Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Azure Files and Azure File Sync

Azure Files and  Azure File Sync  

Most of the Companies , Large and Small, have File Servers . Microsoft has  released couple of great applications to manage Files in the Cloud. These are Azure Files and Azure Files Sync.

Azure File Service
Azure files are fully managed File shares in the Cloud. When you have a local network, you can attach a NAS box so that all users in a network can access the files. Inside a cloud service, unfortunately , this is absent. This need is fulfilled by Azure File Service.

Azure Files use cases:

1.   Replace On Premise file servers or supplement with Azure File sync

2.   Lift and shift applications. If you are moving any application to the Cloud , the using Azure Files, you can move both Application and Data to the Cloud. Or you can implement Hybrid scenario where application runs On Premise and Data resides in the Cloud. If you have an app that works with your on-premise file server, moving it to Azure means rewriting it, or setting up a file server in the cloud. Azure Files is perfect for that.

3.   Shared Application settings. If you are running a Distributed application at multiple locations, and there is a need for these multiple applications to access common  application settings , these can be on Azure Files

4.   A Cloud Application can write logs , metrics, crash dumps on Azure files. Then using Azure File Sync  these will be replicated on local Server periodically.

Azure File Sync

Azure File Sync syncs file shares to Storage Account using Azure File Service.

Features and Benefits

1.   Multiple File Servers at multiple locations. Sync all to single Azure File Storage. Commonly used files are cached on local server . If local server goes down, quickly install another Server or VM and sync Azure files to it.

2.   The older , rarely accessed files will move to Azure thus freeing your local file Server .

3.   Sync Group helps to manage locations that should be kept in sync with each other. Every Sync Group has one common Cloud Storage. So a Sync Group will have one Azure End point and multiple Server end points. There is a 2 way sync so that changes to Cloud are replicated on local server within 12 to 24 hours. But changes on a local server are replicated to all end points within 5 minutes.

4.   An agent is installed on the Server end point . There is no need to change or relocate data on a different volume. Thus it is non-disruptive type of agent.

5.   Every Server end point creates an Azure file share in the storage account. End user experience is unchanged

6.   When a particular local file is getting synced , then it is locked. But this is only for a few seconds.

7.   A Disaster Recovery Solution for File Server. If local File Server is destroyed, set up a VM or physical server , join to the previous sync group and you get “rapid restore”.

8.   When a file is renamed or moved, the meta data is preserved.

9.   Its different from One Drive .  One Drive is for Personal Document management and is not a general purpose File Server. One Drive is primarily meant for collaborating on Office files. Not optimized for very large files , CAD drawings, multimedia development projects.

10.Azure File Sync works with On Premise AD  and not Azure AD.

Use cases for Azure File Sync:

1.   Company with multiple offices having a need to share files with all offices.

2.   Branch Office backup of files. In real world, the files of branch offices rarely get backed up.

3.   Disaster Recovery Solution in case File Server goes down.

4.   New Branch Office setup . You can setup new Server and connect to same Azure Storage.

5.   Move old data automatically to Azure . This is Cloud Tiering. The non used data will move to Azure. The files will have greyed icons with an offline O file attribute to tell user that this file is only on Azure.

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with warm regards
 Suresh Ramani

Microsoft MVP 2009
Microsoft Worldwide Partner of the Year 2011 & 2007
IAMCP Worldwide Gold Award Winner 2016

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