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How to create and configure Azure Storage Account

Azure Storage Account
A Storage Account in Azure is a logical (Virtual) division of the storage hardware at Azure Datacenters, where we are provided with the explicit access to that particular account and storage via different medium such as (Azure Portal or Storage Explorer or any other tool) to store our data which are secured with different layers of security.
Microsoft allow to create a storage account at the subscription level in a resource group. Later we can link this storage account with a Virtual Network and its subnet if we want it to be used by internal users only.
Further, under storage account we can use different types of storages as per our need. There are four type of storage under each storage account:
  • Blob Storage
  • File Storage / File Share
  • Table Storage
  • Queue Storage
Blob Storage
Blob is a type of storage where you can upload any type of file or folder with any extension. There are multiple ways to access blob storage but the most popular are – either to access the blob storage using Azure Portal or ‘Azure Storage Explorer’.
Azure Storage Explorer: It is a Microsoft tool which is specially developed to access different storage account in Azure from your local machine or as per need. To download this tool just go to google and type –‘Azure Storage Explorer download’ you will get the first link to the page to download the tool.
The objects created / uploaded in the blob storage could be used to upload or load in different resources in Azure or even to your web based solution. Each object is associated with a link (URL), which can be seen in properties of that object. Capacity of Blob storage is Up to 2 PiB Account and object size limit is up to about 4.75 TiB per block blob. It’s costing is based on bytes written in the Blob. Disks are also type of blob storage and its maximum allowed size is 4 TiB disk.
File Storage
File Storage is specifically used as to provide the cloud based storage solution to your environment shared objects or files. This storage type works as a Network drive in your machine and could be attached by using a Power-shell script provided once the file share is created in storage account (Click on Connect option in your File to get the PS script to connect locally).
** Conditional Access: You will be able to configure this shared Network Drive to your local machine, only if Port # 445 is open to your network and machine. File share communicates with your local machine as a Network drive using this port.
If you are looking to set up a network drive for a specific team in your organization and you want your team to drop the shared files and object at one place and can get easy access to it whenever needed, this could be best solution for you on Azure. Capacity of a File Share is 5 TiB file shares and object size up to 1 TiB per file. It’s costing is based on file size.

Table Storage
Relational data like Tables could be uploaded in Table Storage type in Azure. This table is callable or can be linked or uploaded to database in your Azure environment when so ever needed.
You can create a table in Azure portal but to add new column or to upload content that is do-able by using Azure Storage Explorer on your local machine. You can upload the Excel or CSV files by using the same tool in your local machine.
Currently, till April 2019, maximum size of a File Storage that can be created is 5 TB. I have specified the date because Microsoft continuously upgrades their services so later it may increase.

Queue Storage
Azure Queue storage is a service for storing large numbers of messages that can be accessed from anywhere in the world via authenticated calls using HTTP or HTTPS. A single queue message can be up to 64 KB in size, and a queue can contain millions of messages, up to the total capacity limit of a storage account.
Common uses of Queue storage include:
  • Creating a backlog of work to process asynchronously.
  • Passing messages from an Azure web role to an Azure worker role.

Creating & using Azure Storage Account
Demo 1: Creating Azure Storage Account and Configuring Network Access:
Go to + Create a resource > Storage > Storage account > Create a storage account.
Select the subscription in which you want to create the storage account. Create a new Resource Group or select an existing one for deploying the storage account in it. Give a suitable name for the storage account which will be acting as DNS. Select a location to deploy your resource and choose Performance as standard. For Account Kind select Storage (general purpose v2). Select the replication type that you need and click on Next : Advanced > button to configure further settings.

For virtual networks, enable Select network option and click on Create new option to create a new virtual network. This is for deploying the storage account up on a virtual network for security and restrictions. This will make only the resources that run on the created virtual network will be allowed to access the storage account. To allow other resources to access the storage account, firewall must be configured.
Give a name to the VNET and modify the address space range as per your need. Give a name for the subnet and select its address range as well. Then click on Ok.
By now, the virtual network and subnet that you configured will be selected. Click on Review + create button to start creating the storage account.

