Unraveling The Azure Storage Pricing Maze

CloudHealth Tech Staff
Published:
Jan. 23, 2020
4 minute read

Microsoft provides an overview of its Azure storage pricing options which claims you only pay for what you need. However, because of the vast range of options, it is not always possible to know what you need or whether you are paying too much for it. Here we try to unravel the Azure storage pricing maze.

When you first look at the Azure storage pricing overview page, it looks fairly navigable. There are solutions clearly listed for the most common types of storage (object storage, disk storage, file storage, etc.) and links to less common types of storage (page blobs, table storage, and queues). It is clearly explained there are different levels of redundancy, and the option to create storage accounts.

The logical choice is to create a general-purpose storage account that covers every service, performance tier, and access tier, with the maximum number of redundancy options. Other types of storage account exist, but they would only be required in exceptional circumstances and the storage account chosen has no effect on Azure storage pricing. The five types of storage account are:






Type

Supported Services

Performance Tiers

Access Tiers

Redundancy Options

General Purpose V2

Blob, File, Queue, Table & Disk

Standard & Premium

Hot, Cool & Archive

6

General Purpose V1

Blob, File, Queue, Table & Disk

Standard & Premium

Hot

3

Block Blob Storage

Blob

Premium

Hot

1

File Storage Account

File

Premium

Hot

1

Blob Storage Account

Blob

Standard 

Hot, Cool & Archive

3

 

It is important to note that although a General Purpose V2 storage account offers two performance tiers for five supported services with three access tiers and six levels of redundancy, it is not the case there are 180 options to choose from. For example, you wouldn´t assign premium performance to blob storage with infrequent (cool) access, so this option is not made available in the Azure pricing calculator.

Using the calculator to calculate Azure storage pricing

This is where Azure storage pricing starts to get complicated because you may have to factor in API calls, data retrieval costs, and other operations (for blob storage), or - in the case of managed disks - how many snapshots you will use. With regards to managed disks, it is important to note the snapshots option is set to “off” by default, which can give a misleading calculation of the total cost.

It is also important to note Azure storage pricing can vary dramatically according to the region - even within the US. Unless it is vital data is maintained within a specific region, it is worth clicking between regions to establish the best price. Please be aware, however, that the full range of redundancy options is not available in every region, so you may have to make compromises in order to get the best price.

When you have determined the right service at the right price, it is always best to review storage-related deployments before launching them - especially disk storage attached to VMs. Azure´s default action when launching a VM is to attach an SSD disk to the VM, which is almost three times as expensive as an HDD disk. Reviewing deployments before launching them will not only save you money, but time retrospectively rightsizing the storage disk at a later date.

Options for managing Azure storage accounts

If your business uses the blob storage service to store large amounts of unstructured data, the opportunity exists to manage data using the Azure Storage Explorer. Among other capabilities, this tool allows you to create containers within a General Purpose V2 storage account to separate data and apply access policies to it. In many respects, it´s a good tool for data management and security.

However, one capability absent from the tool is the ability to alert you to infrequently accessed data stored in a hot access tier that could be migrated to a cool access tier in order to save on Azure storage pricing. Hot access storage can cost up to 80% more than cool access storage in certain US regions; so, if you believe your business´s storage account may contain infrequently accessed data, it is worth finding out if you are paying too much for the service.