Many cloud vendors offer some kind of backup service as it is a simple but important use case for every business.
Similar to with other cloud services, when you let a service provider handle backup the vendor takes care of resources and availability, allowing you to focus on your backups. Companies that choose Microsoft for can rely on Azure Backup in this case.
Azure Backup is part of broad package presented to clients through Azure Recovery Services vault, and it’s often offered as part of Operations Management Suite (OMS) which packs other Azure services in one integrated offering for monitoring, configuration management and protection of your devices and services.
Services are built on cloud foundation with all Azure benefits such as guaranteed SLA, support for different deployments and integration with current backup solutions. Although Azure Backup is simple to configure and use, you need to pay attention to key considerations when planning your cloud backup solution.
1. Assess Your Requirements
Figuring out your company’s requirements when it comes to backup is the first step. All the following steps on this list will be based on what you need in the first place from your backups.
But that can be easier said than done: Most companies are confused when it comes to their recovery plans. They may not have plans that align well with recovery goals or know what to expect in a recovery situation. Some companies are bound by laws and regulations or market trends to ensure the high availability of their service. They need to be ready to recover in an orchestrated manner if a critical outage takes place at a primary location.
Azure Site Recovery adds orchestration and different failover options in case of disaster. On the other hand, if you need to keep copies of your data or virtual machines, either on-premises or in Azure, you should consider Azure Backup.
Backup on Azure can serve as your primary backup location or as an extension to a different backup solution in which you have already invested.
2. What Do You Need to Backup?
Your backup strategy will differ depending on the workload you need to protect, and Azure Backup can assist you with a wide variety of backup types.
You can simply backup and restore your files and folders, which can be great for storing application configuration changes or other business materials. However, if you plan to backup complex workloads, Azure offers you support for different scenarios.
Azure offers backup support that ranges from “typical” Windows or Linux machines to fine-grained protection for Exchange, SQL, or SharePoint services. You can backup Hyper-V, VMWare or even capture system state and do a bare-metal recovery if needed.
To be aware of all the possibilities and constraints, you should refer to Azure Backup server protection matrix for details on each service.
3. Resources and Costs
Some of the biggest concerns companies have when planning for recovery relate to how a Azure Backup will affect their environments during backup or recovery procedures. What resources are required in Azure in order to make this work and, of course, how much is Azure storage going to cost?
From a resources point of view, Microsoft’s cloud-based backup service has a pretty simple topology: you create a recovery services vault, define an Azure storage account to use for storing backup data, configure a schedule, and let items replicate.
The question then arises: how much bandwidth would be required to backup the company’s data to Azure?
There is no straight answer to that question. Once Azure moves over the initial copy of your data, it will attempt to synchronize only delta changes, saving you time and internet connection charges. If you have slow links you can configure throttling or even ship your data offline to the nearest Azure data center.
The next question that might come up is how much storage space will be needed to store your backups. The answer directly depends on how often you copy your workload to Azure, as well as how many historical copies you want to keep through retention policies. This is important point for discussion since Microsoft will charge customers for storage space in addition to fixed price for protecting data.
4. Backup Performance and Backup Time
Every company’s recovery plan should contain crucial parameters for every tidy backup set, the required times for backup-related tasks, and performance expectations.
These parameters should be specific for every individual workload. Decide how big a chunk of time you can tolerate lost data, otherwise known as your Recovery Point Objective (RPO), and the maximum time you can afford to fix or restore service, which is your Recovery Time Objective (RTO).
While the frequency of backup creation can be scheduled flexibly, the total time to backup to Azure varies depending on a number of factors:
- The time it takes to create snapshots.
- The time spent queued for backup service with other Azure customers.
- The data transfer time itself.
Similar to backup time, restoring takes queue time and data transfer time. You can conclude by now that the total time these operations will take is not so short. You’ll need to consider backup time carefully, as this point may be the most reliable indicator of your recovery plan’s viability.
5. How Will You Recover?
Once everything is in place and you are successfully creating backups, the best possible scenario is that you will never need them: no one ever wants to initiate a recovery procedure. However, due to human mistakes or software crashes, you will probably have to do it someday. The best thing you can do is be prepared for it.
You can use Azure portal to monitor your backups and configure simple reporting, alerts, and diagnostic logging so you can act quickly if something bad happens and, more importantly, ensure that you have consistent backups in place at all times. The next step is to assure your backup works properly by testing it periodically.
On Azure, you can easily recover your Windows and Linux virtual machines, specific workloads, or even files and folders from VM backup. By running a test on a separate Azure Virtual Network or on-premises infrastructure you can create an isolated environment and run tests on your production replica without interfering with your actual production.
You should also consider the order in which you want to restore machines, since most of them have bonds to each other and an inappropriate restore can result in failed services.
Another solution is to use NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP (formerly ONTAP Cloud) to help keep your Azure storage system backed up and up-to-date. Cloud Volumes ONTAP is a cloud-based version of NetApp’s trusted ONTAP data management software, that brings all of the features and resources of the on-premises data center storage solution into Azure storage.
By utilizing powerful storage-efficiencies, Azure users who run Cloud Volumes ONTAP are able to save as much as 30-50% on cloud Azure storage costs. Take a look at this Azure calculator to see how much you can save.
From establishing a foundation and placing building blocks separated by protection goals to deciding on the type of backup you’ll use and the frequency of creating them, it is essential to plan out all of the steps to backing up with Azure storage.
You should consider all the time you’ll need to backup and restore and align your strategy to match that time as closely as possible. Review all the features and limitations of Azure Backup and see if it is viable solution for you. If you already invested in other backup solution but find Azure Backup interesting, check to see if it can use Azure Backup as an off-site location. Start small:
- Extend your backup set over time.
- Test as much as you can.
- Discover points where you can improve your plan.
By considering all the key points of using Azure storage as a backup solution you will eliminate the administrative overhead of maintaining on-premises solutions, buying additional storage space and licenses, and correct the mistakes of bad backup strategies.
You’ll also be gaining an infrastructure platform that can provide you with a place to test and restore easily and give you better insights for your backup sets though its reporting and automation tools. With Cloud Volumes ONTAP, those benefits can be even greater.