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Why use Azure BLOB Storage with Business Central?

Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Reading time: 4 minutes

Let us start with a common scenario that we hear a lot about lately from Business Central Partners:

Many people are refraining from suggesting Business Central SaaS to their prospects or customers simply because of the limitation on 80 Gb free storage for a given Business Central tenant database. Azure Storage is not cheap and customers with extensive documents (binary data) to be stored can easily fill up their free storage allowance, are then forced to buy additional storage as the database increases in size. This can really be a deal-breaker if Partners don’t know how to mitigate this scenario.

Having covered the high-level “commercial” scenario, let’s take care of the technical bits first so that you can understand more about Azure BLOB Storage and how advantageous it can be, not only on the “pocket” but equally on performance. Of course, feel free to skip this part if you are a “guru” already (are you?) or if this is all “Double Dutch” to you but you have been enticed to read the rest of the article to find out why this topic is now top of the agenda for both Dynamics Business Central Partners and Customers and what we have in store at Companial to assist you with learning this…

What is a BLOB?

BLOB is a technical term for “Binary Large Objects”, and it is a way of storing information in databases. A BLOB is a data type that can store binary data. This data type differs from other data types used in databases, such as integers, floating-point numbers, characters, and strings, which store letters and numbers. As BLOBs can store binary data, they can be used to store images or other multimedia files.

Because BLOBs are used to store objects such as images, audio files, and video clips, they often require significantly more space than other data types. The amount of data a BLOB can store varies depending on the database type, but some databases allow BLOB sizes of several gigabytes. SQL Server allows huge amounts of binary data to be stored and very often what happens is that customers could store too much binary data in transactional tables. Imagine the scenario with Items: you can store details of an item, such as description, unit price and other details, but you could also store images related to the same item and these, if stored within a transactional table, can cause performance issues when loading big documents to display. So, imagine if you could simply “call up” the binary data from another storage facility hence keeping your footprint on the database to a bare minimum… well you can!

Using Azure BLOB Storage instead

Azure BLOB storage allows you to store all your files in Azure, which in turn can be accessed from other solutions, such as D365 Sales or Power Platform. Whilst Azure BLOB Storage acts very much like a simplified SharePoint, it also provides a very simple file storage container. To create a BLOB storage container, you simply head over to your Azure portal and create one, and the BLOB storage also provides a simple REST interface that you can use to access your files. [RESTful API is an application program interface (API) that uses HTTP requests to GET, PUT, POST and DELETE data. A RESTful API — also referred to as a RESTful web service or REST API — is based on representational state transfer (REST) technology, an architectural style and approach to communications often used in web services development.]

What is the advantage here, then?

Well, you can control access to said binary data by creating your own Azure Function(s) that control how you access the storage and the binary data within it. What more, you can grant and restrict access via said Function(s) as a further security/access filter to this data. You, in other words, are in full control.

Where do I learn more about Azure BLOB Storage with Business Central? Does Companial run any courses on this?

Of course, we do! We have teamed up with Gunnar Gestsson (MVP for Business Central), who is delivering this course uniquely through Companial to educate our Partners about this topic. Here you will find the full details of the course:

Learn how to use Microsoft Azure Blob storage to store business attachments and to give your Business Central access to external files.

This training course is hosted by Gunnar Gestsson, who has a wealth of experience with Dynamics NAV/BC and has been awarded eight times by Microsoft MVP program.

This online course is a session about attachment storage Business Central and how to utilize Microsoft Azure Blob storage to move binary objects out of the Business Central database and into Azure Blob. The Database Storage for the Business Central database is one of the most expensive storage media available Moving the binary objects out of the database and into Azure Blob is one of the best methods to limit the database size, increase the manageability and create smaller backups.

Andy De Rosa

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