What is Azure storage explorer and how do I use it?

Tags Azure cloud

Overview

Azure Storage, Microsoft's cloud storage solution, provides the most efficient, scalable, and reliable solution for data storage and accessibility in the modern data storage world.

This article will describe the four types of storage and an overview of Azure Storage accounts and the Azure Storage Explore application.

Table of Contents

Azure Storage Types

Table Storage

Table storage stores large amounts of structured data.+ This gives you the ability to store entities with name and value pairs. You can easily access the data using a clustered index. It has an extraordinary ability to scale as per needs.

Blob Storage

This is for larger files and has the capability to store a massive amount of unstructured data. Anything that you come across on the computer or phones such as images, video files, audio files, pdfs, and larger documents. Blob storage allows you to access them very efficiently in a variety of ways. You can access them like a hard drive; you can even store virtual hard drives in blob storage. Blob storage is a massively scalable object store for text and binary data. Blobs take advantage of Content Delivery Network to give you more scale internationally.

Queue Storage

Queues are primarily created for messaging, where you can put a small piece of data into the queue and then read and process the information in a first come first serve fashion. After the message is processed, you can recycle that message, or you can keep it in the storage so that you can do additional work on it. Queues can be considered as shorter-term storage, the message on queues can live for a maximum of seven days. Storage queue APIs are lease-based; you can renew or update the lease using appropriate API method calls. In addition to this, you can access the message from any corner of the world by HTTP or HTTPS method calls.

File Storage

This storage type is mainly used to store files in the cloud, and they are typically accessible through the SMB (Server Message Block) protocol. These can be thought of as an efficient alternative to traditional on-premises file server storage.

Azure Storage Account

A storage account houses all four types of storage. You will need to set up your Azure Storage Account in your Azure Subscription. This can be done by adding a new Storage account using the Azure portal. Once you create your storage account, you will have all the Queues, Blobs, Tables, and Files underneath that account. You can choose which of the options suits your requirements. The first step is to create the storage account in your Azure Subscription. Once you login to Azure Portal, you will see all the services that Azure provides on the left panel of the page. You will then notice that there is an option called Storage Account. If you don’t see it, click All services and then filter for storage. After you click Storage Account, you will see an option to add a new one.

azure screen view highlighting Add button

example create storage account screen

 

Once the Azure Storage account is created and you click on it to see the properties, you will see that it supports services for Blobs, Files, Tables, and Queues.

example properties screen

You can find connection strings for your client applications by clicking Access keys.

example access keys screen highlighting connection string field

All the Azure storage services are accessible through the REST API which is the HTTP API that can be accessed from devices. You can just create HTTP requests from your devices to Storage Uris and then access tables, blobs, and queues. Any device that knows how to speak through HTTP can access the storage. Now to access this information, you will want to implement standard security to ensure there are no man-in-the-middle attacks. To prevent this, the storage services use standard SSL security to protect the communication between the clients and servers. If somebody is manipulating the data in an account, they should have the rights to do that, and that means they should have valid keys. When you make a request to the Storage service, you will have to provide the security information for the storage account in the header of the message. You will have to take the authorization information of the keys and provide those inside the message.

In addition to security on the HTTP requests, versioning is also needed if there is an update to the data already in place. Azure again uses HTTP protocols for this in the form of E-tags, so when you get an item from Azure services, they are marked with E-tags. Then you can check the details to deduce whether that data has changed as compared to previously uploaded versions. Azure Storage provides storage, security, and versioning all layered on the top of standard HTTP protocol requests and responses.

Azure Storage Explorer

Azure Storage Explorer is an application that helps you to easily access the Azure storage account through any device on any platform, be it Windows, MacOS, or Linux. You can easily connect to your subscription and manipulate your tables, blobs, queues, and files. In addition to these, you can connect to and manipulate Azure Cosmos DB Storage and Azure Data Lake Storage as well.

Prerequisites

Windows

The following versions of Windows support Storage Explorer:

  • Windows 10 (recommended)
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 7

For all versions of Windows, Storage Explorer requires .NET Framework 4.7.2 at a minimum.

