Backup to the cloud using Windows Azure Backup

One of the use cases of cloud computing Infrastructure as a Service is data recovery. IaaS service models have unlimited compute and storage capacity without upfront investments. More and more vendors are adding support for backup to the cloud. Some examples are Microsoft who acquired StorSimple. Storsimple is a hardware appliance which offers local storage and a gateway to various cloud storage providers. Veeam Backup & Replication Cloud Edition offers the same kind of functionality delivered in software.

Windows Azure has a preview feature named Azure Backup  which offers an unlimited storage capacity for backup purposes. This post will give some insights in this feature and how to connect to it.

azure-backup

Windows Azure Backup  is currently in Preview. This means it does not have support and a SLA and cannot be used for production purposes.   A backup client needs to be installed on Windows Server 2012 to connect to the vault and make backups and do restores. Support for Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager is also available although I have not tested it nor found information on this.

Windows Azure Backup has a limit of 850 GB per volume of data that can be backed up in one backup operation.

Installation
There are quite a few blogpostings on how to configure Azure Backup. The basis steps are:
1. enable the Azure Backup Vault in the Azure Management Portal

2. create a certificate. I used makecert.exe which is part of the SDK for Windows 8. Make sure you run the makecert command in a command shell which is started as “run as Administrator” 

Makecert is part of the Windows SDK.
3. download and install the backup client. Add the Windows Azure backup agent in the MMC
4. register the backup server on Azure using the certificate
5. configure a backup job

The most time consuming step for me was trying to download makecert. The other steps are very easy.
Detailed instructions on how to backup to the cloud using Azure Backup:

awsomedevsigner Windows Azure Recovery Services – Now Available!
Trond’s Working! How to set up Azure Recovery Services Backup
Thomas Maurer Using Windows Azure Backup Vault (Preview)
TechMike2KX’s Blog Protecting your online and on premises assets IaaS style!: Introducing #windowsazure Online Backup
James van den Berg System Center blog Installing and Configuring #WindowsAzure Backup agent part 1 of 2 Hybrid #Cloud

Backup client
The backup client has the features listed below:

-include and exclude files and folders
-set a backup schedule (max three backups per day)
-encrypt the backup data
-configure a proxy server
-throttle bandwidth during work hours and/or non-work hours
-set the backup retention. Files deleted in the backup set will be kept available for max. 7 days.

Restore is a very easy process. Basically a next next finish job.

I played a bit with the software in my lab and found it easy and straightforward to use. Hope to give some details on upload/download speed later.

Pricing
Costs are calculated based on the average storage usage per month. Microsoft does not  charge additionally for bandwidth, storage transactions, compute, or other resources associated with providing the Backup service.

Costs depend on the contract. There is a pay as you go pricing model. Here you pay what you consume.Price=  $0.50 per GB per month

Alternatives are 6 or 12-month plans. Here you agree to consume an minimum amount of storage. Pricing per GB is a bit lower than the Pay-as-you-go model.

Windows Azure Backup is currently in preview and Microsoft  provides a 50% discount during the preview period.The first 5 GB per month is free.

Calculate the costs here.

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