Azure storage access tier

Azure storage access tier DEFAULT

Hot, cool, and archive access tiers for blob data

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Data stored in the cloud grows at an exponential pace. To manage costs for your expanding storage needs, it can be helpful to organize your data based on how frequently it will be accessed and how long it will be retained. Azure storage offers different access tiers so that you can store your blob data in the most cost-effective manner based on how it is being used. Azure Storage access tiers include:

  • Hot tier - An online tier optimized for storing data that is accessed or modified frequently. The hot tier has the highest storage costs, but the lowest access costs.
  • Cool tier - An online tier optimized for storing data that is infrequently accessed or modified. Data in the cool tier should be stored for a minimum of 30 days. The cool tier has lower storage costs and higher access costs compared to the hot tier.
  • Archive tier - An offline tier optimized for storing data that is rarely accessed, and that has flexible latency requirements, on the order of hours. Data in the archive tier should be stored for a minimum of days.

Azure storage capacity limits are set at the account level, rather than according to access tier. You can choose to maximize your capacity usage in one tier, or to distribute capacity across two or more tiers.

Online access tiers

When your data is stored in an online access tier (either hot or cool), users can access it immediately. The hot tier is the best choice for data that is in active use, while the cool tier is ideal for data that is accessed less frequently, but that still must be available for reading and writing.

Example usage scenarios for the hot tier include:

  • Data that's in active use or is expected to be read from and written to frequently.
  • Data that's staged for processing and eventual migration to the cool access tier.

Usage scenarios for the cool access tier include:

  • Short-term data backup and disaster recovery.
  • Older data sets that are not used frequently, but are expected to be available for immediate access.
  • Large data sets that need to be stored in a cost-effective way while additional data is being gathered for processing.

Data in the cool tier has slightly lower availability, but offers the same high durability, retrieval latency, and throughput characteristics as the hot tier. For data in the cool tier, slightly lower availability and higher access costs may be acceptable trade-offs for lower overall storage costs, as compared to the hot tier. For more information, see SLA for storage.

A blob in the cool tier in a general-purpose v2 accounts is subject to an early deletion penalty if it is deleted or moved to a different tier before 30 days has elapsed. This charge is prorated. For example, if a blob is moved to the cool tier and then deleted after 21 days, you'll be charged an early deletion fee equivalent to 9 (30 minus 21) days of storing that blob in the cool tier.

The hot and cool tiers support all redundancy configurations. For more information about data redundancy options in Azure Storage, see Azure Storage redundancy.

Archive access tier

The archive tier is an offline tier for storing data that is rarely accessed. The archive access tier has the lowest storage cost, but higher data retrieval costs and latency compared to the hot and cool tiers. Example usage scenarios for the archive access tier include:

  • Long-term backup, secondary backup, and archival datasets
  • Original (raw) data that must be preserved, even after it has been processed into final usable form
  • Compliance and archival data that needs to be stored for a long time and is hardly ever accessed

Data must remain in the archive tier for at least days or be subject to an early deletion charge. For example, if a blob is moved to archive and then deleted or moved to the hot tier after 45 days, you'll be charged an early deletion fee equivalent to ( minus 45) days of storing that blob in archive.

While a blob is in the archive tier, it can't be read or modified. To read or download a blob in the archive tier, you must first rehydrate it to an online tier, either hot or cool. Data in the archive tier can take up to 15 hours to rehydrate. For more information about blob rehydration, see Overview of blob rehydration from the archive tier.

An archived blob's metadata remains available for read access, so that you can list the blob and its properties, metadata, and index tags. Metadata for a blob in the archive tier is read-only, while blob index tags can be read or written. Snapshots are not supported for archived blobs.

The following operations are supported for blobs in the archive tier:


The archive tier is not supported for ZRS, GZRS, or RA-GZRS accounts. Migrating from LRS to GRS is supported as long as no blobs were moved to the archive tier while the account was set to LRS. An account can be moved back to GRS if the update is performed less than 30 days from the time the account became LRS, and no blobs were moved to the archive tier while the account was set to LRS.

Default account access tier setting

Storage accounts have a default access tier setting that indicates the online tier in which a new blob is created. The default access tier setting can be set to either hot or cool. Users can override the default setting for an individual blob when uploading the blob or changing its tier.

The default access tier for a new general-purpose v2 storage account is set to the hot tier by default. You can change the default access tier setting when you create a storage account or after it is created. If you do not change this setting on the storage account or explicitly set the tier when uploading a blob, then a new blob is uploaded to the hot tier by default.

A blob that doesn't have an explicitly assigned tier infers its tier from the default account access tier setting. If a blob's access tier is inferred from the default account access tier setting, then the Azure portal displays the access tier as Hot (inferred) or Cool (inferred).

Changing the default account access tier setting applies to all blobs in the account for which an access tier has not been explicitly set. If you toggle the default account access tier setting from hot to cool in a general-purpose v2 account, then you are charged for write operations (per 10,) for all blobs for which the access tier is inferred. You are charged for both read operations (per 10,) and data retrieval (per GB) if you toggle from cool to hot in a general-purpose v2 account.

