The A-Z of Azure Storage: Services, Pricing, and Best Practices for Optimizing Costs

As your organization starts to grow, your cloud consumption scales up accordingly. Requirements for core operations such as computing, networking, data transfer, security, etc., evolve. And so does data storage needs!

To cater to all your scaling data storage needs and scenarios, Azure offers an array of services for “massively scalable, highly available, and secure” storage. This enables all your IT workloads, business applications to run seamlessly.

However, like every other service, Azure storage has costs associated with it depending on which service, which tier you choose. In this blog, we will explore the core Azure Storage services, their pricing options, followed by the best practices for optimizing your Azure storage costs.

A Detailed Overview of Azure Data Storage

Microsoft’s Azure Storage Platform includes five core storage services (or products) — Azure Blob Storage, Disk Storage, Azure Files, Tables, and Queues.

Core Azure Storage Services

Storage Service Description
Azure Blobs Azure blobs are ideal for storing massively scalable, secure data objects for cloud-native workloads or applications, high-performance computing, archives, data lakes, etc. Blob storage allows unstructured data to be retained and accessed in block blobs at a large scale. It also supports Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 for enterprise-level big data analytics.
Azure Files Azure File Storage provides secure, serverless, and fully-managed cloud file shares accessible from anywhere in the world through standard Server Message Block (SMB) protocol.
Azure Managed Disks Azure Disk provides durable block storage for virtual machines. Managed Disks should be used when you want to store data persistently and access it from an attached VM (and not from outside that VM).
Azure Tables Azure Tables are ideal for storing unstructured and semi-structured NoSQL data such as user data for device information, web applications, address books, etc. This storage provides a key-value store with a schemaless design.
Azure Queues This service allows asynchronous message queueing between decoupled application components.

Pricing Details of Storage Services

Below are the pricing details of storage services for West US 2 for LRS data redundancy option provided by Azure:

1. Azure Blob Storage Pricing

Capacity Premium Hot Cool Archive
First 50 TB/month $0.15 per GB $0.018 per GB $0.01 per GB $0.00099 per GB
Next 450 TB/month $0.15 per GB $0.0173 per GB $0.01 per GB $0.00099 per GB
Over 500 TB/month $0.15 per GB $0.0166 per GB $0.01 per GB $0.00099 per GB

2. Azure File Storage Pricing

Data Type Premium Transaction Optimized Hot Cool
Data at-rest (GiB/month) $0.16 per provisioned GiB $0.06 per used GiB $0.0255 per used GiB $0.015 per used GiB
Snapshots (GiB/month) $0.136 per used GiB $0.06 per used GiB $0.0255 per used GiB $0.015 per used GiB
Metadata at-rest (GiB/month) Included Included $0.027 $0.027

For detailed pricing, visit the official page.

3. Azure Disk Storage Pricing

Azure provides four options for disk storage — Premium SSD, Ultra Disk Storage, Standard SSD, and Standard HDD. The pricing of Azure Managed Disks depends on the closest tier that provisons the specific disk size. You are charged on an hourly basis for these managed disks.

Storage costs of Managed Disks also depends your redundancy needs and data transactions (you are billed per 10,000 transactions on a disk).

For more details, visit Azure Managed Disks pricing page.

4. Azure Table Storage Pricing

Below is the pricing of Azure Tables for all redundancy options:

Storage in GB/month $0.045 per GB $0.06 per GB $0.075 per GB $0.0562 per GB $0.1012 per GB $0.1265 per GB

Storage pricing for Tables that relies on a key that is scoped to the service. For more details, visit here.

5. Azure Queue Storage Pricing

The following table displays the pricing details of Queue storage for all redundancy options:

Storage Capacity LRS GRS RA-GRS
Storage in GB/month $0.045 per GB $0.06 per GB $0.075 per GB

For more information on Azure Queue Storage pricing, visit the official page.

What is Azure Storage Account?

An Azure storage account bands a set of Azure Storage services and contains all your storage data objects — blobs, files, disks, tables, and queues. You can choose a type and create a storage account based on your data storage scenarios, redundancy, and workload requirements.

An Azure storage account provides a unique namespace for your stored data that can be accessed via HTTP or HTTPS from anywhere across the world. Data stored in the storage account is highly available, durable, scalable, and secure.

Now that we have a clear understanding of main Azure storage services and their pricing, the next step is cutting down unnecessary storage costs.

How to Optimize Your Azure Data Storage Costs — Industry Best Practices

According to Gartner, “public cloud users can pay up to 29 times more per SSD terabyte month to consume premium IOPS for high-performance workloads.”

It is important that you reduce extra costs incurred by unnecessary data storage scenarios. The following best practices will help you optimize your overall Azure storage costs and manage your data effectively:

1. Azure Blob: Find the Best Bet for Storing Your Data

Azure storage provides three different access tiers for storing blob object data. Based on your frequency of access, data redundancy and retention period, you can pick the most economical, feasible storage tier for retaining your data.

Types of Azure Storage Tiers

Hot Access Tier: This storage tier is suitable for scenarios where data is actively used or is frequently accessed for read/write operations. Besides, using the hot access tier makes sense when your data is organized for processing and eventually needs to be migrated to the cool access tier.

While the storage costs of the hot access tier are higher than cool and archive tiers, it has the lowest access costs compared to the other two tiers.

Cool Access Tier: It is most suitable for infrequently accessed data. Data should be stored in the cool tier for at least 30 days or will be subject to an early deletion fee on a prorated basis. Large or older data sets that are not used frequently but can be accessed immediately when required should be stored here. Cool storage is also a cost-effective option for short-term data backups and disaster recovery.

The storage costs of the cool access tier are lower than the hot tier but, its access costs are comparatively higher.

Archive Access Tier: Archive tier is optimized for data that remain in the storage for at least 180 days (subject to a fee for early deletion) and is rarely accessed with latency needs. Retrieval of data stored in this tier usually takes several hours, depending on your specified rehydration priority.

The archive access tier will cost you the lowest for storing data, while its data access costs are expensive compared to hot and cool storage tiers.

2. Delete Unused and Unattached Azure Disks

When you delete a VM, virtual hard disks attached to the VM do not get deleted automatically. Instead, these high-volume managed disks exist in your account and remain unused, racking up cloud costs. You need to identify these disks and delete them. Use the Disks dashboard in Azure Portal that displays all the active managed disks in your storage account. If the “Owner” of a disk is empty, it means it is not in use (by any VM) and should be deleted.

You can delete unused disks with the help of Azure Portal GUI or PowerShell.

3. Explore Cost-Effective Storage Options with Azure Storage Reserved Capacity

We all know how Azure Reservations help you save big on cloud resources with heavier consumption for predictable workloads. Similarly, with Azure Storage Reserved Capacity, you can save up to 38% on your data storage costs compared to pay-as-you-go prices.

You can reserve a fixed Azure storage capacity in increments of 100 TB and 1 PB sizes with a commitment of 1 year or 3 years. Azure Storage reserved capacity offers discounts on pre-purchasing the capacity of block blobs and Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 in standard Azure storage accounts.

In Conclusion:

Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) leaders need to design organization-wide data consumption, keep tabs on application IOPS usage, and opt for cost-effective storage services in Azure cloud.

However, with scaling business, it becomes difficult to choose the most budget-friendly storage option(s) for your cloud-hosted data growing at an exponential rate. By leveraging CloudMonitor, you can benefit significantly from its automated recommendations as it alerts you to the cloud wastage and recommends better cost-saving opportunities such as switching to Azure Storage reserved capacity, choosing an optimal storage tier, and more.

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