Let’s face it, the world of file storage and collaboration can be a bleak and confusing wasteland, and MSPs are often left to navigate the chaos for their clients. But fear not, dear reader, for in this darkly humorous and nihilistic guide, we’ll shine a light on two popular options: Azure Files and Egnyte. We’ll peel back the layers of marketing fluff and expose the gritty details, comparing the features, benefits, and use cases of each with a healthy dose of sarcasm and wit. Whether you’re wrestling with hybrid file share workloads, contemplating the existential crisis of data backup and recovery, or seeking a glimmer of hope in advanced collaboration and security features, this article has your back. Buckle up and prepare for a wild ride through the twisted landscape of Azure Files and Egnyte, and emerge with a file share strategy that’s just a little less soul-crushing.
What is Azure Files and Why Does It Matter?
Azure Files is a fully self managed cloud file share service on the Azure platform that provides businesses with a modern and versatile solution for file storage and sharing. It’s the perfect fusion of old and new in an extremely easy to deploy and intuitive package.
What makes Azure Files stand out? For starters, it supports industry-standard protocols like SMB and NFS, making it easy to integrate with existing applications and infrastructure. This means you can leverage familiar tools and techniques, while taking advantage of the benefits of the cloud.
Scalability and high availability are also key selling points for Azure Files. You can dynamically scale your file shares to meet changing storage needs, and the service is designed to provide built-in redundancy and failover capabilities. This means you can say farewell to the challenges of capacity planning and availability concerns.
Security is another important aspect of Azure Files. It comes with built-in features like encryption at rest and in transit, Azure Active Directory integration, and role-based access control, helping you safeguard your data and meet compliance requirements. Azure Files now supports Azure AD NTFS style permissioning which basically makes it a full cloud solution for those into that.
Ease of management is another benefit of Azure Files. With a centralized management console and integration with Azure Backup and Azure File Sync, managing your file shares becomes a simpler and more streamlined process.
Cost-efficiency is also a key consideration. With Azure Files, you can take advantage of pay-as-you-go pricing and tiered storage options, allowing you to optimize costs based on your performance and storage needs.
What is Egnyte and Why Do I Care?
Egnyte is a pricier cloud-based file sharing and collaboration platform that provides your clients with a secure and efficient way to store, access, and share files. With features like real-time co-editing, (less) granular permission controls, and file versioning, Egnyte enables teams to collaborate seamlessly, even when working remotely. But Egnyte isn’t just about collaboration; it’s also a champion of security and compliance and that’s where it truly shines. With end-to-end encryption, multi-factor authentication, and comprehensive auditing and reporting capabilities, Egnyte makes me feel warm and fuzzy about sensitive data and compliance requirements. So why does Egnyte matter? In a world where data breaches and compliance regulations are becoming increasingly complex, Egnyte provides a robust and user-friendly solution for MSPs to manage their client file storage and collaboration needs, while keeping their data secure and compliant. Their partner program is pretty decent, and it’s a powerful tool for MSPs to have in their arsenal when helping clients navigate the ever-evolving hellscape of file sharing and collaboration.
Azure Files vs. Egnyte: A Comparison
But how do they stack up against each other?
Egnyte’s desktop client is second-to-none. Truly top quality stuff that just works. Anything Egnyte lacks is made up for by that sweet sweet desktop client. Egnyte is an ideal choice if your client isn’t afraid to spend money for a nightmare-less solution.
Azure Files, on the other hand, is much more powerful in a raw capability sense, but doesn’t have as many bells and whistles. Mapping an Azure File share over the internet to an endpoint is messy and less than ideal, but hopefully the ability to use granular permissions with Azure AD only makes that less of a pain. For hybrid, HA, and backup capabilities, Azure Files is the clear winner every time.
