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Design and Build Enterprise file shares with disaster recovery

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

This architecture provides file shares that fail over automatically to a backup region in case of failure. The failover is transparent to the clients and applications that access the shares. The shares can be used for applications and virtual desktops that must be resilient to disruption, whether planned or unplanned.

Azure NetApp Files provides the file shares. Its cross-region replication capability replicates the shares from the primary region to the secondary. Distributed File System (DFS) Namespaces in Windows Server can group shared folders on different servers into one or more logically structured namespaces

Azure NetApp Files

Azure NetApp Files is a Microsoft Azure file storage service built on NetApp technology, giving you the file capabilities in Azure even your core business applications require. Get enterprise-grade data management and storage to Azure so you can manage your workloads and applications with ease, and move all of your file-based applications to the cloud. Azure NetApp Files solves availability and performance challenges for enterprises that want to move mission-critical applications to the cloud, including workloads like: -

  • HPC: High-performance computing at higher speeds than on-premises environments

  • SAP: Certified for SAP as well as HIPAA

  • Linux: NFS and SMB file shares need zero code modifications to move to the cloud

  • AVD: Azure Virtual Desktop delivers a highly available, seamless user experience across any device

  • Oracle and SQL Server workloads: Accessibility without latency


Azure NetApp Files
  • There are two Azure regions, a primary and a secondary.

  • The Azure subscription includes a virtual network and an Azure NetApp Files account for each region.

  • The cross-region replication feature of Azure NetApp Files replicates the files and folders from the primary region to the secondary region. This technique doesn't need virtual machines.

  • Access to the file shares is managed by DFS Namespaces, a feature of Windows Server. You can think of it as Domain Name Server (DNS) for file shares.

  • The Windows servers and Active Directory Domain servers can be hosted on Azure or on-premises.

Potential use cases

This architecture applies to businesses that want to provide file shares for clients or applications that must be resilient to unplanned outages or service maintenance events. Some examples are:

  • Service Message Block (SMB) protocol file shares for desktop environments.

  • SMB file shares for applications.


  • Azure NetApp Files provides enterprise-grade Azure file shares that are powered by NetApp. Azure NetApp Files makes it easy for enterprises to migrate and run complex file-based applications with no code changes. It also provides a way to replicate data asynchronously from an Azure NetApp Files volume in one region to an Azure NetApp Files volume in another region. This capability provides data protection during region-wide outages or disasters.

  • DFS Namespaces is a role service in Windows Server that can group shared folders that are located on different servers into one or more logically structured namespaces.


  • Instead of Azure NetApp Files, you can use a Windows Server Scale-Out File Server cluster with custom replication of the file shares across regions.

  • Instead of Azure NetApp Files cross-region replication, you can use Azure File Sync to transform Windows Server into a quick cache of your Azure file shares. This might be appropriate for smaller file shares.


The Azure Well-Architected Framework provides reference guidance and best practices to apply to your architecture.


Replicating to a second region increases availability by protecting against regional service interruptions.


  • Azure NetApp Files comes with three performance tiers: Standard, Premium, and Ultra. Cross-region replication can replicate between different tiers. When the primary region uses the Premium or Ultra tier, you can replicate to a lower tier, for example Standard. In case of a failover, you can then upgrade the tier of the secondary as required.

  • The replication of the data is performed at the incremental block level—only changed data blocks are transferred—which minimizes data transfer.


This solution can be used for file shares ranging from 4 tebibytes (TiB) to a total volume of 12.5 pebibytes (PiB) on a single Azure NetApp Files account.


  • This solution has greater resiliency than a single-region deployment, and has failover capabilities.

  • The secondary volume is read-only. It can be verified at any given time, increasing resiliency.

  • You can run a disaster recovery test in isolation without interfering with the production deployment. The test uses the space-efficient volume clone feature to get a read/write copy of a volume in seconds.


The cost of the solution depends on the size of the volume that's replicated, the rate of change, and the destination tier of the Azure NetApp Files capacity pool.

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