If you are looking for a cloud alternative to your onsite Windows file server you should definitely take a look at Azure Files. Depending on your scenario it is pretty easy to set up and has some cool features.
- You’ll need an Azure subscription. If you have O365 you already have a free Azure Subscription that comes with it.
- Next you need to create a Storage Account. Think of a Storage Account as your cloud file server
- Once you have a Storage Account created you can create a File Share within it
- Determine how users will access the files
Determining how your users will access the files will determine what type of network setup is needed and how the files are going to get to the new Azure File Share. There are two ways you can set this up:
- Mount the file share directly on your computer
- Use Azure File Sync with or without cloud tiering to synch the files from your existing 2012 R2 or higher file server. With cloud tiering enabled, your on prem server becomes a cache for these files with the master copies up on your Azure File Share.
In both of the above scenarios the default network access is over the public Internet. This allows access from anywhere, however you can restrict access to certain IP addresses using the Storage Account’s firewall. The SMB 3.x protocol is used and encryption is required by default to access file shares.
In order to access an Azure File Share over your private network you will need to first extend your network into Azure and then conquer some DNS hurdles. This will be explored in a future post.
Another consideration is authentication to the Azure File Share. When mounting the share on a computer you’ll need to authenticate to it. This can get tricky if you want to use your On Prem AD accounts, although Microsoft has made this a lot simpler than it was. With Azure File Sync you access the files directly from your On Prem file server as normal so there is no additional authentication to set up.