Azure File Storage vs Azure Blob Storage

A very common query I get when storing files in Azure Cloud, is “Why are we using Blob Storage instead of File Storage. After all, aren’t we storing files?”. And it’s actually a pretty good question. And luckily, it has a very simple answer.

When To Use Azure File Storage

Azure File Storage is specifically used when storing files to be used like a managed file share. For example, if you are currently using a network share within your company on an old PC sitting under someone’s desk, you can move these files to the cloud using Azure File Storage, and have it act exactly the same as your current networked file share. Importantly, it supports both “Server Message Block (SMB)” and “Network File System (NFS)” protocols, so can be used across Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.

While a company wide network share is obviously a good use case, another very common example is when you have an existing application (Such as a Windows Service) that you simply lift and shift onto a VM in Azure. If this application requires the use of a network share, instead of having to create a tunnel back into your office network, you can lift and shift the network share into Azure File Storage. Meaning minimal code rewrites, and making it a true lift and shift approach.

When To Use Azure Blob Storage

Azure Blob Storage is best used when storing unstructured or binary data in the cloud, and you don’t need access to it via Windows Explorer or other SMB protocols. Realistically, this means if you are storing files for your application, that are then read back via that same application, Azure Blob Storage will suffice.

It should be noted that there are Windows applications and addons that will make a blob storage account act like a file share, but it’s not recommended as some features that are available on Azure File Storage are not available on Blob and vice versa. If your main use case for moving files into Azure is to have them act as a network file share, you should use Azure File Storage instead of Blob.

File vs Blob Pricing

The other very important thing to note is that there are pricing differences between Azure File Storage and Azure Blob Storage. Sometimes it can be in the cents per GB, but often the transaction costs are vastly different on the File Storage side. For example write operations will cost you 30% more on Azure File Storage.

While it does pay to check pricing, your use case should dictate which option you go for rather than any cost difference.

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