How to choose between Azure Files and an on-premises file server

You can overcome your traditional maintenance problems with a migration from a Windows file server to the equivalent of cloud storage, but several factors will weigh heavily on your final decision.

It’s not as simple as flipping a switch when you put on a crucial on-site workload in the cloud. You need to decide whether the cost, effect on users, performance, and security will be worth switching platforms. Whether it’s documents, images or emails, the need for storage keeps growing. Someone might need this 1999 spreadsheet, even though it hasn’t been opened in the past 10 years. In addition to user needs, each organization has different priorities that can point it in a certain direction. Azure Files is Microsoft’s answer to businesses that want to get started with the file server without the headaches associated with supporting it.

Authentication is a factor to consider with Azure Files

The first area an organization can look at when comparing Azure Files and on-premises file server is access. How will users inside and outside the company access their data?

Data recovery tends to favor cloud-based storage, like Azure Files. You can access your files anywhere there is internet access. Microsoft also offers a level of redundancy that may outstrip your data center. Azure Files provides several types of redundancy; locally redundant storage is the cheapest tier with a warranty of 11 new durability.

This level of access also comes with authentication, which involves a certain degree of share, file, and folder permissions based on login information. Azure Files supports identity-based authentication for on-premises Active Directory domain services and Azure Active Directory Domain Services. Either way, you’ll need to work to make sure you have the prerequisites before you can proceed to the setup step.

Pricing and configuring Azure Files against a Windows file server

Setting up Azure Files varies depending on the authentication route, but it’s a fairly straightforward process to import that is easier with some PowerShell help. For large amounts of data, you can bulk ship files to disk drives with the Azure Import / Export service, which costs $ 80 per storage device.

The way you organize the file system and its structure depends on how you plan to use it. Azure Files uses a Windows file system structure, which is the same as the on-premises Windows file server. With the cloud, getting data into the platform is rarely the problem; it is the dissemination of data that tends to be the concern.

Depending on how much you store, how much you transfer, and several other factors, your charges for Azure Files will vary. While read or write transactions are in the range of $ 0.015, and other features even lower, the costs can add up. For large organizations, a fee of $ 100 or even $ 200 will not be a problem, but it is a monthly fee. The cost will likely increase, as file usage rarely decreases over time.

Another factor that adds to the monthly cost of Azure Files is what Microsoft charges for storing data in its cloud. Storage tiers in Azure Files range from premium, optimized for transactions, hot, and cold. The monthly cost for 10TB can range from $ 500 to almost $ 1,800 per month, depending on the performance required. This can add up to $ 6,000 to $ 21,000 per year. Microsoft provides a calculator for Azure Files to help you estimate your costs.

Use the Azure Files calculator to get an estimate of your monthly costs.

From a fixed cost perspective, it’s hard to beat an on-premises Windows file server. They can easily last from five to eight years. A typical 10TB SSD-based physical file server runs between $ 7,000 and $ 10,000, but the costs get hard to pin down when you add in Windows Server licensing, maintenance, additional software, auditing, and whatnot. ‘It costs the IT team to support the server.

Tuning storage data takes time and effort

The great thing about Azure Files is that Microsoft manages the support. For an on-premises file server, you need to manage all administrative tasks: monitoring, security, backups, and patch.

The other aspect that differs is the way you handle the data. All data is not the same; some should be prioritized for slower storage in both environments. The difficulty is that it takes effort to refine the appropriate level. Establishment tiered storage policies in Azure can be a challenge and often require tweaking to sort them out. Will you be compensated if you spend a few extra hours each month for this process which could save the company several hundred dollars a month, or is it more likely that an overworked IT admin will allocate everything on one level and move on to the next level? next crisis? This is not an administrator failure, but rather the result of how IT groups operate today. Before it is transferred to the cloud, you must analyze the data to remove stale content and assign levels to the remaining files before moving to Azure Files.

Support doesn’t disappear with the cloud

Switch to Azure That doesn’t mean you won’t need to continue managing your data in Azure Files, but once the files are out of your hands, you are no longer in local control. In the event of an outage, you’ll be on the phone with Microsoft, like everyone else involved.

The decision to use Azure Files to replace a file server puts you in a operational use modelbecause the way you use it directly affects cost, performance, and lifespan. If your file server is a catch-all bucket for your users to store everything, then your staff is just holding it, not managing it. In this scenario, an on-premises file server may be ideal because you can quickly scale a hardware platform to meet growing needs. In this scenario, you have the daily cost and power expense, but you are not micromanaging the data.

If the data on your file server is relatively clean and you already know how your data is used and what prioritization options you can use, the cloud may be the best option if you need more control over the data. Ultimately, what will work best for your organization will depend on what features you want and how much you’re willing to pay to get them.