If you like to add any resource Tags, click on Next: Tags > button and add tags.
In the review blade, the storage account configurations will be validated. If there is any error in configurations, you will be shown here. On a successful validation, click in Create button to start creating the storage account.

Once after the deployment gets over, you will be getting a Success message. Then, click on Go to resource option to view the storage account that you have created.
Now, let us try to add some data into our storage account. In the overview page of the blob, click on Blobs option to navigate into blob service of storage account.

Click on + Container button to add container. A container is nothing but a folder for maintaining the resources that you upload. With the name that you give to your container, you will be able to easily organize the resources and manage them. It is something like you creating a folder named videos for maintain videos in it and another folder named pictures for maintaining pictures in it.
Give a suitable name for your container and select Public access level as Private (no anonymous access).

Here, we are selecting Private and hence we will not be able to access the blobs without authentication key. After giving the configurations, click on OK. Now, the container will get created.

As mentioned earlier, you will not have access to the blobs since you have created the storage account on a virtual network. To gain access to the storage account, either you should access the storage account from virtual network or must add your machine’s IP address in the firewall of storage account.
To add the IP address in the firewall rules, go to Firewalls and virtual networks option in the left side menu of your storage account. There, enable Add your client IP address option to whitelist your machine’s IP to access azure storage account. Then, click on save button.

Now, navigate again to the container that you created earlier. This tile you will be allowed to access the container.
In the container’s Overview page, click on Upload option to upload a blob into the container. Now, click on browse button to select any file in your computer.

Select any file in your machine to upload and then click on Open.
After choosing the file, click on Advanced option to explore options available for uploading a blob. The different blob types will be discussed in the next demo.
In the advanced option, give a name in Upload to folder option for uploading the blob into a folder. Then, click in Upload button.

After the file gets uploaded, you will get a success message and you can also see a new folder got created in the container.
Click on it to navigate into the folder to check the blob file.

You will now be able to find the blob file that you uploaded earlier. Click on the file to view its URL and properties.
Copy its URL and browse for it to view the file that you uploaded.

When you ping the URL of the blob file, you won’t get any response. There will be an error message saying that the resource does not exist. This is because of the reason that we created the container with Private level of access. To access the blob, we need an authentication token as explained earlier. It is called as Shared Access Signature.
Demo 2: Generating Shared Access Signature:
For generating a SAS signature click on Generate SAS in the properties blade of blob that you were previously in. You can choose the kind of permission which you like to implement. SAS Signature can be generated on time basis. You can give a start time and end time for the token. This will ensure that the authentication token will get expired after the time span gets over. After setting the time, click on Generate blob SAS token and URL to get the SAS token.

After the signature gets generated, copy the entire URL that is shown at the last as Blob SAS URL to access the blob. In addition to that, you can also copy the token alone that is shown above the URL and append it with the URL of any other blob that is maintained in your container.
Now, ping the Blob SAS URL that you copied earlier. This time the blob will be shown. Here, you can be able to view the file for next two minutes since the SAS token that is generated is valid from till the given time only. If you ping the URL after this time, there will be no response.

Again, if you ping the URL after that time, there will be no access to your data.
You can generate the SAS tokens for the entire storage account as well. To generate this, you can go to the storage account and select Shared access signature and click. There you can select the resources to which the token has to be generated; the time frame and IP address ranges as well. Finally, you can click on Generate SAS and Connection String to get the SAS token.

Demo 3: Exploring Storage Account via Storage Explorer:
Azure Storage Explorer is a standalone app that enables you to easily work with Azure Storage data on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Microsoft Azure has integrated Storage Explorer which is in preview. This can be accessed by navigating to Storage Explorer (preview) option in the left side menu of the storage account. There you have an option to navigate into the storage account container and all other resources. There you can choose the file that you like to access. You can access the resource by clicking it and you can copy the URL of those resources by clicking on Copy URL option in the top.

