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Explore 5 Microsoft Azure storage types before buying

Some types of Azure storage are prevalent, such as Blob, but others are less well known. Your organization may have a use for each of the five detailed, so get to know each one.

Microsoft Azure and most other cloud providers offer several different types of storage, each with its own unique pricing structure and preferred use.

Azure storage types include objects, managed files and managed disks. Customers should understand their often-specific uses before implementation. Each storage type has different pricing tiers -- usually based on performance and availability -- to make each one accessible to companies of every size and type. Azure gears the storage types to specific workloads -- for example, file or database storage.

An organization that intends to buy Azure storage should assess its needs first. Azure storage can be expensive, so avoid a lot of needless costs by taking the time to evaluate the types, tiers and amount of storage needed. Most organizations will use more than one type of storage.

1. Azure Blob Storage

Blob is one of the most common Azure storage types. Azure Blob Storage is Microsoft's object storage and is ideal for workloads that require high-capacity storage. Microsoft optimized Blob Storage for data lakes, but it can also handle smaller workloads. Azure Blob Storage is both scalable and durable. When used with geo-replication, Blob Storage can achieve 16 nines of durability.

Although Blob Storage is the go-to Azure storage type for many organizations, it can be expensive. A petabyte on the Hot tier with a one-year reservation costs $15,050 per month. In addition, Blob Storage pricing can be complex. Not only do costs vary by tier, reservation and capacity, but there are numerous other charges for operations and data transfer. It can be difficult to estimate what Azure Blob Storage will cost.

2. Azure Files

Azure Files is Microsoft's managed file storage in the cloud. Azure Files is essentially a cloud-based file server that Microsoft manages for customers. It supports both SMB and NFS file shares, used by Windows and Linux, respectively. Admins can use shares with cloud and on-premises workloads. Azure Files also works with Azure Kubernetes Service as a tool for persistent file storage for containers.

Microsoft enables admins to configure on-premises Windows Server machines to act as a cache for Azure Files storage, thereby improving file access speeds. However, like Blob Storage, Azure Files pricing is complex, and it can be tough to figure out how much it will cost.

3. Azure Queue Storage

Queue Storage is one of the lesser-known Azure storage types but can still be useful. As the name suggests, Microsoft specifically designed Azure Queue Storage to store queue messages. Queue messages are typically just instructions related to a web application. If an application runs jobs asynchronously, for example, an admin would usually need to queue those jobs. The queue would need to reside in a location accessible to the web server. Cue Azure Queue Storage.

Queue Storage works with any type of queued message less than 64 KB. Microsoft also provides guidance for accessing Azure Queue Storage from languages such as .NET, Java, Python and Node.js. However, customers can't store files or structured data with Queue Storage.

4. Azure Table

Microsoft designed Azure Table storage to store large quantities of structured data. It is essentially Microsoft's NoSQL offering. NoSQL is a nonrelational database that acts as a key/attribute store. While NoSQL is arguably less sophisticated than relational databases, such as Azure SQL or Microsoft SQL Server, it tends to be more flexible in how it enables customers to adapt a data set to a workload's needs.

Microsoft offers Azure Table storage as a managed product, so admins can focus on their data and don't have to worry about managing and maintaining the underlying server infrastructure.

5. Azure Managed Disks

Like Azure storage types Queue and Table, Microsoft designed Managed Disks for a specific use. When admins create an Azure VM, the VM's volumes reside on Managed Disks. Azure Managed Disks use redundancy to achieve five nines of availability. Microsoft enables customers to create up to 50,000 VM disks in a region.

When working with Azure Managed Disks, consider capacity and performance requirements. Costs vary depending on the type of storage hardware and the size of the virtual disk.

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