Mac

The following versions of macOS support Storage Explorer:

  • macOS 10.12 Sierra and later versions

Linux

Storage Explorer is available in the Snap Store for the most common distributions of Linux. We recommend Snap Store for this installation. The Storage Explorer snap installs all of its dependencies and updates when new versions are published to the Snap Store.

For supported distributions, see the snapd installation page.

Storage Explorer requires the use of a password manager. You might have to connect to a password manager manually. You can connect Storage Explorer to your system's password manager by running the following command:

Bash
snap connect storage-explorer:password-manager-service :password-manager-service

Storage Explorer is also available as a .tar.gz download. If you use the .tar.gz, you must install dependencies manually. The following distributions of Linux support .tar.gz installation:

  • Ubuntu 20.04 x64
  • Ubuntu 18.04 x64
  • Ubuntu 16.04 x64

The .tar.gz installation might work on other distributions, but only these listed ones are officially supported.

For more help installing Storage Explorer on Linux, see Linux dependencies in the Azure Storage Explorer troubleshooting guide.

Benefits of Using Azure Storage Explorer

  • Easily connect and manage one or multiple Storage accounts.
  • User-friendly UI to view and update entities of not just storage accounts but also Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Data Lake.
  • Increased productivity with quick access to your data and management of the objects in your storage with ease.

How to Set up the Explorer

You can download it from storageexplorer.com. After it has installed successfully, you can launch Azure Storage Explorer through the Start menu. You will see the screen below once it opens up for you and you click the Account Management icon.

Note

To fully access resources after you sign in, Storage Explorer requires both management (Azure Resource Manager) and data layer permissions. This means that you need Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) permissions to access your storage account, the containers in the account, and the data in the containers. If you have permissions only at the data layer, consider choosing the Sign in using Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) option when attaching to a resource.

In Storage Explorer, select View > Account Management or select the Manage Accounts button.

explorer menu highlighting manage accounts button

  • ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT now displays all the Azure accounts you're signed in to. To connect to another account, select Add an account.

The Connect to Azure Storage dialog opens. In the Select Resource panel, select Subscription.

select resource screen highlighting subscription sign in button

In the Select Azure Environment panel, select an Azure environment to sign in to. You can sign in to global Azure, a national cloud, or an Azure Stack instance. Then select Next.

select azure environment pannel

Storage Explorer will open a webpage for you to sign in.

After you successfully sign in with an Azure account, the account and the Azure subscriptions associated with that account appear under ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT. Select the Azure subscriptions that you want to work with, and then select Apply.

account management screen highlighting apply button

EXPLORER displays the storage accounts associated with the selected Azure subscriptions.

example of expanded storage accounts

Once you locate the storage account and EXPAND a particular one by clicking on the arrow next to it, you will see that you can access all four storage options through Explorer. Also, you will see a link in the options to open these storage account components in Azure Portal. You can easily do that by clicking Open in Portal.

explorer screen highlighting where to find Open in Portal

Storage Options and how to perform simple tasks

Table Storage Details

  • Query, Add, Edit and Delete Entities
  • Import the entities and export the tables and results of the query filters.

example demo table screen

Queue Storage Details

  • Enqueue/Add and Dequeue Message and View the message
  • Clear the queue

example queue screen

Blob Storage Details

  • Uploading and Downloading Blobs
  • Copy Blobs and folders
  • View Blobs
  • List Blob Containers
  • Delete Blobs

example create blob container screen

Create a container

Blobs are always uploaded into a container. This allows you to organize groups of blobs like you organize your files on your computer in folders.

To create a container, expand the storage account you created in the proceeding step. Select Blob Containers, right-click, and select Create Blob Container. Enter the name of your blob container. When complete, press Enter to create the blob container. Once the blob container has been successfully created, it is displayed under the Blob Containers folder for the selected storage account.

Upload blobs to the container

Blob storage supports block blobs, append blobs, and page blobs. VHD files used to back IaaS VMs are page blobs. Append blobs are used for logging, such as when you want to write to a file and then keep adding more information. Most files stored in Blob storage are block blobs.

On the container ribbon, select Upload. This operation gives you the option to upload a folder or a file.

