Microsoft has provided several ways to back up data to Azure, including Data Protection Manager (DPM) part of System Center, Windows Backup, direct tools like PowerShell, Azure Backup, and to a certain extent StorSimple. They have evolved quickly over the past few years in terms of features and capabilities/limitations.
Azure provides an attractive option for data backup for several reasons, including:
- Vast capacity (Petabytes). A single Azure subscription can have 100 Storage Accounts, each has 500 TB capacity
- Low cost. For backup, people typically use Cool (99% SLA, $0.2/10k transactions) GRS Block Blob storage. That’s $408/TB/Year.
- Fast backup/recovery. Clients can connect to Azure securely over the Internet, or use multi Gbps direct connection via Azure Express Route.
Azure Express Route provides fast backup and recovery to and from Azure storage
- Quickly add or lower capacity. Pay only for what you use. This is a great benefit compared to on-premises SAN storage, where it takes several months to engineer and procure, requires significant capital expense, and cannot be reduced.
- Backup and Disaster Recovery. Being off-site, backing up data to Azure provides DR as well.
- Geo-redundancy. Data is automatically and asynchronously replicated to another Azure data center 400 miles away or more at no additional cost (part of GRS cost)
From the client’s prospective, a backup solution needs to meet the following features/capabilities:
- Provide multiple recovery points
- Provide adequate RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and RTO (Recovery Time Objective) to meet the workload SLA (Service Level Agreement)
- Granular recovery – item level recovery such as individual files, mailboxes, database transactions, …
- Self-service recovery – usually optional, and varies depending on the workload. For example, a typical organization may want to give end users self-service recovery for files in home folders but not enterprise-wide databases.
- Be secure – at rest and in transit encryption
- Efficient use of storage – deduplication and compression
- Have a number of off-site recovery points (Disaster Recovery)
- Geo-redundancy. This refers to having a copy of every off-site recovery point at a different off-site location that’s geographically distant from the primary off-site backup location.
Microsoft Azure Backup Server (MABS) is the latest evolution of Microsoft Backup solutions to Azure. Microsoft has announced recently MABS support for on-premises VMWare VM to on-premises and Azure storage. We will explore different solutions to backup data to Azure in future articles, examining their advantages, disadvantages, cost-effectiveness, and suitability for different workloads and different client/data sizes.
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