When you create a legacy Blob Storage account, you must specify the default access tier setting as hot or cool at create time. There's no charge for changing the default account access tier setting from hot to cool in a legacy Blob Storage account. You are charged for both read operations (per 10,) and data retrieval (per GB) if you toggle from cool to hot in a Blob Storage account. Microsoft recommends using general-purpose v2 storage accounts rather than Blob Storage accounts when possible.


The archive tier is not supported as the default access tier for a storage account.

Setting or changing a blob's tier

To explicitly set a blob's tier when you create it, specify the tier when you upload the blob.

After a blob is created, you can change its tier in either of the following ways:

  • By calling the Set Blob Tier operation, either directly or via a lifecycle management policy. Calling Set Blob Tier is typically the best option when changing a blob's tier from a hotter tier to a cooler one.
  • By calling the Copy Blob operation to copy a blob from one tier to another. Calling Copy Blob is recommended for most scenarios where you are rehydrating a blob from the archive tier to an online tier, or moving a blob from cool to hot. By copying a blob, you can avoid the early deletion penalty, if the required storage interval for the source blob has not yet elapsed. However, copying a blob results in capacity charges for two blobs, the source blob and the destination blob.

Changing a blob's tier from hot to cool or archive is instantaneous, as is changing from cool to hot. Rehydrating a blob from the archive tier to either the hot or cool tier can take up to 15 hours.

Keep in mind the following points when moving a blob between the cool and archive tiers:

  • If a blob is inferred as cool based on the storage account's default access tier and the blob is moved to archive, there is no early deletion charge.
  • If a blob is explicitly moved to the cool tier and then moved to archive, the early deletion charge applies.

Blob lifecycle management

Blob storage lifecycle management offers a rule-based policy that you can use to transition your data to the desired access tier when your specified conditions are met. You can also use lifecycle management to expire data at the end of its life. See Optimize costs by automating Azure Blob Storage access tiers to learn more.


Data stored in a premium block blob storage account cannot be tiered to hot, cool, or archive using Set Blob Tier or using Azure Blob Storage lifecycle management. To move data, you must synchronously copy blobs from the block blob storage account to the hot tier in a different account using the Put Block From URL API or a version of AzCopy that supports this API. The Put Block From URL API synchronously copies data on the server, meaning the call completes only once all the data is moved from the original server location to the destination location.

Summary of access tier options

The following table summarizes the features of the hot, cool, and archive access tiers.

Hot tierCool tierArchive tier
(RA-GRS reads)
Usage chargesHigher storage costs, but lower access and transaction costsLower storage costs, but higher access and transaction costsLowest storage costs, but highest access, and transaction costs
Minimum recommended data retention periodN/A30 days1 days
(Time to first byte)
Supported redundancy configurationsAllAllLRS, GRS, and RA-GRS3 only

1 Objects in the cool tier on general-purpose v2 accounts have a minimum retention duration of 30 days. For Blob Storage accounts, there is no minimum retention duration for the cool tier.

2 When rehydrating a blob from the archive tier, you can choose either a standard or high rehydration priority option. Each offers different retrieval latencies and costs. For more information, see Overview of blob rehydration from the archive tier.

3 For more information about redundancy configurations in Azure Storage, see Azure Storage redundancy.

Pricing and billing

All storage accounts use a pricing model for block blob storage that is based on a blob's tier. Keep in mind the billing considerations described in the following sections.

For more information about pricing for block blobs, see Block blob pricing.

Storage capacity costs

In addition to the amount of data stored, the cost of storing data varies depending on the access tier. The per-gigabyte capacity cost decreases as the tier gets cooler.

Data access costs

Data access charges increase as the tier gets cooler. For data in the cool and archive access tier, you're charged a per-gigabyte data access charge for reads.

Transaction costs

A per-transaction charge applies to all tiers and increases as the tier gets cooler.

Geo-replication data transfer costs

This charge only applies to accounts with geo-replication configured, including GRS and RA-GRS. Geo-replication data transfer incurs a per-gigabyte charge.

Outbound data transfer costs

Outbound data transfers (data that is transferred out of an Azure region) incur billing for bandwidth usage on a per-gigabyte basis. For more information on outbound data transfer charges, see Bandwidth Pricing Details page.

Changing the default account access tier

Changing the account access tier results in tier change charges for all blobs that don't already have a tier explicitly set. For more information, see the following section, Changing a blob's access tier.

Changing a blob's access tier

Keep in mind the following billing impacts when changing a blob's tier:

  • When a blob is uploaded or moved between tiers, it is charged at the corresponding rate immediately upon upload or tier change.
  • When a blob is moved to a cooler tier (hot to cool, hot to archive, or cool to archive), the operation is billed as a write operation to the destination tier, where the write operation (per 10,) and data write (per GB) charges of the destination tier apply.
  • When a blob is moved to a warmer tier (archive to cool, archive to hot, or cool to hot), the operation is billed as a read from the source tier, where the read operation (per 10,) and data retrieval (per GB) charges of the source tier apply. Early deletion charges for any blob moved out of the cool or archive tier may apply as well.
  • While a blob is being rehydrated from the archive tier, that blob's data is billed as archived data until the data is restored and the blob's tier changes to hot or cool.

The following table summarizes how tier changes are billed.

Write charges (operation + access)Read charges (operation + access)
Set Blob Tier operationHot to cool
Hot to archive
Cool to archive
Archive to cool
Archive to hot
Cool to hot

Changing the access tier for a blob when versioning is enabled, or if the blob has snapshots, may result in additional charges. For information about blobs with versioning enabled, see Pricing and billing in the blob versioning documentation. For information about blobs with snapshots, see Pricing and billing in the blob snapshots documentation.

