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Migrating File Server (Share) to Azure

Let’s take a look on what are the current solution on Azure when we want to migrate our local file storage from on-premises to cloud.

Context
On the current system, let us imagine that we have Windows File Server that it is used to share filers inside the company. The File Server is fully integrated with our Active Directory server and based on roles we allow/restrict access to different folders/files.


What we want to do?
We want to migrate to Azure this solution in such a way that we don’t need to manage the File Server machines and also to be able to have control on file sharing permissions using user roles (Active Directory integration).
Addition to this, we want to be able to attach as a shared folder or partition the shared content on the client machine.

Azure Files
An extremely powerful solution provided by Microsoft, which allow us to store our files in Azure and share them with others. The SMB protocol is fully supported, meaning that we can attach the shared on our client machines as a shared folder.
It is the right thing that we need, expect one small thing – NO integration with Active Directory. It means that to be able to attach a share folder or access content we will need to use the storage account name and account key. This will never work in an organization with 10.000 people where you want to control and manage use access, as you would do inside a File Server.

SharePoint on Azure
This nice solution would work. The problem with it is the extra complexity that SharePoint would add for the IT team. In the end they only want to allow file sharing capabilities, they don’t want to manage this things inside SharePoint.
There are companies that might access this solution, but depends from one organization to another.

OneDrive for Business
It’s a great tool that can be used for file sharing inside the team or from one person to a group. But it’s not seen as a mainstream tool that can be used for file sharing inside the company. Even if there is support to share a folder/file to an AD group, it is still a basic tool, that would not as we expected if we would need to share content to 10.000 people.
Works great for small organizations or for a team inside a company.

Migrate File Server machines to Azure
This involves taking the current file storage solution that you have on-premises and put it on top of Azure VMs. The files can be pushed directly to Azure Files and mapped as shared folders inside the File Server VMs. Based on user roles, the File Server would be cable to fetch content, as they would do on-premises.

Even if you still need to manage the VMs, the list of tasks that you need to do is shorter.

  • You don’t need to backup the content
  • You don’t need to manage the hardware
  • You can scale the number of VMs automatically
  • You can serve content cross-location
  • Scaling is simple and faster

Additional to this, by keeping the content stored inside Azure Files you do not only have a backup solution that works out-of-the-box but you are also ready for what future might bring to us.

For example if in the future Azure Files would have support for access using Azure AD, than the only thing that you need to do is to move the access rights to Azure AD and stop the Azure VMs where File Server is running.

Conclusion
Unfortunately, except SharePoint solution, there are not too many options that would allow us out-of-the-box to have integration with AD roles.
An hybrid solution like the one with Azure VMs might be the most clean and straightforward solution until Azure Files would have new capabilities.

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