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What Is Microsoft Azure Files: The Essential Guide

Microsoft Azure is more than just a file storage and cloud computing platform. Rather, it is designed to facilitate software development, big data analysis, and cloud server deployment. Microsoft Azure enables you to build, deploy, and manage services and applications. Moreover, it can seamlessly manage videos, documents, and databases for analytics. 

It comes with a simple and secure cloud file share solution called Azure Files. The solution enables businesses to remove file share infrastructure from in-house data centres without compromising user experience.

Azure Files service can be mounted concurrently by cloud or on-premises deployments and offers fully managed file shares. It is a reliable, secure, and serverless enterprise-grade service that can help organisations eliminate file share infrastructure from internal data centres.

What Is Azure Files?

Azure Files in Microsoft Azure cloud is a fully managed file share service. The files and applications present in this platform are accessible via the industry standard REST API, Server Message Block (SMB) protocol, and Network File System (NFS) protocol. Once deployed, the SMB file shares are accessible from Linux, Windows, and macOS clients.

Key Features

Millions of organisations around the world use this platform in their routine processes. It allows them to manage and share files among several machines. Here are some of its key features:

Easily “lift and shift” applications

You can easily move file applications to the cloud. It gives you full control of how you want the file share to store file applications or user data. In the “classic” scenario, you can move the application and its data to Azure. 

While in the “hybrid” scenario, only the application data is moved to Azure Files while the application is still running on-premises.

Simplify Cloud Development Projects

This service can be used to simplify new cloud development projects through the following features:

  • When working on VMs in the cloud, administrators, and developers won’t have to copy tools to each VM. They can quickly access the required tools and utilities mounted on the platform.
  • With the File REST API, applications can write their logs, metrics, and crash dumps in Azure File share. This facilitates the cloud development process by enabling greater flexibility for the developers.
  • Distributed applications allow many application instances to access the configuration files that are stored in a centralised location.

Containerisation

It supports the shared file system, which can be used as a persistent volume for stateful containers that mainly run on the “build once, run anywhere” principle. This allows the developers to accelerate innovation by enabling them to run the applications regardless of the instance.

Major Benefits

You won’t have to deal with network issues and local power outages using this platform for file shares in your organisation. It reduces reliance on traditional network-attached storage (NAS) devices or on-premises file servers.

Easy to Use

Once Azure file share is mounted on your computer, anyone with basic computer knowledge can access, open, and modify the files.

To help the administrators with scripting and tooling, you can use Azure Storage Explorer and Azure portal.

Fully Managed

There is no need to manage hardware or the OS to create Azure file shares. It is a serverless enterprise-grade service that provides maximum security using Azure storage service encryption (SSE).

Accessibility

By using the Share Access Signature (SAS), you can access your files from anywhere in the world. SMB Azure file shares can be cached on Windows servers for much faster access through Azure File Sync

Key Considerations for Implementing Azure Files

Thanks to services like Azure File Sync and Storage Migration Service, you can seamlessly migrate your Windows file server to this service. The key considerations for implementing this service are networking, available protocols, and your chosen deployment mode.

Deployment Method

There are two main ways of deploying this service. Firstly, you can use Azure File Sync to cache Azure file shares on-premises. Alternatively, you can directly mount the serverless Azure file shares.

Available Protocols

It can be mounted using the Network File System (NFS) protocol or Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. You should choose the protocol that best fits the needs and requirements of your organisation.

Network Configuration

When using the NFS protocol, you must restrict the network to specified virtual networks using service/private endpoints. In the case of SMB protocol, there is no need for networking configuration. This is as long as the access is from all the clients in Azure. 

However, your internal network should use private endpoints if the access is from clients on-premises. Hence, you need an ExpressRoute or a VPN connection to access the network.

Conclusion

Azure Files simplifies the migration of file servers to Microsoft Azure Cloud. It is an efficient service offering fully managed file shares that can assist businesses in steering clear of their internal data centre file sharing infrastructure.

For any assistance regarding Azure Files for your business, contact our Azure Specialists today!

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