Feature support

This table shows how this feature is supported in your account and the impact on support when you enable certain capabilities.

1 Data Lake Storage Gen2 and the Network File System (NFS) protocol both require a storage account with a hierarchical namespace enabled.

For information about feature support by region, see Azure products available by region.

Next steps


Manage the access tier of a blob in an Azure Storage account

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal.

  2. In the Azure portal, search for and select All Resources.

  3. Select your storage account.

  4. Select your container and then select your blob.

  5. In the Blob properties, select Change tier.

  6. Select the Hot, Cool, or Archive access tier. If your blob is currently in archive and you want to rehydrate to an online tier, you may also select a Rehydrate Priority of Standard or High.

  7. Select Save at the bottom.

Change blob tier in Azure portal

The following PowerShell script can be used to change the blob tier. The variable must be initialized with your resource group name. The variable must be initialized with your storage account name. The variable must be initialized with your container name. The variable must be initialized with your blob name.

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How to Switch Between Azure Blob Storage Tiers

The enterprise storage landscape caters to different types of data, with part of this data being actively used by applications on a day-to-day basis, and another part of it remaining unused or untouched for long periods of time. Data used by line-of-business (LOB) applications and databases belong to the former category while archive data, backups, etc. belong to the latter.  

To ensure that you’re using your storage capacity optimally, you need to match your data with the storage that best fits its performance requirements, all while keeping the cost in check. In the Azure cloud, Azure Blob storage offers three different tiers catering to different types of data that will help you do that.

This blog will show you step by step how to switch between different Azure storage tiers based on the lifecycle of the data so you can make effective usage of your cloud storage investment, and the further optimization that you can get with NetApp® Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

Azure Storage Tiers 

Azure offers three storage tiers to store data in blob storage: Hot Access tier, Cool Access tier, and Archive tier. These tiers target data at different stages of its lifecycle and offer cost-effective storage options for different use cases.

Hot Access Tier: This tier should be used for the data frequently accessed by applications, and that is read or written very often. The data storage costs for this tier are higher than other tiers, but access charges are lower, thus suiting the target use case.

Cool Access Tier: This storage tier is suitable for data that is not accessed frequently by applications and is expected to be stored for a minimum of 30 days; for example, for short term storage of backup, telemetry data, media files, etc. The cost of using the cool access tier is lower than using the hot tier, however access costs and availability are not the same. This tier also has a lower SLA (99%) when compared to hot tier (%), and there is a per-GB charge for accessing the data.

Archive Tier:  As the name indicates, this tier is intended to be used to store rarely accessed or archival data. Its storage rate is the cheapest on Azure, but the data retrieval charges are the highest. This tier is intended as Azure archive storage for data that is expected to be stored for a minimum of days and that can tolerate a larger retrieval window. The Archive tier is useful storage for large amounts of inactive data, such as data required to be stored for compliance purpose, long-term backup, archived datasets, etc.

These three data tiers are supported in General Purpose storage V2 and Blob storage accounts. Customers can also convert from existing GPv1 storage account to GPv2 from the Azure portal to get the benefits of storage tiering.

How to Switch Between Storage Tiers in Azure

Now let’s take a look at how to switch between these three storage tiers so you can put your data in the tier that best matches its usage pattern.

Note: While the Hot and Cool tiers can be enabled at the storage account level or at the blob level, the Archive tier can only be enabled at the blob level. All three storage access tiers can exist in the same storage account and the default tier for a blob is inherited from the account level setting. However, you could also use blob-level tiering to set the tier at the object level.

1. First, let’s look at how the storage tier can be set when the storage account is initially created. The account level tier is selected when you create the storage account. In the Azure portal, select Create a resource->Storage->Storage account. Select from the options of Hot or Cool for the Access tier (default) setting.

Note: This tier will be inherited by any blob created in the storage account.

Setting a storage account

2. To switch the storage access tier at a later point, browse to the storage account-> configuration->Change Access tier(default) to Cool and click “Save.”

Switching the storage access tier at a later point
3. Once you save your settings, you can confirm by browsing to the configuration of the same storage account. Here you’ll be able to see that the tier is currently set to Cool. Similarly, you could switch to the Hot Access tier if the storage account was originally created in the Cool tier.

Tier set to cool4. To switch the tier of a specific blob inside the storage account, browse to the Storage account->Blob service->Blobs-><container name>-> select the blob-> and click on the context menu on the left-hand side. From here, select “Blob properties.”

Switch the tier of a specific blob

5. When the Blob Properties window opens up, click on “Change tier” on the top menu bar.

Change Tier
6. You’ll be able to see that the default tier is listed as the same type inherited from the storage account.

Default tier is listed as the same type inherited from the storage account
7. Now open up the drop-down menu and select the new storage tier from the list. In this example, we are going to change the tier of the blob from Cool to Archive tier.

selecting a new storage tier from the list

8. While changing to Archive tier, you will get a warning message telling you that the blob will be inaccessible until it is rehydrated back to Hot or Cool tier and the process could take several hours. Click on “Ok” to switch the tier.

warning message telling you that the blob will be inaccessible until it is rehydrated back to Hot or Cool tier

9. You can confirm the tier has been changed by accessing the properties of the blob. Go to Storage account->Blob service->Blobs-><container name> and you’ll see that the access tier is now listed as Archive.

