How to use Azure Backup for SQL Server workloads

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Azure Backup is one of the most robust data protection and restoration services available for businesses using the Microsoft Cloud. However, its users have been unable to backup on-premises SQL workloads running in Azure Virtual Machines - until now.

Microsoft is offering a preview of Azure Backup’s new capabilities ahead of its official rollout in the coming months, so if your business currently runs SQL workloads on Azure virtual machines (VMs), now is a great time to brush up on how it can help your business manage backups easier and faster.

 

What is Azure Backup?

Azure Backup is a Backup as a Service (BaaS) that provides reliable backup, protection and restoration for enterprise data stored in the Microsoft Cloud. It is a popular cloud-based option which offers different advantages to using traditional on-premises backup programs or external backup solutions.

Azure Backup leverages the unlimited scale of the Azure cloud platform to give users high-availability for their data backups with zero maintenance and monitoring overhead. As you don’t have to manage backup servers or storage locations at all, it offers organisations greater efficiency with less admin tasks required.

The BaaS model also allows you to buy backup and recovery services from Azure on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis, at which your rate depends on the amount of data stored at billing time.

 

How is Azure Backup different to other solutions?

Azure Backup is currently one of the most popular options for reliable cloud-based data protection of local backups due to its simplicity and benefits.

For starters, it’s fully integrated with Azure Management Portal and with built in tools with Windows Server, you don’t have to undergo extra training if you are already using and familiar with SQL or Windows Server.

The main drawcard of Azure Backup is how it streamlines the entire backup process for businesses with workloads and databases in Azure. All you have to do is log into the centralised Azure portal, select your SQL Servers and databases you want to backup, and specify your desired backup policy.

 

What is the benefits of using Azure Backup?

How to backup data to Azure securely

 

If you’re currently bogged down with more complex backup software, Azure Backup’s simplified dashboard is a no-brainer. Below, we summarise many of the major benefits of the service.

  • Accessibility and permissions: You can easily manage who has access to backup and restore operations in the Azure Backup portal.
  • Backup policies:  Create customised backup policies based on how frequently you want your data logged based on short-term and long-term retention needs.
  • Dashboard management and monitoring: All backups can be managed from one single dashboard pane in Azure called the Recovery Services Vault, saving you time and streamlining the process.
  • Pay As-You-Go (PAYG): If you’re accustomed to the cost-savings and payment flexibility of other services, using Azure Backup is an easy choice. As always, pay only for what you use.
  • No infrastructure backups: You don’t have to actually manage or organise any of your backup infrastructure (agents, servers or storage locations) or write complex backup scripts using Azure Backup.
  • Point in Time restore: Recover any database to your desired point in time without the need for manual restoration of your backups. It also offers up to 9999 recovery points per protected instance.
  • Secure encryption: Secure transmission and storage of your data in the public cloud, with none of your passphrase store or transmitted in Azure - only you have the key.
  • Unlimited Data Transfer: No set limits on the amount of data you transfer, inbound or outbound.

Finally, you can store your data in any designated Microsoft Azure Data Centre Region and it can be replicated within the same region or other regions for extra security and peace of mind. The value gained from that last part cannot be understated - we all know how tense backups can get, no matter the fail-safes.

 

Is Azure Backup different to Azure Site Recovery?

A common question our customers ask us is how Azure Backup differs from Azure Site Recovery. Simply put, Azure Backup is essential for backups of your data, while Azure Site Recovery keeps your workloads available when outages occur - but both compliment the other when used properly.

Azure Site Recovery is best used for its extensive failover and failback capabilities. It can automatically transfer data to a duplicate system on your network when it detects a fault, and restore your data back to the primary machine once the failure is fixed.

As an example used by Microsoft, if you experienced total data corruption of an important project on a laptop, you would use Azure Backup to restore it. If you wanted to replicate that project data on a virtual machine on another data center, you would use Azure Site Recovery.

Ultimately, while they are both closely related in that both services can backup and restore data, they specialise in different areas of discovery recovery for your business.

 

What are the three types of Azure Backup?

With its rich feature-set and integration with multiple Azure services, Azure Backup offers three distinct types of backup for enterprise businesses using the service for data recovery.

  1. Full Backup: A fullback up of all your entire data source, copied and stored in the cloud. It’s an effective way to make sure all of your data is safe, but it takes up the most storage space and consumes a large amount of bandwidth.
  2. Differential Backup: A selective type of backup that identifies blocks of data that have been added or modified since your initial data backup, then performs a copy of those new elements and stores it. It takes up less storage space and consumes less bandwidth, but disallows multiple copies of the same data.
  3. Incremental Backup: A partial backup of your data and works by only storing blocks of data that have been added or modified since the last time you backup your workload, and takes up the least amount of storage space and network resources.

While offering different purposes, when you are backing up any of your data using Azure Backup, the time it takes to complete the backup process is the same across all three options. This means you don’t have to take time into account when deciding which option you need at a given moment.

 

Is Azure Backup updated regularly?

As a business-critical Azure Service, Azure Backup is regularly updated with new capabilities and features and Microsoft often releases them in its public preview program for testing. There’s a ton of further enhancements coming throughout the rest of 2018, including:

  • Automatic protection for future added databases (auto-protect)
  • Central monitoring using OMS Log Analytics
  • Full integration and support for Azure CLI and PowerShell and Azure CLI

The latest drawcard of the service is Azure Backup for SQL on Azure VMs. The service was previously only available for files and virtual machines, but Microsoft recently extended Azure Backup capability to include backups for SQL instances running in Azure Virtual Machines in its public preview program, with all of the same benefits and functionality listed earlier in the article.

 

Why use Azure Backup for my business?

Azure Backup’s diverse feature-set and capabilities makes it a great fit for many different types of businesses, especially if you are already on Azure and want to move away from more expensive, more time-consuming on-premises or external backup solutions.

 

Xello
Author: Xello

We believe there’s a better way to provide business solutions. Our team takes a forward-thinking approach where customers are partners, and digital transformation is all about the ‘why’ for today – and tomorrow. We’re on a continuous mission to deliver you the best cloud, data, IoT and managed services that keep you competitive and ahead of the game.