Choose the files or folder to upload. Select the blob type. Acceptable choices are Append, Page, or Block blob.

If uploading a .vhd or .vhdx file, choose Upload .vhd/.vhdx files as page blobs (recommended).

In the Upload to folder (optional) field either a folder name to store the files or folders in a folder under the container. If no folder is chosen, the files are uploaded directly under the container.

example activities screen

When you select OK, the files selected are queued to upload, each file is uploaded. When the upload is complete, the results are shown in the Activities window.

View blobs in a container

In the Azure Storage Explorer application, select a container under a storage account. The main pane shows a list of the blobs in the selected container.

example screen to view blobs in container

Download blobs

To download blobs using Azure Storage Explorer, with a blob selected, select Download from the ribbon. A file dialog opens and provides you the ability to enter a file name. Select Save to start the download of a blob to the local location.

Manage snapshots

Azure Storage Explorer provides the capability to take and manage snapshots of your blobs. To take a snapshot of a blob, right-click the blob and select Create Snapshot. To view snapshots for a blob, right-click the blob and select Manage Snapshots. A list of the snapshots for the blob are shown in the current tab.

example screen to view snapshot

Manage access policies

Storage Explorer provides the ability to manage access policies for containers within its user interface. There are two types of secure access policies (SAS), service level and account level. Account level SAS targets the storage account and can apply to multiple services and resources. Service level SAS are defined on a resource under a particular service. To generate a service level SAS, right-click any container and select Manage Access Policies.... To generate an account level SAS, right-click on the storage account.

Select Add to add a new access policy and define the permissions for the policy. When complete select Save to save the access policy. This policy is now available for use when configuring a Shared Access Signature.

Work with Shared Access Signatures

Shared Access Signatures (SAS) can be retrieved through Storage Explorer. Right-click a storage account, container, or blob and choose Get Shared Access Signature.... Choose the start and expiry time, and permissions for the SAS URL and select Create. The full URL with the query string as well as the query string by itself are provided and can be copied from the next screen.

example shared access signature screen

File Storage Details

  • Upload and Download files or directories
  • Easily view or open the files
  • Rename and modify the files
  • Create and Delete Directory

example file create screen

Creating a File Share

Navigate to a Storage Account and after expanding the container, right-click on File Shares, and choose Create File Share. You will be prompted to give a name and then it will be created immediately.

where to find create file share in dropdown menu

As an example, the File Share demo-share was created and you are able to navigate the folder, upload files, delete files, and inspect the information.

example screen of the example demo-share

Let’s create a new directory, by using the New Folder command. Once clicked, you will be prompted to give the folder a name.

example create new directory screen

After creating the directory, double-click on the newly created directory to navigate within. Locate a file to upload from your local disk and click on Upload Files. Click the ... icon to locate the file to upload and your new directory will be pre-populated. Click on Upload to add the file to the directory.

example upload files screen

Retrieve Shared Access Signature

A common task is creating a Shared Access Signature (SAS) link. This type of link allows you to give a time and access limited link for use by an individual or program. Using the Azure Storage Explorer, creating these links is very easy. On the newly uploaded file, right-click and choose Get Shared Access Signature.

showing get shared access signature in the drop-down menu

You will be prompted with a dialog box asking for the Access Policy, allowed access times, and permissions to be assigned to this link.

example shared access signature screen with start and expiry time fields

After clicking on Create, you will be given the URI and Query String. Copying the URI will give you both the URI and Query String together.

example shared access signature with file, URL and Query String fields

An example of this type of link is shown below.

<https://articlesdiag.file.core.windows.net/demo-share/test-folder/test-file.txt?st=2020-04-23T18%3A12%3A26Z&se=2020-04-24T18%3A12%3A26Z&sp=rl&sv=2018-03-28&sr=f&sig=%2FL7LWWOCNliwuh9ebYnzb2yEUDjGe%2ByBQg%2FKn%2FryETU%3D>

If the time has expired, you will see an error rather than being able to access the file itself.example error message

Details

Article ID: 2181
Created
Thu 4/1/21 12:52 PM
Modified
Tue 6/1/21 12:37 PM