Storage account Blob

And that’s it. You have now seen how to successfully change the default storage tier of your Azure account as well as how to change them for individual blobs on demand.

Automated Lifecycle Management with Azure Blob Storage

Azure storage has a lifecycle management capability, and using it data can be transitioned to lower-access tiers automatically based on pre-configured rule-based policies. This function also allows data to be deleted at the end of its lifecycle.

Using policies, data can be transitioned from Hot to Cool Tier, and from Cool to the Archive Tier or Hot to Archive Tier. Rules can be defined to be executed against the storage account once per day. Specific blobs and containers can be targeted using Prefix filters.

1. First we’ll start by configuring the Lifecycle management rules for a storage account. Open the storage account from Azure portal, browse to Blob service->Lifecycle Management, and click on “Add rule.”


2. Configure the rule to define the access tier management. In the Action set, define the blob lifecycle policy.

In this example, data is moved to Cool storage if it is not modified for 20 days and moved to Archive storage if not modified for 90 days. Click on “Next:Filter set” to configure the filter set.

Optionally, you can define a path to apply the rule to a specific container or subset of virtual folders. It will be used as a Prefix match while applying the rules.

3. Click on “Next:Review+Add” to validate the configuration. Next, click “Add” to complete the policy creation.

4. The rule will now be shown as enabled in the portal.

5. The steps described above are the list view configuration option for policies. The configuration can also be updated from the “code view” window from Storage->Lifecycle Management->Code view, as shown below.


You have now set up a data lifecycle policy rule that will automatically tier the data as reflected by your usage patterns.

Improve Storage Efficiency and Data Tiering Using Cloud Volumes ONTAP for Azure

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP extends the data management capabilities of NetApp’s trusted ONTAP platform to Azure, enabling lower Azure storage costs with storage efficiencies. One such feature that adds to the efficiency of Azure storage usage is automated tiering between hot storage to cold storage tier in Azure. 

Cloud Volumes ONTAP makes it possible to automatically tier between the Azure tiers: managed Azure SSD disk storage as performance tier and Azure Blob storage as capacity tier. This functionality is not available natively using the Azure native storage services.

Using this feature infrequently-accessed data is tiered from managed Azure SSD disk storage to the less-expensive blob storage, initially to the Hot Access tier, based on the tiering policy configured. In addition to that, customers can use the approach described in this blog to switch the Azure storage tier to cool tier for data that has not been accessed for 30 days to reduce the storage charged further. Cloud Volumes ONTAP makes this same functionality available for AWS storage tiers on Amazon EBS and Amazon S3.

Organizations can greatly benefit from the versatility of Cloud Volumes ONTAP combined with the cost benefits of Azure storage tiers for use cases such as LOB applications, backup, Disaster Recovery and more.

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Azure Blob Storage offers an opportunity for organizations that store data in Azure to minimize cloud storage costs. For that, Microsoft has developed access tiers for your data. Below, we compare and contrast the different Azure storage tiers available and explain which Blob storage tiers to use under which conditions in order to strike the right balance between data availability and price.

Azure Blob Storage Tiers Overview

Azure Blob storage offers three access tiers. They differ by price, early deletion fees and data recovery speeds.

Hot Blob Storage Tier

Hot Blob Storage Tier

The “hot” storage tier is designed for production and business critical data that is accessed on a common basis - daily or weekly.

Within the context of data backup, the Hot storage tier is ideal for storing the most recent data backups because it will enable you to restore data quickly if necessary.

Thus, if you perform backups daily and retain backups for a month, you might want to keep one week’s worth of backups in the Hot tier, and transition the other three weeks’ worth of backups (which are less likely to be used in a recovery) to lower-cost tiers.

Keeping only one - the most recent - backup in the hot storage tier might sound tempting, but risky. For example, if the most recent backup was performed after a malware attack, you’d need to restore an older backup in order to get data back to a malware-free state.

Boost Your Profits with Azure Storage and MSP

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Cool Blob Storage Tier

Cool Blob Storage Tier

Azure Cool Blob storage tier is intended for data that you expect to access less often than once a month, but more often than once every six months or so.

The cost per gigabyte to store data in the Cool tier is significantly lower than in the Hot tier. Prices vary between regions, but to use the East US Azure region as en example, the Azure Cool Blob storage tier is about 25 percent less expensive than the Hot tier. Savings can be greater in other regions; in US Gov Virginia, the Cool tier costs about 45 percent less than Hot.

Beyond the cost of storage itself, Azure Blob charges fees for operations.

Some operations, such as data writes, cost more in the Cool tier than in Hot. However, if you don't often modify data in the Azure Cool Blob tier, these charges should not significantly impact you.

You also have to pay a fee if you delete data from Cool storage, or move it to a different tier, at any time during the first 30 days after you place the data in this tier. This is called an early deletion fee. Any blob that is deleted or moved out of the cool or archive tiers before 30 days and days respectively will incur a prorated early deletion fee.

The Azure Cool Blob storage tier is a good choice for data backups that are older, but that you might still need to access quickly in the event of a failure.

