Cloud services seem to be a requirement for modern businesses, particularly if you wish to reach global customers. To meet this demand, several cloud providers have emerged including some of the biggest names around, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
Here, we’ll look at Microsoft Azure and focus on one service in particular: Azure Backup.
Azure is an enterprise-grade cloud PaaS that focuses on hybrid cloud environments and has been adopted by organizations such as Bank of America and Toyota. Azure specializes in integration with Windows-based devices and is used for a variety of workloads, including DevOps, blockchain, and big data analytics.
5 Useful Features of Azure Backup
With any cloud use, it’s important to make sure that your data remains available and protected. Microsoft knows this, which is why they created Azure Backup as a solution for your cloud and hybrid data needs.
Multiple Storage Options
With Backup, you have the option of two types of storage, depending on your pricing and availability needs.
Azure recommends using Geo-Redundant Storage (GRS), which stores your duplicate data in a secondary region. This is the default location of your backups. By storing your data in a separate region, you can protect yourself against regional outages or natural disasters and have the option of redirecting at least some of your workflows to a new region during these times. Although this option is more expensive, it provides greater protection than the alternative.
Your second option is Locally Redundant Storage (LRS), which allows you to store your backups in the same region as your production data. In LRS, you keep three data copies for greater redundancy but if something were to happen to that data center you all of your data would be inaccessible. This is provided as a lower-cost option and is meant to protect your data from hardware failures.
This feature allows you to restore individual files as well as entire machines, which is very different from AWS snapshots, which only allow all or nothing restorations. By allowing you to restore individual files, Backup mimics traditional file system backups and speeds data recovery time.
Being able to select files piecemeal means that you don’t have to be concerned about losing data in other applications that have been added since the backup you wish to restore from was taken.
Restoring your files is a simple process in which you connect the desired recovery point to your machine as a local drive via a script provided by Azure. Once connected, you just search for the files you need to restore and copy them to the machine.
Backup is intended to complement and be used in combination with Azure Site Recovery, forming a full business continuity and disaster recovery strategy. In combination, these services will allow you to ensure your data is retained and that you do not experience productivity loss in the event of a disaster.
Site Recovery serves as a disaster recovery solution for both VMs and on-premise machines. It lets you replicate data across multiple locations so that when a disaster occurs, you can quickly fail machines from your primary storage to your secondary storage. This is different from GRS in that you have full VM replication, as opposed to simple read-access of your data.
Backup allows you to create and manage your data duplication in three ways, allowing you to easily fit the process into your existing workflows. The simplest way is through Azure Portal, which is a browser-based dashboard that can be used to manage all of your Azure services in a centralized way. Portal has a user-friendly interface from which you can access reporting, support, monitoring, configuration, and more.
Alternatively, you have the option of accessing Backup functions through Azure Cloud Shell, a browser-based Command Line Interface (CLI), or through a shell, such as Azure PowerShell or Bash. These methods allow you greater flexibility and are much faster, provided you are already using them in your workflows. Both shell and CLI access allow you to use custom scripts and API calls to orchestrate your backups, granting you the ability to easily schedule or automate the process.
Provided you are using a Recovery Services Vault, Backup gives you access to incident prevention, alerting, and recovery features, to ensure that your data remains secure.
For incident prevention, an authentication layer can be applied to higher-risk functions, such as backup deletion or passphrase modification. This minimizes the chances that backups or passwords are accidentally modified and makes it more difficult for attackers to destroy or restrict access to backups, as in the case of ransomware.
For alerts, you can enable email notifications to be sent when operations or actions are taken that affect backup availability, such as the deletion of data. With the notification, you know exactly when changes are made and who made them. While this in itself may not prevent data loss, it can help you more quickly identify and repair issues.
For recovery, Backup will automatically retain deleted backups for a minimum specified number of recovery points for 14 days to eliminate damage caused by accidental or malicious backup deletion.
Azure Backup is a solid solution that can help you ensure that your data remains available when and where you need it but it’s not perfect. When backing up your data, it’s important to remember that Azure Backup is unable to handle the following cases: removable devices, Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) or offline volumes, non-NTFS file systems, or volumes protected by BitLocker. For these, you will need to find another backup solution or perform a manual backup.
As long you take this gap into account, the features covered here can help you get the most out of your backup solution, maximizing your ROI with Azure and letting you rest easy that your productivity and valuable data will be protected.