Remember, both Azure Files and Egnyte have their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to evaluate your clients’ specific needs and requirements before making a decision. Each solution may be better suited for different use cases, and understanding the features and capabilities of each can help you suffer the least amount possible.
|Protocols||SMB, NFS||SMB, WebDAV|
|Hybrid||Yes||Yes but barely|
|Scalability||Pay-as-you-go||Tiered plans with partner margin|
|Security||Basic, Advanced with Defender||Advanced|
|Management||Azure portal, PowerShell||Web portal|
|Multi-site Sync||Yes||I mean, kind of I guess|
|Max File Size||4 TiB||10 TiB|
|Data Retention||User-defined (more granular)||User-defined|
|Data Encryption||At rest and in transit||At rest and in transit|
|Compliance||HIPAA, GDPR, FedRAMP||HIPAA, GDPR, FedRAMP|
|Auditing and Reporting||Yes||Yes (easier)|
|API and SDK Support||Yes||Yes|
|Integration with Backup Solutions||Yes, and native backup||Yes, 3rd party backup required|
|Active Directory Integration||Yes||Yes|
Hybridizing File Share Workloads
Azure Files provides a robust solution for creating file shares in the cloud, with support for the industry-standard SMB 3.1 (securely over 445) or NFS protocols. This allows you to seamlessly integrate Azure Files with your existing on-premises file servers, making the transition to the cloud a smooth experience. With Azure Files, you can create file shares that are accessible from Windows, Linux, and macOS clients, providing a consistent and familiar experience for users.
In addition to its SMB and NFS support, Azure Files also offers Azure File Sync, a powerful feature that enables you to synchronize your on-premises file servers with Azure Files. I’ll cover more on this in the DFS-R topic below.
Egnyte, on the other hand, takes a different approach to hybrid file sharing. It offers a cloud-based file sharing and collaboration platform that includes desktop and mobile apps, allowing users to access and work on files from any device, anywhere. This enables teams to collaborate effectively, even when working remotely. Egnyte’s hybrid deployment option further enhances its capabilities by allowing you to synchronize local file servers with the cloud. I will say that this is one of the biggest letdowns with Egnyte, as their Hybrid solution requires you to run a VM appliance at every site. The setup and maintenance of the appliance is bulky and a little bit janky, and I’m not a huge fan.
Egnytes Hybrid appliances currently come in two flavors: file sync and turbo. File Sync sets up a share that can join active directory and anything done on that share syncs to/from Egnyte. It’s a simple way to allow on-premises users to collaborate with Egnyte users and it works okay I guess. It’s just a pain in the ass to set up. Turbo is equally obnoxious to set up but is quite intuitive to use. You bind an appliance to one or more subnets in the Egnyte console and if the desktop client detects that subnet it redirects to the local turbo server to use as a cache. Clever idea and executed simply and elegantly. I can get behind that.
Backing Up and Restoring Data
Azure Files offers robust data protection features, including built-in snapshots and Azure Backup integration. Egnyte is more of a version based rollback thing Dropbox style.
With Azure Files, you can create snapshots of your file shares manually or on a schedule. Snapshots capture the state of a file share at a specific point in time, allowing you to roll back to a previous version of a file or directory in the event of accidental deletion or modification. You can also use Azure Backup to create scheduled and on-demand backups of your file shares. Azure Backup provides a centralized management console, allowing you to easily monitor and manage your backups and restores. It also offers features like encryption, retention policies, and geo-redundant storage, providing an added layer of security and compliance.
Egnyte, on the other hand, offers automatic file versioning and a centralized admin console for managing backups and restores. With Egnyte’s file versioning feature, every time a file is modified, a new version is automatically created and stored in the cloud. This allows you to easily recover deleted files and restore previous versions of files, providing a safety net against accidental data loss….most of the time. You can only keep a maximum amount of versions and the max amount of time to retain recycle bin items is 180 days. Kind of lame. Give me snapshots, you dicks.
To their credit, both Azure Files and Egnyte offer built-in data protection features that help protect against ransomware attacks. With features like anomaly detection and file locking, they can detect and prevent unauthorized access and modification of files, helping to safeguard your data from malicious threats. This is cool and probably gives the cyberinsurance underwriters a stiffy. I will say that Egnyte’s Security and Data Governance is pretty kick ass. If you need advanced Data Governance or content lifecycle management that just works out of the box, Egnyte is the play.
Replacing DFS-R with Azure File Sync: A New Era for File Synchronization
If you’ve been wrangling with DFS-R (Distributed File System Replication) for years, you know it can be a real pain in the ass. But don’t despair, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Azure File Sync offers a modern and robust solution for file synchronization that can replace DFS-R in many scenarios, and it comes with added benefits that’ll make you wonder why you didn’t ditch DFS-R sooner.