The transaction speed of data in the Cool tier is approximately the same as that for the Hot tier, according to Azure, so there is not a significant difference in data recovery time.

There is, however, a small difference in availability: Cool storage is guaranteed to be 99% available, compared to % for Hot. (With the RA-GRS - Read Access-Geo Redundant Storage redundancy option, Azure provides a higher read SLA of % for the Hot access tier and % for the Cool access tier.)

Learn how to start using Azure Cool Blob storage tier in MSP Backup:

Further readingAzure Cool Blob Storage

Archive Blob Storage Tier

Archive Blob Storage Tier

Azure Blob Storage's lowest-cost storage tier is Archive, which is designed for data that is accessed every days or more.

With Azure Archive storage, you can achieve prices that are about 80 percent lower than those for the Cool tier, and about 95 percent lower than for Hot. (Again, pricing specifics depend on which region you use.)

The tradeoff for these cost savings is that in order to read data from the Archive tier, you have to "thaw" it first. Azure doesn't specify exactly how long this takes, but tells you to expect hours.

You also have to pay a fee if you delete data from Azure Archive storage, or move it to a different tier, at any time during the first days after you place the data in this tier.

Azure Archive storage is ideal for storing backup data that you are saving for historical or compliance reasons, and that you don't expect to use for a data recovery.

For example, if you are subject to compliance requirements that mandate that you store certain data for a period of years (like HIPAA), Archive is a good solution. But given that it would take hours to prepare your data for download during recovery, Azure Archive storage is not a good choice for general-purpose data backups.

Further readingAzure Archive Blob Storage

Azure Blob Storage Tiers Comparison Table

Azure Blob
Storage Tier
Storage CostTransaction CostAccess delayEarly deletion feeGood for short-term
backup and
disaster recovery datasets?
ArchiveLowestHighestHigh (hours)YesNo

Lifecycle Policy Management

The idea of having to determine when to move your data from one Azure Blob Storage tier to another, and then performing the migration, may seem daunting. Fortunately, Azure offers a "lifecycle management policy" that helps automate the process.

Lifecycle management policies are a handy way to make sure you are not paying more for storage than you need, while still enforcing whichever data backup storage policies you have determined to be ideal for your organization.

You can configure rules that tell Azure when to move certain pieces of data between Azure storage tiers. For example, if you want to keep only a week's worth of data backups in Hot storage, you could automatically transition backups to Cool after seven days.

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Learn more about Azure lifecycle management policy and see how to configure it directly from MSP Backup:
Further readingAzure Lifecycle Management

Backup to Azure Blob Storage with MSP Backup

MSP Backup (formerly MSP Backup) makes it easy to perform data backups to Hot, Cool or Archive Azure Blob Storage tiers. To do so, first follow these steps to configure MSP Backup for Azure storage.

By default, MSP will use the Hot tier for backup storage. If you wish to use Cool or Archive instead, simply select the corresponding option when creating your backup plan, as below:

Select Cool or Archive storage tier if needed

With the following features, MSP Backup is ideally suited for Microsoft Azure cloud backup:

Support for All Azure Access TiersSupport for Azure Hot, Cool and Archive Blob storage tiers
With this flexibility, you can find the storage tier that provides the best balance between cost and performance.


Support for Azure Lifecycle ManagementLifecycle Management Policy
MSP Backup integrates with Azure lifecycle management feature, making it easy to move data automatically between different Azure Blob storage tiers.

Encrypted BackupEncrypted backup
Secure data in transit and at rest.


Restore Backup from Azure Storage to VMRestore from Blob storage to Azure Virtual Machines
If desired, MSP Backup can restore data directly from Blob storage to Azure Virtual Machine, enabling a very fast and smooth restore process.


Learn more about why customers choose MSP Backup and Azure Blob storage for their affordability, user-friendly interface and dedicated customer support:

Further readingCase Study


Choosing wisely among the different Azure Storage tiers will allow you to minimize your cloud data storage costs without compromising your ability to restore backup data when you need it. Keep in mind that with MSP Backup, no matter which tier you want to use, you can easily automate the process of backing up to Azure Blob Storage.

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Sours: https://www.mspcom/resources/blog/azure-storage-tiers/

Storage tier azure access

Azure Storage Options for Backup and Archive Data

Not all data needs to be stored in the highest performing storage format. In general, that means any data that is not regularly accessed— raw data, network telemetry dumps, and Azure backup data, archival data, etc.,— that has to be retained indefinitely. There are cost-effective Azure storage options specifically designed to be used to retain this kind of infrequently accessed data.

While the most critical enterprise workloads run on Azure premium storage, investing in costly on-premises storage systems or high performance cloud storage for that kind of data is not economical in the long run. That’s where Azure cold storage and archive storage options come in, which can help lower your cloud bill, specifically when it comes to yourAzure backup and archive costs.

In this post we will review the most cost-effective Azure storage options for backup and archive data, which will help reduce your overall TCO. We’ll profile the different features of Azure Blob storage’s cool and archive tiers and show you why you should incorporate them into your IT infra-architecture as a solution for low-cost data storage. We’ll also look at how Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help you further save on Azure.

Use the links below to jump down to the sections you want to see:

Azure Cool Storage Tier

Before we discuss the Azure cold storage option, a bit of background. Azure cloud storage can now be created under three categories: General-purpose v1 (GPv1), General-purpose v2 (GPv2) and Blob storage.

