Managing Your Data With Azure Storage

Managing your data with Azure storage

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times over – in this modern, digital world, data is the crux of business success. The way that you use it, manage it, store it, can be the difference between thriving and falling by the wayside.

Every day, businesses are finding themselves amassing data about their clients, their prospects, their teams and their services. So much so, in fact, that businesses are starting to struggle with storage space, even in the cloud. Just the other day I wrote an article all about how to manage your SharePoint storage space effectively, and today I want to delve a little further into one of the suggestions that I mentioned there – Azure Storage.

What Is Azure Storage?

Azure Storage is a cloud-based Microsoft solution for storing various types of data – from documents and files, to images, videos, software and more. Microsoft has designed it to be easily scalable, durable, and secure.

What sets Azure storage apart is the range of storage types on offer. You can store files and documents as you’re used to with an app like OneDrive or SharePoint, but you can also use Azure Blob storage, which is designed specifically for storing large, unstructured data like images, videos, audio, backups, and data for analysis.

What Is The Difference Between Azure Storage & SharePoint Storage?  

I can tell what you may be thinking – that Azure is just another storage solution from Microsoft, similar to SharePoint or OneDrive. So why wouldn’t you just use one of those? What is the difference between them, and why should you choose to pay for yet another storage service when you’ve already got Microsoft SharePoint down pat.

Well, there are a few differences between Azure storage and SharePoint storage which can be divided into 4 categories:

1. Purpose

While Azure storage and SharePoint may seem to serve similar purposes, they are actually quite different. SharePoint is specifically designed for document storage and collaboration between your teams. Azure, on the other hand, is meant for general storage – no matter what you want to store, Azure can do it. It’s simplified storage without any extra bells or whistles, which means that it can be more cost effective. But more on that to come.

2. Accessiblity

Azure storage is not quite as easily accessible as SharePoint storage, and it’s not meant to be. SharePoint is designed to be accessed by just about every team member in your company. It’s what makes it such a great collaboration tool. But remember, the purpose behind Azure is just as a general storage area, which means that it likely doesn’t need to be accessed as often, or by as many people, as SharePoint does. You won’t log into Azure from your browser as you would with SharePoint, and you won’t open files that are stored in Azure from Microsoft Word, Excel and other Microsoft 365 apps. Rather, you can upload files to Azure or access files that are already stored through an API or a tool like Azure Storage Explorer.

3. Collaboration 

SharePoint has been built and designed all around collaboration – making it easy for your teams to work on the same documents together thanks to features like versioning, co-authoring, and sharing documents with colleagues and external users. Azure storage doesn’t have these collaboration capabilities, though it can be integrated with services like Azure Files or Azure SharePoint to make collaboration a bit easier. If collaboration is what you’re after from your storage service, then SharePoint is the more natural choice.

4. Pricing 

Both Azure and Microsoft SharePoint are based on pay-as-you-go pricing models. This means that the more storage you use, the more you are going to pay for said storage. But even though the pricing is similar in terms of how you pay, there is a big difference between what it is that you’re paying for. Azure storage is charged for according to how much data you store and how much data you transfer. SharePoint, on the other hand, includes storage and transfer as part of each user’s subscription fee. What this means in practical terms is that Azure storage can be more cost effective if you’re planning to backup large amounts of data without needing to transfer them regularly, while SharePoint is more cost effective for smaller amounts of data that need to be accessed regularly by a small team of users.

What Types Of Azure Storages Are Available?

I mentioned earlier that one of the things that sets Azure storage apart is the different types of storage that you can use. There’s file storage through Azure Files – a mountable drive with “lift and shift” functionality. There’s Disk Storage, which are compatible with Azure’s VMs, allowing you to choose between HDDs, SSDs, Premium SSDs and Ultra Disks which can then be provisioned for future use. Then there’s the Blob storage which I mentioned earlier, which is great for unstructured data.

But more than just allowing plenty of options for the storage of different data types, there are also three different storage tiers which you can use, each of which offers varying levels of access and come with different price points.

1. Hot Storage  

Azure’s hot storage is the most expensive option, but is optimised for data that needs to be accessed and modified regularly. This makes it perfect for active data, staging environments, and regular data backups.

2. Cool Storage 

Unlike Azure’s hot storage option, cool storage is optimised for data that only needs to be accessed or transferred every now and then. The storage space itself comes in at a lower price point, but you are charged a higher rate for transferring data to and from the drives. This makes Azure cool storage a good option for storing test data and managing staging environments, but not ideal for active data or backups that are being made on a weekly or monthly basis.

3. Archive Storage

Azure’s archive storage comes with the lowest price tag for data storage, but the highest for data transfers. It is optimised for long-term storage, and is perfect for storing the data that you have to keep (for tax purposes, GDPR, or POPI Act compliance, for example) but almost never need to actually access.

What Is The Most Cost Effective Azure Storage Solution For My Business?

As you can tell, there are plenty of cloud storage options available to you. While SharePoint may be the perfect solution for storing documents that your teams need to access and collaborate on, Azure storage is better suited, and can be more budget-friendly, for longer term storage of a wide range of file types.

When you’re choosing between different types of Azure storage, the most cost-effective solution will entirely depend on how much data you need to store, and how often you need to access it. Azure’s Archive storage is the cheapest option for when you’re wanting to backup old files that almost never get used. Hot storage may come with the highest price off-the-bat, but if you need to regularly transfer files to and from the storage platform, it will end up being more cost-effective in the long run, since both Azure’s Cool and Archive storage have high transaction fees. And Cool storage is a medium between the two options – the ideal storage solution for when you need to access, modify and manage your storage every now and then, but not necessarily on a weekly or monthly basis.

How Can Solid Systems Help?

As a Microsoft partner, we have years of experience in helping businesses to grow, and part of that has been helping them to adopt cloud services like Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Azure. Whether you need to migrate your storage to a cloud solution, need help with deciding which cloud solution is the best for your business, or are looking for a Managed IT services provider who can help you with cloud technologies and so much more, get in touch with us today to start seeing the value and the human touch in all of the services that we offer.

Michael Claxton

Michael Claxton

Co-Founder and CEO of Solid Systems | I am a father of two, and a mentor of many. My calm focus makes me a natural leader, both in and out the office, and I have a unique skill in nurturing leadership qualities in others as well. But most of all, I understand the true value of time and the ways that technology can optimise efficiency within a business and see humans making the most of the time available to them, both in terms of productivity, and in terms of personal growth. 

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