Storage services for moving files

Natasha Ong
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4 min read

In a nutshell:

AzCopy is like a file mover, letting you copy files between your Azure storage account and other storage accounts, your computer or other cloud providers.
Azure Storage Explorer is your file organiser for your Azure storage account, making it easy to manage files within your accounts. It's also more user-friendly than AzCopy.
Azure File Sync is a service that connects files stored in Azure Files with your local servers (Windows Servers), so you can access cloud files from on-premise servers.

In addition to large scale migration using services like Azure Migrate and Azure Data Box, Azure also has tools designed to help you move or interact with individual files or small file groups. Introducing AzCopy, Azure Storage Explorer, and Azure File Sync!


With AzCopy, you can upload, download and transfer files. The transferring part is really what makes AzCopy so handy - you can transfer files between your computer and your Azure storage accounts, between two Azure storage accounts, and even with other cloud providers (like AWS or Google Cloud Platform).

One thing to remember: when you transfer files with AzCopy, it's like a one-way street. You pick the source and the destination, and AzCopy moves your files in that direction.

  • AzCopy doesn't constantly check for changes in both places and keep them in sync.
  • Some people might reference 'synchronising' files with AzCopy, but think about it as a Copy and Paste operation instead (pun intended)!

AzCopy is a command-line tool, so there is no page for it in the Azure portal! This is what AzCopy looks like in action - it might be a bit intimidating if you're new to command line, but we promise you'll get the hang of it real soon. We'll dive deeper into what command line means later in the course.

Azure Storage Explorer

Meet Azure Storage Explorer, your magic portal to manage files and blobs in your Azure storage account from your desktop! It works on different types of computers, like Windows, macOS, and Linux. With Storage Explorer, you can upload to Azure, download from Azure, or move between storage accounts.

You might be thinking: what's the difference between Storage Explorer and AzCopy?

  • AzCopy is great for high-speed transfers, while Azure Storage Explorer helps you navigate and manage your files within your storage accounts.
  • Storage Explorer is easier to use as its a graphical interface*, while you can only use AzCopy using the command line.
*A graphical interface is like a picture-based way for people to use and control computer programs. Instead of typing commands in a command-line tool, you can click on pictures or buttons to do things on the computer. For example, the Azure portal is  a graphical interface!

Azure File Sync

Remember Azure Files? As a quick refresher, Azure Files is a managed file share solution, making it easy to store and share files in the cloud.

Azure File Sync is a service that extends the capabilities of Azure Files to your on-premises environment*. This is especially important for large files and real-time collaboration.

*If you're not familiar with the term environment, no sweat! An on-premises environment is like having your own personal computer setup at home. It means that all your data and computer systems are physically located in your own building rather than being stored or managed in a remote data centre or the cloud.

Key facts about Azure File Sync

  • When on-premises users (e.g. an employee working from their laptop) or apps on local servers try to access files stored in Azure Files, they might deal with long waiting times. Azure File Sync solves this issue by storing a synchronised copy of Azure Files locally, making file retrieval more efficient.
  • It only works with Windows Servers, which is a special version of the Windows operating system that's designed for businesses to run heavy-duty tasks. Windows Servers runs on physical server machines, just like how regular Windows runs on a personal computers.
  • Once companies install Azure File Sync into their local server, the local server starts to make local copies of files stored in Azure Files. The local server and Azure are also constantly syncing, so files are always up to date.
  • But, now that synced copies of files are available in a local server, files get accessed and shared much quicker.

In a practical scenario, a company with offices across the globe uses Azure File Sync to collaborate on large project files. They set up Azure Files to store all their files in the cloud, and Azure File Sync connects their on-premises Windows Servers to this file library. By having local copies of files on their on-premises servers, the company's employees experience minimal delays when accessing and working with the files.