GPv1 supports all Azure storage options such as blobs, files, queues, and tables. GPv1 is now considered a legacy account type, and Azure recommends using GPv2 where possible, except for:

  • Applications that require the Azure classic deployment model.
  • Applications that don't require large capacity but are transaction-intensive or use significant geo-replication bandwidth, as GPv2 may increase storage costs. 
  • Applications that use a client library version lower than 4.x storage services and REST API version earlier than

Data tiering into hot and cold tiers is supported within Azure Blob storage classes. Because General-Purpose v2 storage supports the functionality of blob storage as well as GPv1, it also supports tiered storage.

Azure’s cool access tier, also known as Azure cool Blob storage, is for infrequently-accessed data that needs to be stored for a minimum of 30 days. Typical use cases include backing up data before tiering to archival systems, legal data, media files, system audit information, datasets used for big data analysis and more.

The storage cost for this Azure cold storage tier is lower than that of the hot storage tier. Since it is expected that the data stored in this tier will be accessed less frequently, the data access charges are high when compared to hot tier. There are no additional changes required in your applications as these tiers can be accessed using APIs in the same manner that you access Azure storage.

When it comes to Azure storage performance, a single blob on both the cool tier and hot tier has a rate of 60 Mib per second or up to requests per second. The cool tier availability is 99%, which is slightly less than the % available for hot tier. For Read-only Geo-redundant Storage (RA-GRS), the cool tier availability is %, while the hot tier is %. These differences are mainly due to the nature of the data being stored in Azure cold storage tier, where the data will be less affected by the availability targets.

Azure cool tier is equivalent to the Amazon S3 Infrequent Access (S3-IA) storage in AWS that provides a low cost high performance storage for infrequently accessed data.

Azure Archive Storage Tier

The Azure archive access tier, as the name indicates, is a low-cost storage for archival data that will be rarely accessed. This tier is meant for data that will remain in archival storage for a minimum of days. Long-term backup data, medical history, business transactions logs for audit and compliance, call center recordings are just some use cases that could benefit from the lengthy retention period on Azure archive storage.

Even though Azure archive storage offers the lowest cost in terms of data storage, its data retrieval charges are higher than that of hot and cool tiers. In fact, the archive tier data remains offline until the tier of the data is changed using a process called hydration. The process of hydrating data in the archive storage tier and moving it to either hot or cool tier could take up to 15 hours with standard priority and 1 hour for objects under 10 GB with high priority, hence, it is only intended for data that can afford that kind of access delay.

Azure also does not provide any availability SLAs for archive tier. The resiliency of the storage format is assured by replication at storage level. It supports Locally-redundant storage (LRS), Geo-Redundant storage (GRS) and RA-GRS.

The counterpart of Azure Storage Archive tier in AWS is Amazon S3 Glacier, which is a long-term, secure and durable object storage.

Cool Access Tier vs. Archive Access Tier

The cool access tier is for the kind of data you want to store on a short-term basis but may not access on a day-to-day basis, such as for banking transaction history, e-commerce transaction history, etc. You need the data to be online, should there be a requirement to retrieve it. The speed at which the data can be accessed if a requirement arises is almost the same as that of the hot storage tier.

One common use case for the cool storage tier is short-term data backup which could, at later point, be moved to a hot tier for restore or eventually moved to an archive tier for long-term storage. It can also be used for storing analytics data, large media files, telemetry, etc. The nature of the data is usually such that they would need a high capacity but low-cost storage option. Cool tier fits the bill in such cases.

Archive tier targets data that can be stored offline on a long-term basis. There will not be an immediate or urgent requirement to access the data. If a scenario arises where the data should be accessed, a wait time of up to 15 hours should be acceptable. A possible example is retrieval of medical records from an archive for research purposes. Unlike the cool tier, the archive tier is not enabled at the Azure Storage level. However, it supports blob-level tiering where the archival tier can be set at object level.

General availability of Archive tier was announced in December and the service is not yet available in all Azure regions. One common use case for archive tier is long-term data retention for compliance. Low-cost storage for data sets such as patient records in hospitals, offsite Azure blob backup and raw media files are other possible scenarios where archive tier can be leveraged.

In situations where the data access patterns are unclear, it is recommended to start with hot storage tier, monitor for a while, and then move the data to cool storage or archive storage tier based on access frequency.

The Cost-Benefit Analysis

The Archive tier offers the lowest Azure storage costs available on the Azure cloud: depending on the region, rates can be as low as $ to $ per GB up to first 50 TBs. However, reading data from an archive tier can be a costly activity which charges $5 for every 10, read operations. An early deletion charge will be applicable effective March 1 for any data deleted before the minimum period of days for archive tier.  So if your data was stored for less than days, the charge would cost the remaining days. For example if the data was stored for days, the charge would be for 50 days of storage.

Cool tier data storage costs $ GB up to 50 TB, which is higher than that of archive tier. However, there are no high charges associated with data read operations. 10, operations will cost only $ in the cool tier.

As it can be seen from the associated costs listed below, selecting the optimal low-cost storage depends mainly on the size of data and the usage pattern. Terabytes of data can be stored at very low cost in the Archive tier. However, if a requirement arises where the data will be read more frequently, it is always economical to rehydrate and store that data in the cool tier or hot tier.

