Understanding Premium Azure File Storage

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Companies need to store their data in a way that can be accessible and protected. To achieve this, many organizations are migrating their workloads to the cloud. One of the top cloud storage providers, Microsoft Azure, provides highly available and scalable storage services.

Recently, the Premium tier of Azure File Storage has become generally available. This provides added high-performance storage for companies working with large or highly variable workloads. Read on to learn more about Premium File Storage and tips and tips to choose a cloud storage solution.

What Is Azure Premium File Storage?

Azure File Storage (AFS) is one of Azure’s fully managed cloud storage services. AFS uses the Server Message Block Protocol (SMB). This protocol allows server administrators to easily access file shares in the Azure cloud.

File shares can be mounted on Windows, Linux or Mac systems using the SMB. Another interesting feature is that you can share files among applications running on Virtual Machines (VM).

AFS serves as a central shared resource for installing applications. Developers can benefit from this capability, as it streamlines deployments. Other benefits of Azure File Storage include:

  • Easy to use—the interface of AFS is easy to use. You can deploy a shared file by creating a new file share in the storage account.
  • Security—AFS encrypts data at rest and in transit. It provides end to end security by scrambling the data in a way that it can only be read with a password.
  • Cross-platform support—major operating systems support the SMB protocol, making Azure File Storage compatible with Mac, Linux, and Windows.
  • Scalability—users can store up to a maximum of 100 TB.
  • Supports hybrid access—users can access and share files anywhere by using Azure File Sync.

Azure Premium File Storage

Azure File Storage provides users with two tiers of service. Standard tier and Premium tier. For the purpose of this article we will focus on the Premium tier. When you create your storage account you choose the service tier that fits your requirements. The cost of the service will be determined by the features and the tier you choose.

The Premium tier was built for organizations with high performance and scalability requirements. Its general availability provides these users with access to managed file services that use solid-state drives (SSD).

A solid state drive doesn’t have moving parts, which means it is less prone to failure. It reads and writes much faster than hard drives and uses less power. All these characteristics make storing in SSD a good choice for systems requiring high performance, such as large databases.

Some of Azure Premium File Storage key features include:

  • Redundancy—premium shares support Locally redundant storage. Since September 2019, Zone Redundant Storage is also generally available.
  • Pricing—the premium tier pricing is based on provisioned GiB. This enables you to scale workloads while keeping low latency.
  • File size—100 GiB, provisioned.
  • Maximum IOPS per share—up to 100,000 IOPS.
  • Target Throughput per file share— 4,136 MiB/s Ingress, 6,204 MiB/s Egress.
  • Burst capability—burst mode is the ability of a storage system to transmit data at high-speed to keep up with a sudden demand. Bursting enables the system to send data temporarily at maximum throughput. Azure system stores unused IOs in a storage bucket called a burst credit storage. When the system requires a high workload, the credit storage bucket bursts, liberating capacity to accommodate the high throughput. However, this only works if there are IOs stored.
  • Support performance—Azure Premium shares can scale up quickly to 100,000 IOPs. Moreover, applications, which often have peaks of IO, can benefit from the burst credit.

Achieving high data availability through premium file shares

Many companies choose to host their SQL Server workloads in Azure Virtual Machines. However, Microsoft’s availability of 99.5 covers only the virtual machines, not SQL servers.

Companies that want to achieve high availability on SQL servers usually replicate VMs into different availability zones. Then they configure a high availability feature such as a failover cluster instance or Always On availability groups.


Companies choosing the failover cluster instance can use premium file shares to achieve high availability. Here’s how premium shares can help achieve high availability:

  • Fast resizing capacity—you can set a property of the share to resize capacity with zero downtime, avoiding unavailability.
  • No downtime when increasing input/output per second (IOPS)—to increase the IOPS you resize the premium share accordingly.

SQL servers also benefit from the bursting capability and zonal redundancy of premium file shares. The latter increases availability to 99.9 percent for the VM and the SQL server.

What to Look for in A Cloud Storage Solution

Choosing a cloud storage solution is not an easy task. There are many options and choosing the right combination of features may seem daunting. You can use the list below as criteria when assessing solutions.

Here are key features of an effective cloud storage solution:

  • File versioning—this feature functions as a version of your files. When you make changes in a file, the feature updates its records. This enables you to go back to a previous file version and restoring it.
  • Automatic syncing—such as Azure AutoSync, is the automatic loading of files to your cloud storage. Automatic syncing ensures the latest version of the files is stored in the cloud.
  • Strong security—cloud storage solutions should have strong access control policies and other security measures. This includes password protection and file encryption.
  • Scalability—your workloads may increase or decrease. Flexible storage, with the capability to scale easily, can ensure that your system performance won’t suffer for lack of available storage.
  • High availability—a system that ensures minimum downtime, providing redundancy, ensures the data will be available in the event of a failover.

The Bottom Line

Companies that need a cloud storage solution with high performance and availability can leverage Premium File Storage. The service keeps improving, offering a diverse range of applications. There are whispers that soon premium files will be applicable to Azure Databases such as PostgreSQL and MySQL. There’s a free tier you can use to try out the service. You can also leverage the free tier when optimizing costs.


Author Bio

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Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/giladdavidmaayan/

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