. It additionally helps optimise data storage, retrieval, and management strategies, ultimately leading to more efficient, cost-effective, and scalable solutions.

Profile

Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1Who uses Azure cloud storage?

Organisations and businesses of all sizes use Azure cloud storage to securely store, manage, and access their data in the cloud.

2How to initiate an Azure Storage Explorer download?

To initiate an Azure Storage Explorer download, visit the official Microsoft website or download it directly from the Azure portal.

3How to use the Azure storage pricing calculator?

To use the Azure storage pricing calculator, go to the Azure website, navigate to the pricing calculator tool, and input your storage configuration details to estimate costs.