Low-Cost Storage Options on Azure blob cloud storage data tiering archive cool enterprise workloads back up disaster recovery

Integration with Existing Storage Systems

Both the cool and archive tiers can integrate with several industry leading storage service vendors to provide hybrid cloud storage offerings. The frequently-accessed data will be stored in on-premises storage or to the hot tier and the lesser frequently accessed data is tiered to cool or archive tier in Azure. It could initially be in cool tier, and at later point can be moved to archive tier based on access patterns.

The native offering from Microsoft for this is the StorSimple solution that supports cool tier. Different flavors of the solution such as StorSimple physical array, Virtual Array and cloud array have this integration available out of the box. But with the Virtual Array nearing the December End Of Life, and StorSimple series reaching EOL on 31/12/, StorSimple, though still advertised, is no longer an option.

How to Get Even Lower Storage Costs with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp offers out-of-the-box cloud storage integration with Cloud Volumes ONTAP for Azure storage. Cloud Volumes ONTAP interoperates with Azure cloud storage to cater to multiple use cases such as enterprise workload hosting, disaster recovery with Azure Site Recovery, DevOps and as a file share service.

Depending on the workloads to be supported, customers have the option to choose from different storage types available in Azure, such as HDD or SSD-backed storage. In either case, Cloud Volumes ONTAP helps with Azure cost optimization, lowering Azure storage costs up to 70% with space-saving storage efficiencies and data tiering to Azure blob storage.

NetApp’s hybrid cloud solution helps enterprise customers reap the benefits of both on-premises as well as cloud storage features of cool and archive Azure storage. To see how using Cloud Volumes ONTAP can cut down your TCO on Azure, check out our free Azure calculator.


Many organizations are addressing the exponential data growth and backup data storage challenge by leveraging cloud storage or hybrid cloud storage solutions. Cloud storage is a cheaper option when compared to on-premises data storage costs. Further cost reductions can be achieved by leveraging tiered low-cost Azure storage options for least-accessed data.

Azure hot and cold tier fits are inexpensive Azure cloud storage variants that fit into this space, space that NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP can further help in cost reduction with its range of storage-efficiency features. It is highly recommended that organizations include them in their environment storage architecture.

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Azure - How to change access tier in Blob Storage?

Manage the default access tier of an Azure Storage account

Each Azure Storage account has a default access tier, either hot or cool. You assign the access tier when you create a storage account. The default access tier is hot.

You can change the default account tier by setting the Access tier attribute on the storage account. Changing the account tier applies to all objects stored in the account that don't have an explicit tier set. Toggling the account tier from hot to cool incurs write operations (per 10,) for all blobs without a set tier in general-purpose v2 accounts only and toggling from cool to hot incurs both read operations (per 10,) and data retrieval (per GB) charges for all blobs in Blob Storage and general-purpose v2 accounts.

For blobs with the tier set at the object level, the account tier doesn't apply. The archive tier can only be applied at the object level. You can switch between access tiers at any time.

You can change the default access tier after a storage account has been created by following the steps below.

Change the default account access tier of a general-purpose v2 or Blob Storage account

The following scenarios use the Azure portal or PowerShell:

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal.

  2. In the Azure portal, search for and select All Resources.

  3. Select your storage account.

  4. In Settings, select Configuration to view and change the account configuration.

  5. Select the right access tier for your needs: Set the Access tier to either Cool or Hot.

  6. Click Save at the top.

Change default account tier in Azure portal

The following PowerShell script can be used to change the account tier. The variable must be initialized with your resource group name. The variable must be initialized with your storage account name.

The following Azure CLI script can be used to change the account tier. The variable must be initialized with your resource group name. The variable must be initialized with your storage account name.

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Storage account overview

An Azure storage account contains all of your Azure Storage data objects: blobs, file shares, queues, tables, and disks. The storage account provides a unique namespace for your Azure Storage data that's accessible from anywhere in the world over HTTP or HTTPS. Data in your storage account is durable and highly available, secure, and massively scalable.

To learn how to create an Azure storage account, see Create a storage account.

Types of storage accounts

Azure Storage offers several types of storage accounts. Each type supports different features and has its own pricing model. Consider these differences before you create a storage account to determine the type of account that's best for your applications.

The following table describes the types of storage accounts recommended by Microsoft for most scenarios. All of these use the Azure Resource Manager deployment model.

Type of storage accountSupported storage servicesRedundancy optionsUsage
Standard general-purpose v2Blob (including Data Lake Storage1), Queue, and Table storage, Azure FilesLRS/GRS/RA-GRS

Standard storage account type for blobs, file shares, queues, and tables. Recommended for most scenarios using Azure Storage. Note that if you want support for NFS file shares in Azure Files, use the premium file shares account type.
Premium block blobs3Blob storage (including Data Lake Storage1)LRS

Premium storage account type for block blobs and append blobs. Recommended for scenarios with high transactions rates, or scenarios that use smaller objects or require consistently low storage latency. Learn more about example workloads.
Premium file shares3Azure FilesLRS

Premium storage account type for file shares only. Recommended for enterprise or high-performance scale applications. Use this account type if you want a storage account that supports both SMB and NFS file shares.
Premium page blobs3Page blobs onlyLRSPremium storage account type for page blobs only. Learn more about page blobs and sample use cases.

