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New to the cloud – Microsoft Azure Regions and storage explained

Microsoft Azure has Data Centres all over the world, each group of Data Centres in a specific location is referred to as a Region. When resources or services are provisioned in Azure you must specify which Region (Data Centre(s)) you want to provision the services in.

When selecting a region, consideration should be given to the following factors:

  • Distance/Locality to the users of the Service ensuring quicker response times.
  • Legal/Compliance for Data storage and processing
    • Safe Harbour
    • Data Protection Act/GDPR
  • Service Availability
  • Existing Service Integration
    • Resources deployed in one region generally cannot be linked and/or managed with resources deployed in another
  • Any Business Preference

Storage location

Storage accounts are required in Azure for the persistence of any data by the Azure Platform. When deploying Virtual Machines, the storage accounts are used to store the virtual hard disk files used by the Virtual Machines.

Storage Accounts include one or more of the following sub-services:

Service Description
Blob (Block Blob) Blob storage is used for storing unstructured data files such as Documents, Photos, Videos, Audio, Backups and Logs.
File (File Share) File storage allows the creation of SMB file shares which can be mounted and used by both on-premises and cloud resources simultaneously (subject to supporting the SMB 3.0 protocol).
Disk (Paged Blob) Disk/Paged Blobs are optimised for IaaS virtual hard disks and support random read/write operations.
Table Table storage is Microsoft’s semi-structured NoSQL Key/Attribute data store.
Queue Queue storage provides reliable message storage which can be utilised by both on-premise and cloud services for integration purposes.

It’s possible to create several types of Storage accounts, however, each type has limitations regarding which services are available within the account:

Storage Account Type Blob File (File Share) Disk (Paged Blob) Table Queue
Standard
Standard v2
Standard (Cold)        
Premium (SSD)        

Redundancy is built-in to all storage accounts; however, it is possible to customise the level of redundancy depending on your requirements and budget (more resilience comes at an increased cost):

  • Locally Redundant Storage (LRS)
    • All data is replicated transparently by the platform at least 3 times.
    • Upload/Update is only confirmed once 3 copies exist and have been verified.
  • Zone Redundant Storage (ZRS) (Block Blob Only)
    • All data is replicated transparently by the platform at least 3 times across two to three facilities within the same region.
    • Upload/Update is only confirmed once 3 copies exist and have been verified.
  • Geographically Redundant Storage (GRS)
    • All data is replicated transparently by the platform at least 3 times.
    • Upload/Update is only confirmed once 3 copies exist and have been verified.
    • Data is queued for asynchronous replication to the other Azure Region in the same group (e.g. North Europe replicates to West Europe and vice versa), the copy is also replicated at least 3 times in the second location.
    • The geographically replicated data is not visible unless Azure failover to the secondary region.
  • Read-Access Geographically Redundant Storage (RA-GRS)
    • All data is replicated transparently by the platform at least 3 times
    • Upload/Update is only confirmed once 3 copies exist and have been verified
    • Data is queued for asynchronous replication to the other Azure Region in the same group (e.g. North Europe replicates to West Europe and vice versa), the copy is also replicated at least 3 times in the second location.
    • Read-only access to the data is available in the geographically replicated region.

Choosing the right storage and region will impact cost and functionality. We believe you should always use the right one for the right job.  For example, you wouldn’t opt to pay for RA-GRS over GRS unless you want to read the copy in the second location.   And you might choose critical backups for GRS, but it may be cost effective to do daily’s to LRS, and weekly to GRS.

Need some advice about Azure regions and storage?  Speak to one of our Azure Experts on 0203 697 0302

*specification accuracies based on time of print (31 Dec 2018)

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