In addition to this, you can install the Azure Storage Explorer and use it to work with the storage service. Navigate to to download azure storage explorer setup and install the same.

After installing the storage explorer, open it and click on Add an account option to login to azure subscription.
Storage Explorer provides several ways to connect to storage accounts. For example, you can:
  • Connect to storage accounts associated with your Azure subscriptions, using user ID and password to your Azure account.
  • Connect to storage accounts using connection string for your Storage account in Azure.
  • Connect to storage accounts using Shared Access Signature (SAS).
  • Connect to storage accounts using storage Account name & a shared access key from your Azure subscriptions.

Select Add an Azure Account and select environment as Azure and click on Sign in. Enter login Details and you will be able to explore all your storage account in the explorer (Reference Image 1).
Or if you are trying to login using account name and key (4th option) you will get the page as (Reference Image 2) below to enter Display name, Storage Account Name & Account Key (You can get this from Azure portal > Storage Account > Access Keys > Key1 (Copy)). Enter the details and click on Next and then Connect.

I have shown only two mode of authentication; please explore other two by your own.

  • Ex. If you have used SAS tokens to give access to storage, go for SAS option to login.
You can now navigate to the storage account that you have added (I have used my name –‘Gaurav-Kariya’ as display name) and view the blob and the containers inside it.

Select any one container and Click on Upload option to choose any file that you like to upload and click Upload.

You can now select the uploaded file and click on copy URL to get the URL of the file. You can use the storage explorer to manage the blobs, taking snapshots and generating SAS as well.

Paste the URL in new tab in your browser, you should be able to see the Image that we have uploaded.
Demo 4: Exploring and Regenerating Access Keys:
When you create a storage account, Azure generates two 512-bit storage account access keys. These keys can be used to authorize access to your storage account via Shared Key. You can rotate and regenerate the keys without interruption to your applications, and Microsoft recommends that you do so regularly. Your storage account key is similar to the root password for your storage account. Always be careful to protect your account key. Avoid distributing it to other users, hard-coding it, or saving it anywhere in plaintext that is accessible to others. Regenerate your account key using the Azure portal if you believe it may have been compromised.
To view your access key, click on Access keys option in the left side menu of your storage account. There you can view two keys that can be used for to authenticate to storage account. The two storage keys are given for the purpose of avoiding the downtime of resources while regenerating an access key. To regenerate key, click on the regeneration key that we have. After successfully regenerating the key, check the key that you had earlier. You will be able to view a change in the key.

Demo 5: Adding File Share:
Go to the Storage Account’s overview page and click on Files option.
Now, click on ‘+ File Share’ option to add a file share. Give a name, some size that matches to the size of files that you will be syncing and click on OK. You can now upload your files into the File Share and maintain their access in your organization.

You can add your file share as a Network drive in your machines.
First you need to enable (allow) port 445 in your network where you want to add the drive, you can check that by using command – >netstat -a

Then by clicking on ‘Connect’ option when you enter into your File Share that you have created. Then Copy the Powershell Script that you see in the right blade & paste it to the powershell windows of your end machine where you want that network drive to be connected.

You will see the success message as the command execution is completed. Once this is done you can see the Network drive connected in your end machine.

*Note: Sometimes when Network Discovery is off in your machine you will not be able to see the Network Drive Connected in your machine, for that please enable Network Discovery in Network and Sharing Center > Advanced Sharing Settings.

Then re-run the powershell script, you will get below screen:

Now, whatever objects you upload or copy paste here in this drive, it will be immediately available in the Azure Portal File-Share.

Demo 6: Adding Table:
Table could also be uploaded same way we did for blob storage to upload image.
(The only difference is you can upload Excel or CSV file only in case of Tables)
Demo 7: Adding Queues:
You can add messages for calling in when required (used in web development).

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