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An Introduction to Microsoft Azure Blob Storage

 

If you need to store and be able to retrieve a large amount of data, you should consider the Microsoft Azure Blob storage service. In this article, I'll explain what this service is, how it works, how to store and manage your data inside it, and its benefits.

What Is Microsoft Azure Blob Storage?

Blob stands for "binary large object storage". Originally, it was a standalone Microsoft service designed to host the data of Microsoft's Azure early cloud-native applications. This service has since grown to be a powerful feature in Microsoft Azure for data storage.

Microsoft Azure Blob is a storage solution allowing developers to store large amounts of unstructured data. The data stored on the Azure cloud, which may include large text, audio and video files, can be accessed from anywhere in the world via HTTP and HTTPS protocols.

 With Blob storage, you can:

  • Stream video and audio-a video or audio file in Blob storage can be played on a browser media player without downloading it.
  • Record upload and download activity in a log file. This can give you useful information on who is using the data and the frequency it is accessed.
  • Display images or documents directly to a browser.
  • Store files and share them with selected people.
  • Access files easily. Every file that you place into Blob storage can be reached via a unique URL.
  • Use the stored data as an input to on-premises or Azure analysis tools.
  • Backup or archive your data. You can use the Azure Backup solution, although there are some considerations before choosing this option.
  • Add metadata to the data you store in Blob storage. These metadata values will help when you search for specific attributes associated with this data.

 The benefits of Microsoft Azure Blob Storage include:

  • Handling large amounts of data without the overhead of a file system.
  • A quick and easy way of working with binary data in your applications.
  • Microsoft Azure Blob is integrated with Azure's Data Lake analytic tools. Analytic tools are used to extract useful information from your data and give you insights about your business.

How Does Blob Storage in Azure Work?

Azure Blob storage consists of "blobs" that are grouped into containers, which are linked to user accounts.

Here are the basic steps when starting to use Blob storage in Azure:

1. Create a storage account-the first step in using Azure storage is to create a storage account. It is a general Azure storage account to host all Azure's core storage services. The account name is used as a unique namespace for the data you store in Azure. Every object you store has a URL address in Azure storage, which begins with this account name.

2. Create a container-the container will contain your blobs. It is similar to creating a directory in a file system that organizes your files.  A container organizes a set of blobs. You can create separate containers according to their data type, or for handling content for specific users. The number of allowed containers in a storage account is unlimited.

3. Create a blob-this contains your data. There are three types of blobs-block blobs, append blobs and page blobs. The block type stores up to 4.7 TB of data and is intended for binary and textual data. Each block blob can be managed individually. The append block has the same features as the block blob, with the addition that it is optimized for append operations. Page blobs are random-access files intended for data that is frequently read and updated. They are stored in virtual hard drive (VHD) files. Page blobs can be used as a virtual hard drive (VHD) for Azure virtual machines.

  • Move data to Blob storage-there are several ways to upload your data to the blob. For Windows and Linux, you can use AzCopy. It is a command-line tool which copies data to and from Blob storage, across containers, or across storage accounts. For moving data between Azure Storage services, you can use Azure Storage Data Movement library. It is based on the .NET framework. To move on-premises data to Blob storage with a physical device, you can use the Azure Data Box service. You can learn about more Azure Blob data transfer solutions here.

Why Should You Use Blob Storage in Azure?

 Here are several reasons why should you use Azure Blob storage:

  • You can have data streaming and random-access features within your application.
  • You can have worldwide access for your application data.
  • You can have reliable and secure storage for your big data files and perform big data analytics.
  • You can show documents and images stored on the Azure cloud directly on your website.
  • You can store data for backup, restore and disaster recovery.
  • For your cost and performance requirements, you can choose a suitable type of Blob.
  • Your data is secured with a secure transfer using HTTPS transport encryption. The data written to Azure Storage is encrypted through 256-bit AES encryption
  • Your data has strong consistency. When an object is changed, it is ensured that you always have access to the latest version.

Conclusion

In this article, we've shown that Microsoft Azure Blob storage can be a good solution for storing large amounts of unstructured data. It can handle all types of content that you need to store or share. It is relatively easy to set up and run and provide you the benefit of having your data in a secure and reliable service.

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About the Author

Gilad Maayan 

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/giladdavidmaayan/ 
Published Friday, August 23, 2019 7:15 AM by David Marshall
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