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Microsoft is Announcing Azure File Share Snapshots in Public Preview

Posted by Augusto Alvarez on October 24, 2017
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Managing snapshots, or at least using a tool that manages the snapshots for you, is a very common scenario for any IT admin today. Windows clients have this option available for a long time, storage systems leverage snapshots for several processes, but probably the most well-known scenario we see snapshots today are backups. Microsoft just announced they are offering, as a public preview, the snapshots functionality for Azure File Shares.

Azure - File Service - Sharesnapshotdefs

Snapshots term is pretty much self-explanatory, they work as an exact copy of the information in a specific time. A snapshot acts like a detailed table of contents, providing the user with accessible copies of data that they can roll back to.

Snapshot capabilities were already available for Azure Virtual Machines:

Premium Storage Account (Primary) - Standard Storage Accont (Backup) - Sheme

Why Would I Need to Use Snapshots?

Some misconceptions around cloud services allow organizations to think that, when you are moving to Azure/AWS or any other provider, you don’t actually need to worry about data availability or corruption since you are paying someone else to take care of that. This is when our message as IT experts must be clear, even if we are paying a cloud provider to host our data/services/applications it doesn’t mean that they will necessarily protect from the way we handle or mishandle these data.

But mishandling data is not the only reason we should consider snapshots, here are the three main motives to use them:

  1. Protection from mishandling, as explained. Especially around file shares that can be accessed by a lot of people, someone editing or deleting a file by error could be a very serious situation if we don’t have a way to go back to a previous point in time.
  2. Protection from errors and corruption. Applications can generate an error in the file system, and a simple write in a file may introduce a major corruption in the files.
  3. Managing backups efficiently. Snapshots using software or “hardware” methods from a storage system is a very common scenario for a backup solution. In order to protect and complete backup jobs efficiently, some platforms take advantage of built-in snapshot capabilities to optimize this process.

File Share Snapshots in Azure

This new functionality is being enabled as a public preview (meaning that Microsoft is not providing official support) without any additional cost. This option will be available to create and store read-only periodical versions of your data in Azure, and even copy this version to a separate location.

The snapshots can be managed from Azure in several ways, from the Azure portal as shown in the image above; using Azure CLI 2.0 (which will allow Linux management), and also supporting REST APIs like. Net and Python. Using PowerShell to manage snapshots will be available soon.

Manage snapshots in PowerShell

You will be available to also access the snapshots from SMB and even mount them as a separate drive. These snapshots will be maintained as long as necessary unless they are explicitly deleted or the base file (from where it was created) is deleted.

Microsoft also informs that the maximum number of share snapshots allowed in Azure is, for now, 200. But no limit on the amount of space those snapshots take.

 

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