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Posts written in October 2014

Tools Every Azure Developer Should Be Using

Posted in: Azure

Having developed quite a few websites in Azure, there are some key tools I found that made my life easier when accessing all areas of my Azure cloud instance. The great thing about the selection of tools I have listed below is that it gives me access to all the features I need wrapped in a nice interface.

So lets get to it!

Azure Storage Explorer

Azure Storage Explorer is a useful tool for inspecting and altering the data in your Azure storage projects, including the logs of your cloud-hosted applications. This includes:

  • Blobs
  • Queues
  • Tables

Unlike some of the previous storage explorer software I've used in the past, Azure Storage Explorer allows you to preview a blob directly through its interface, such as: Images, Video or Text files. So you don't have to waste time downloading a blob just to check if its been generated correctly. Amazing time saver!

Once you have your storage set up within your Azure account, you can use this application to manage everything: create, view, copy, rename and delete all three types of storage types (listed above).

Azure Storage Explorer

An application as full featured as this shouldn't be free. But luckily for us, it is.

Download: https://azurestorageexplorer.codeplex.com/

Azure User Management Console

Azure User Management Console manages the users and logins of an Azure SQL database. The tool is simply converting your action into T-SQL commands and execute them against an Azure database of your choice.

Azure User Management Console

What some beginner Azure developers do is they use the same master credentials that is assigned to the database on creation within their web application too. Of course, this master user has full "db_owner" privileges against the database. Not a good idea! This application allows you to create a new new user with restricted access access levels really easily.

Download: https://aumc.codeplex.com/

Redgate SQL Azure Backup

One thing I found lacking in Azure SQL databases is the ease of creating a regular backup. There doesn't seem to be an automated way to do this directly through the Azure account.

I've been toying around with Redgate's Azure backup service and that seems to do the job quite nicely. But it does come at a price. For a daily backup on one database will cost around £7 per month.

Full range of backup plans: http://cloudservices.red-gate.com/

CloudXplorer

Whenever I needed to take a quick look at any of my blob containers, Azure Storage Explorer would suffice for majority of cases. However, the only thing I've started noticing with Azure Storage Explorer is that it lacks the efficiency of being able to export a batch of files from a blob to local storage with ease.

CloudXplorer by ClumsyLeaf Software made browsing files within my blob container a breeze. All files were organised and displayed in a folder structure allowing me to download specific directories. The slick UI alone makes CloudXplorer a pleasure to use, especially if you have blob that is large in volume.

I have downloaded around 200MB worth of files from one of my blobs to a local drive without any issue.

Evernote Has Made Me An Extreme Data Hoarder

EvernoteOk. So for those of you have not heard of Evernote (and who hasn't!?), it's an online app/service that allows you to record voice, text and hand written notes that can synchronise across multiple devices and platforms.

Ever since I had my first smartphone, I've always relied on Evernote to record my daily thoughts and reminders. There are numerous note taking apps on the market, which (for me) just doesn't seem to cut the mustard and end up always coming back.

Evernote not only has the functionality, but it also has the infrastructure to make it more than just a "note taking" platform. So much so I'm hoarding major amounts of everyday things. Evernote is starting to act as a repository of things I don't want to let go of.

With the help of IFTTT, I have created numerous recipes that aggregate data from my social platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to importing RSS feeds from websites that interest me. Now Evernote is my one-stop-shop for getting everything I need on a daily basis instead of logging into different platforms individually.

If there is something I happen to like, I just Evernote it. Even if I won't ever need it. Typical sign of a hoarder! But I'm an organised data hoarder, utilising clearly named notebook stacks. Strangely enough, the more notes you add, the more useful Evernote becomes and this maybe the reason why I am hoarding so many things. It's more than a "note taker"!

One feature I didn't expect to be so useful was the ability to take pictures of printed or handwritten documents. I can take quick snapshots and go completely paperless. On top of that, Evernote makes everything searchable. It's even clever enough to search through my rubbishly written notes. I only found out how truly powerful this feature until I was going through the motions of purchasing my first property. At this time of my life, I was in constant note/documentation mode and Evernote helped me organise my thoughts, reminders and record all email correpondence neatly.

What I've done in the past with other note taking apps is delete old notes or files just to be completely sure that I will be able to search what I require quickly and easily, mainly due to the fact that sifting through large volumes of data was a headache! Nowadays, I don't delete anything in Evernote. I can now keep a record of things I previously done and refer to later without any worries at time of need.

It's safe to say my addiction to Evernote will only increase as I find more uses for it. But that's not a bad thing...right?

Update - 12/12/2014

I came across some posts from others with the same issue, which is nice to know that it's not only me with a problem:

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