20 Key Scenarios with Windows Azure Infrastructure Services (IaaS): Leveraging the Cloud for Backing Up Your Data.

imageOne of the key scenarios that you can leverage the cloud for is backup and that is what we are going to take a look in this post.  Backup is something that should be doing everyday in your datacenter.  Regardless of the size of your datacenter, you backup your data.  You can backup your data to a variety of locations and media.  Are you prepared if you lose your backup volumes or misplace the tape or if disaster strikes?

You can now include the cloud into your thought process as a storage destination for your data.  It is secure and easy scenario to dip your toe into using the cloud.  The cloud backups instantly provide you a disaster recovery environment and a great place to store your data.  These tools provide you automated backups that are offsite.

In  Windows Azure you can use the familiar backup tools in Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 Essentials, or System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager. These tools provide similar experiences configuring, monitoring, and recovering backups whether to local disk or Windows Azure storage. After data is backed up to the cloud, authorized users can easily recover backups to any server.  Windows Azure backup is also very efficient.  Windows Azure provides incremental backups, only changes to files are transferred to the cloud. This helps ensure efficient use of storage, reduced bandwidth consumption, and point-in-time recovery of multiple versions of the data. Configurable data retention policies, data compression and data transfer throttling also offer you added flexibility and help boost efficiency. Backups are stored in Windows Azure and are "offsite," reducing the need to secure and protect onsite backup media.

So the cloud provides a great environment to protect your data.  However, when you think about the backup cost will also become a factor.  Windows Azure Backup is currently in preview and there is a 50% discount during the preview period.  The first 5GB is free, after 5GB the cost is between $.30 – $.50 per GB per month depending on how you purchase the service.  While the backup features in Windows Azure are currently in technical preview we have announced some preview pricing located here: Pricing details  

Currently you can try all of this free with a free trial and it is very easy to get started.

Getting Started

  1. Sign up for a 90 day trial of Windows Azure here: Get Started TODAY with a FREE 90-DAY Windows Azure Subscription
  2. Windows Azure Recovery Services is currently in technical preview, so you will need to sign up for the preview.  To sign up go to your Account Center and click Preview Features
  3. In Preview Features click Try it Now next to Backup
  4. Your trial should be approved almost immediately
  5. Go to your Management Portal by clicking Portal in the upper right hand corner of the web page
  6. In the Windows Azure Management Portal select Recovery Services, the first time you access the portal you will need to setup your Backup Vault
  7. Click the big + sign on the bottom left of the screen select Data Services | Recovery Services | Backup Vault | Quick Create.  Give your vault a name and select a location:
  8. After your Backup Vault is created then you will need to install the agent for your environment.  Click Download Agent after you select your vault.  Currently the backup can backup these environments Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 Essentials, or System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager
  9. Install the agent, and step through the wizard.
  10. Now the tricky part, you will need to get a certificate.  Depending on your environment you will need to get a certificate to upload the Azure Portal.  You can also used a self signed certificate.  You can find the full instructions on how to work with the certificates take a look here: Install Windows Azure Backup Agent and upload the certificate NOTE you can use a self signed certificate using the makecert too, however the link in the article is currently broken, and you can find the makecert tool here: https://aka.ms/makecert
  11. After you have obtained your certificate you will need to import into Azure.  To import the certificate into the recovery services by selecting Manage Certificate, and simply find the certificate file.

Backing Up Your Servers

Now that you have all the basics setup you are now ready to begin backing up your data to the cloud.  To start protecting your servers, you will need to register the servers with Windows Azure, and then you can begin manage your backups.  When you installed the backup agent, it also created a Windows Azure Backup application that you will use to configure your backups, and recover your data.  The tool works very similar to Windows backup the only difference is the tool is actively leveraging Windows Azure. 

  1. Launch the Windows Azure Backup application, you will find this on the Start Screen.  You can also find the application in the Computer Management tool in the storage node.
  2. After you launch the application click Register Server and step through the wizard.  You can set proxy settings for Internet connection.  You will also be asked to generate or create a passphrase to encrypt the traffic for the backups.  After your server is Registered you can then begin to protect your data.
  3. To begin the process click on Schedule Backup on the welcome screen click Next
  4. On the Select items click Add Items to select the files and folders you want to backup.  You can also add exclusions as well, When your done click Next
  5. Set your backup time and schedule, click Next
  6. Specify your retention settings can click Next
  7. Verify your selections and click Finish.
  8. When the process is done click close.

Now you can wait for your backup schedule to kick off or you can click Backup now to begin the process.  When you select backup now your screen will look similar to the following:


Recovering Your Data

Now what happens when you want to recover your files.  This is also done through the Windows Azure backup applications as well.

  1. In the Windows Azure Backup window click Recover Data
  2. On the getting started Wizard select the server you wish you recover your data to and click Next
  3. On the Recovery Mode, you can Browse or search for files you want to recover, for this section I will choose Browse for files
  4. On the Volume and Date screen select your volume and date for your recovery and click next
  5. Select the Items you wish to recover and click Next
  6. On the recovery options you have the option where to recover the files too, you can even restore ACL's, make your selection and click Next.
  7. Review the confirmation screen and click Recover
  8. When the recovery is complete click Close.

As you can see you leverage the power of the cloud for the backup very easily.  Remember you can contribute to the series.  Let us know what scenarios are you interested in seeing?  Are you currently using Windows Azure, if so how are you using it?  Let us know and email me mhester@microsoft.com or comment on this post.  We will try to include them in this series. 

Also remember to sign up for your free Window Azure trial: Get Started TODAY with a FREE 90-DAY Windows Azure Subscription

You can find the full series here: 20 Key Scenarios with Windows Azure

Comments (1)
  1. Brian Lewis says:

    Great Article Mr. Hester! I now understand the current Azure backup offering. This is the best explanation I have seen yet.

Comments are closed.

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