Azure Storage Account Why Two Access Keys

Please go through the articles given below to learn more about Storage Account.

  1. Azure Storage – Basics
  2. Azure Resource Manage Template: Create A Storage Account Using Blank Template
  3. Create a Storage Account and learn how to access It Programmatically
  4. Azure Storage - Creating Blob Container Using Storage Client Library

In the articles given above, we have learnt how to create a Storage Account and perform few basic operations to the Storage Services. We have also learnt how to create a ConnectionString, which can be used to connect to the Storage Account, using Microsoft .NET Client Storage Library, using Access Keys, shown below.

What is an Access Key?

Access Keys are used to authenticate the Applications when making requests to this Azure storage account. These are like the master keys to access the entire Storage Account. Let’s say, you have 100 Blobs, 200 queues and plenty of file shares, then, you can access all these Services, using any one of these valid Access Keys.

Azure provides us two Access Keys, which we can use to connect to the Storage Account programmatically. You can use either of these keys (key1 and Key2) in any of your Applications (ASP.NET Application, mobile apps, Web Services etc.) to access the Storage Accounts and perform the operations with Azure Storage Accounts.

Below is the sample ConnetionString, which should be used for the connecting with the Storage Account.

  1. DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;  
  2. AccountName=<StorageAccountName;  
  3. AccountKey=<This is the key. You can use either Key1 or Key2 here>;  
Few of us might be confused (at least I was for a long time) on why should I have two access keys in addition to what is the difference between the two? Before discussing the answer for this questions, let’s understand the use cases of sharing these Access Keys with the different resources.
  • You might use Key1 in a Web Application to access static HTML files stored in ‘images’ blob container are stored in the Storage Account.
  • You might use the same Key1 in a mobile Application to access ‘mobile-images’ blob container, which is stored in the same Storage Account.
  • You might have shared it to some other developer, who is working on the different project.

Because, you have shared the Access Key of your storage account, there is a good chance that it might have got compromised and you would like to change the Access Key, so that all non-intended Application cannot access your Storage Account.

Azure Storage Account allows us to invalidate an Access Key by regenerating a new one, as shown below.

The screenshot is given below after clicking on Regenerate Key for key1.

Note, the old Key1 is replaced with new.

Before regenerating the key, it prompts for a confirmation, as shown below.

Please be cautious that the old key is not recoverable. It means all your Applications that are using the old key will not work anymore as they are now using an expired key.

Below is the error message, which you get when using an invalid key.

You wouldn’t expect this behavior in your production environment. Let’s say, all your Applications are using key1 and you think that it’s compromised now and you would like to regenerate the same. All you have to do is, instead of regenerating the key1 key immediately, you need to replace the Key1 in the Connection Strings of all your Applications with Key2 and then regenerate the key1, so that all other unintended users / Applications will not work anymore.

We have learnt why Azure provides two different keys to access the Storage Account. Hope, you enjoyed reading the article. Your feedback is appreciated.

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