1 Data Lake Storage is a set of capabilities dedicated to big data analytics, built on Azure Blob storage. For more information, see Introduction to Data Lake Storage Gen2 and Create a storage account to use with Data Lake Storage Gen2.

2 Zone-redundant storage (ZRS) and geo-zone-redundant storage (GZRS/RA-GZRS) are available only for standard general-purpose v2, premium block blobs, and premium file shares accounts in certain regions. For more information, see Azure Storage redundancy.

3 Storage accounts in a premium performance tier use solid-state drives (SSDs) for low latency and high throughput.

Legacy storage accounts are also supported. For more information, see Legacy storage account types.

Storage account endpoints

A storage account provides a unique namespace in Azure for your data. Every object that you store in Azure Storage has an address that includes your unique account name. The combination of the account name and the Azure Storage service endpoint forms the endpoints for your storage account.

When naming your storage account, keep these rules in mind:

  • Storage account names must be between 3 and 24 characters in length and may contain numbers and lowercase letters only.
  • Your storage account name must be unique within Azure. No two storage accounts can have the same name.

The following table lists the format of the endpoint for each of the Azure Storage services.

Storage serviceEndpoint
Blob storage
Data Lake Storage Gen2
Azure Files
Queue storage
Table storage

Construct the URL for accessing an object in a storage account by appending the object's location in the storage account to the endpoint. For example, the URL for a blob will be similar to:

You can also configure your storage account to use a custom domain for blobs. For more information, see Configure a custom domain name for your Azure Storage account.

Migrate a storage account

The following table summarizes and points to guidance on how to move, upgrade, or migrate a storage account:

Migration scenarioDetails
Move a storage account to a different subscriptionAzure Resource Manager provides options for moving a resource to a different subscription. For more information, see Move resources to a new resource group or subscription.
Move a storage account to a different resource groupAzure Resource Manager provides options for moving a resource to a different resource group. For more information, see Move resources to a new resource group or subscription.
Move a storage account to a different regionTo move a storage account, create a copy of your storage account in another region. Then, move your data to that account by using AzCopy, or another tool of your choice. For more information, see Move an Azure Storage account to another region.
Upgrade to a general-purpose v2 storage accountYou can upgrade a general-purpose v1 storage account or Blob storage account to a general-purpose v2 account. Note that this action cannot be undone. For more information, see Upgrade to a general-purpose v2 storage account.
Migrate a classic storage account to Azure Resource ManagerThe Azure Resource Manager deployment model is superior to the classic deployment model in terms of functionality, scalability, and security. For more information about migrating a classic storage account to Azure Resource Manager, see the "Migration of storage accounts" section of Platform-supported migration of IaaS resources from classic to Azure Resource Manager.

Transfer data into a storage account

Microsoft provides services and utilities for importing your data from on-premises storage devices or third-party cloud storage providers. Which solution you use depends on the quantity of data you're transferring. For more information, see Azure Storage migration overview.

Storage account encryption

All data in your storage account is automatically encrypted on the service side. For more information about encryption and key management, see Azure Storage encryption for data at rest.

Storage account billing

Azure Storage bills based on your storage account usage. All objects in a storage account are billed together as a group. Storage costs are calculated according to the following factors:

  • Region refers to the geographical region in which your account is based.
  • Account type refers to the type of storage account you're using.
  • Access tier refers to the data usage pattern you've specified for your general-purpose v2 or Blob storage account.
  • Capacity refers to how much of your storage account allotment you're using to store data.
  • Redundancy determines how many copies of your data are maintained at one time, and in what locations.
  • Transactions refer to all read and write operations to Azure Storage.
  • Data egress refers to any data transferred out of an Azure region. When the data in your storage account is accessed by an application that isn't running in the same region, you're charged for data egress. For information about using resource groups to group your data and services in the same region to limit egress charges, see What is an Azure resource group?.

The Azure Storage pricing page provides detailed pricing information based on account type, storage capacity, replication, and transactions. The Data Transfers pricing details provides detailed pricing information for data egress. You can use the Azure Storage pricing calculator to help estimate your costs.

Azure services cost money. Azure Cost Management helps you set budgets and configure alerts to keep spending under control. Analyze, manage, and optimize your Azure costs with Cost Management. To learn more, see the quickstart on analyzing your costs.

Legacy storage account types

The following table describes the legacy storage account types. These account types are not recommended by Microsoft, but may be used in certain scenarios:

Type of legacy storage accountSupported storage servicesRedundancy optionsDeployment modelUsage
Standard general-purpose v1Blob, Queue, and Table storage, Azure FilesLRS/GRS/RA-GRSResource Manager, ClassicGeneral-purpose v1 accounts may not have the latest features or the lowest per-gigabyte pricing. Consider using for these scenarios:
  • Your applications require the Azure classic deployment model.
  • Your applications are transaction-intensive or use significant geo-replication bandwidth, but don't require large capacity. In this case, general-purpose v1 may be the most economical choice.
  • You use a version of the Azure Storage REST API that is earlier than or a client library with a version lower than 4.x, and you can't upgrade your application.
Standard Blob storageBlob storage (block blobs and append blobs only)LRS/GRS/RA-GRSResource ManagerMicrosoft recommends using standard general-purpose v2 accounts instead when possible.

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