What Happens To Deleted Azure Data?

What Happens To Deleted Azure Data?

You spin up a virtual machine on a cloud service, you do some testing, then you move on. What happens to that data afterwards? And what about when a drive within the cloud data centre is disposed of?

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During a session on Azure data protection at TechEd North America, group program manager Ramesh Chinta talked through how Microsoft manages that process for its cloud service. First up: there’s a 90-day window where any existing data is kept before it is wiped, assuming you log in using the same account.

“Data is retained for 90 days if you come back,” Chinta said. “You don’t have to bootstrap from scratch again.” Because storage capacity is so cheap, holding onto that data isn’t a big expense for Microsoft.

You can permanently dispose if that data if you wish. “Let’s say you’re leaving and you have no intention of coming back, you can explicitly delete the data and it’s not in the system anymore,” Chinta said.

The other area where data destruction is an issue is when Microsoft itself decides to dispose of hardware. Information is kept on multiple drives to account for the inevitability of drives failing. Microsoft assumes a typical three-year life span, but some drives will fail well before then.

“If we find a disk is defective, we wipe data from it before shipping it back to the OEM for warranty service,” Chinta said. (When you’re going through thousands of drives, it’s worth making warranty claims on the ones that don’t work.)

But what happens if the drive is so messed up you can’t even run the software to wipe the data on there? “In that case, we destroy the disk in the data centre and take the loss,” Chinta said.

The same logic applies when drives are taken out of use. “When we decommission the hardware, typically after three years, we fully erase the data.”

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