On-Premise Data Synchronization to Azure Blob Storage

Azure Binary Large Objects (i.e. Blobs) Storage is a cloud storage service that is durable, available, and scalable that serves a variety of purposes. Microsoft describes it as massively-scalable object storage for unstructured data on their microsite devoted to Blob storage. There are many reasons why you should consider using Blob storage. Perhaps you want to share files with clients or off-load some of the static content from your web servers to reduce the load on them.

Microsoft has several partners that provide tools and expertise to use Azure Blob Storage effectively. Some of these partners are highlighted on the Microsoft microsite devoted to Blob Storage as displayed below.

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Using Microsoft Azure Storage Explorer (MASE)

Microsoft Azure Storage Explorer (MASE) is a standalone app from Microsoft that allows you to easily work locally with Azure Storage data.

This free Azure tool from Microsoft can be installed locally on a client machine or remotely in on-premise or Azure VMs, for access on that machine to Azure Storage Accounts using:

  • the Azure Storage account name and an Azure generated access key
  • or SAS URI for Storage Accounts

This gives access to Azure Blob, Queue, Tables and File Shares Storage containers and contents without having to sign in to the Microsoft Azure Portal.

NOTE: MASE works for ARM and for Classic Storage Accounts; there are MAC, Windows and Linux versions for download.

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Use CloudBerry Drive to create a local mapped network drive to Azure Blob Storage

Use CloudBerry Drive to create a local mapped network drive directly to a Microsoft Azure Blob Storage account. This way, files in the Azure Blob Storage can be directly worked on from Windows Explorer and are accessible by other applications that can read mapped drives. Folders and files can be dragged and dropped to the mapped network drive and instantly saved in the Azure Blob Storage container without having to directly access the Azure Portal.

“Using CloudBerry Drive, you can mount your Microsoft Azure account as a network drive to your Windows computer and use it just like any other hard drive.” –CloudBerryLab.com

These instructions assume that a Microsoft Azure Blob Storage Account has already been created. Retrieve the Azure Blob Storage Acccount name and an access key, for use in configuring CloudBerry Drive on a local client machine. We found this very simple to install and it worked seamlessly with Azure Blob Storage.

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Using Azure File Storage and FileVista (web-based file manager)

The client company is in the process of moving fully to Azure from their physical servers hosted in datacentres. Their favoured web-based file manager GleamTech’s FileVista cannot yet be hosted as an Azure App Service. Until it can be hosted as an Azure App Service, an Azure VM is required to host FileVista. FileVista, ver 7.6+, is able to connect to mapped networks drive via SMB 3.0 to root folders of company data sitting in Azure File Storage. (FileVista does also connect easily to Azure SQL database, but in this case, an Azure WS2016 VM with SQL Server Express and IIS installed is the hosting plan.)

In a previous blog, we noted that remote users of the company were unable to connect from their W10 laptops, into Azure File Storage services, because their ISPs were blocking Port 445, required for SMB 3.0 transmission. FileVista web-based file manager to the rescue!

Overview:

  1. Create an Azure WS2016 VM with SQL Express (and SSMS) with 1 additional attached data disk; with a Static IP address & Network Security Group Inbound Rules for HTTP & HTTPS.  RDP into the VM to add IIS Role and features; add Inbound & Outbound Port 80 & 443 in Windows Firewall.
  2. Install, configure & customize FileVista, after creating the new website.

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Backing Up Azure File Storage to Azure Blob Storage

We are using Azure File Storage for keeping day to day company data and wanted to have that data backed up to an Azure Blob Storage as a safe repository. We are currently backing up Azure File Storage Data to Azure Blob Storage Data using a 3rd Party file backup and synchronization tool, GoodSync.

While Good Sync cannot yet connect directly to Azure File Storage, it does connect quickly and securely to Azure Blob Storage. GoodSync also connects easily to mapped network drives – and Azure File Storage containers can be set up as local SMB3 file shares on a machine that can access the Azure File Storage account.

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