Azure File Sync allows you to synchronize your on-premises file servers with Azure Files, creating a hybrid file share solution that combines fast local access to files with cloud-based backups. This means your users can enjoy the snappy performance of local file access, while you get the peace of mind that comes with having your data backed up in the cloud. Say goodbye to those sleepless nights worrying about data loss.
But Azure File Sync doesn’t stop there. It also offers cloud tiering, which automatically moves infrequently accessed files to the cloud while keeping frequently accessed files on-premises. Users still see the entire namespace and trying to open a file that isn’t cached will cause an instant recall of the file from Azure to the local server. This is highly customizable and configurable to fine tune as needed. This helps you optimize storage costs and performance, giving you more bang for your buck. And with multi-site synchronization, you can synchronize file servers across multiple locations ensuring consistency and availability of data, no matter where your users are.
Here’s the slam dunk: you can use Azure File Shares that are AD joined in your DFS-N namespaces as targets. I really can’t blow Azure File Sync enough. I have replaced multi-site multi-continent deployments of DFS-R with Azure File Sync and wrangled terabytes of data with ease. It costs so little that it is worth the investment even if you only use it for backup.
Technical Questions for MSPs Looking At Azure Files
- What are the performance limits of Azure Files? Azure Files has performance limits based on the provisioned share size. Change enumeration on files altered directly in the share (without a file sync endpoint) happens every 24 hours, so you’ll want to use file sync server endpoints if you need instantaneous sync of files to and from multiple sites.
- Can I use Azure Files with Active Directory or Azure AD? Yes, Azure Files supports integration with Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) for identity-based authentication and authorization. Azure AD support for granular NTFS permissions with hierarchical namespace is now in public preview, which removes the necessity of having a domain controller within line of sight for direct access.
- How do I secure data in Azure Files? Azure Files offers built-in encryption at rest and in transit, and you can also use Advanced Threat Protection to detect and respond to threats.
- What is the pricing model for Azure Files? Azure Files uses a pay-as-you-go pricing model based on provisioned share size and data transfer. It’s pretty cheap as there is no additional per user costs.
- Can I use Azure Files with my existing backup solution? Yes, Azure Files supports integration with popular backup solutions like Veeam, Commvault, and Azure Backup. I highly recommend Azure Backup.
- What is the retention period for snapshots in Azure Files? Snapshots in Azure Files are retained until they are deleted. You can set up policies to automatically delete snapshots based on age.
- Can I use Azure Files to replace on-premises file servers? Yes, you can use Azure Files to replace on-premises file servers and move file shares to the cloud easily and transparently.
- How does Azure File Sync handle file conflicts? Azure File Sync uses a “last writer wins” conflict resolution policy, where the most recent change to a file is preserved. In practice even with large deployments I have never seen a conflict issue.
- What is the maximum file size supported by Azure Files? Azure Files supports a maximum file size of 4 TiB.
- How do I monitor and troubleshoot Azure Files? You can use Azure Monitor and Azure Storage logs to monitor and troubleshoot Azure Files. Truthfully, it all just kind of works on its own. I’ve never really had to go on safari to hunt down a fix for an issue.
Holy s*** dude is there a TLDR?
- If you need a reliable easy to deploy desktop client that just works and will almost never generate helpdesk work for you and aren’t afraid to pay for it, Egnyte is an excellent solution and the partner program gives you margin on the licenses.
- If you have complicated data security, compliance, or content lifecycle requirements, Egnyte’s Secure and Govern is superior in every way.
- Egnyte backup bad (unless you go 3rd party), Azure Files Backup very very good.
- Egnyte Collaboration and co-editing are better and more robust (although it uses SharePoint online on the backend to achieve that)
- Azure Files is an excellent drop in replacement for DFS-R and really shines when hybridizing workloads. Egnyte’s hybridization options are not awesome.
- Azure Files cheap cheap cheap. Egnyte $$$
- Azure Files weaves into your clients legacy infrastructure seamlessly and effortlessly. Egnyte requires a moderate amount of effort to reach a decent level of interop.
There you have it, folks. We’ve taken a deep dive into Azure Files, compared it to Egnyte, and tackled some common technical questions for MSPs. I will now be passive aggressively linking this to all the hot takes about Azure Files on r/sysadmin for the next 10 years. Happy automating! (Next time we’ll really automate something I promise)