If you want to know more about Windows Azure, how it works, the components, or more about the entire platform, I’ve written about that here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/buckwoody/archive/2012/06/13/windows-azure-write-run-or-use-software.aspx
Maybe you just want to cut to the chase. Windows Azure. What do I *do* with it? Let’s talk about that. One of the quickest, easiest ways to use Azure is in the storage feature, as a backup target. Can Windows Azure backup data, servers, workstations or databases? Yes. Yes it can. Windows Azure storage is replicated three times in one datacenter (on different fault-domains) and then those three are replicated to another geographically separate (but still in the same country region) location, you get six copies of the data automatically. Your data stays in the datacenter you choose, and is replicated within a geo-politically same region. So it’s actually a great target for backups.
First, you need a storage account, a container underneath that, and a Blob object to put the backups on. Here’s how you do that (for free):
- Set up an account: https://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/free-trial/
- Create a Container: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/net/how-to-guides/blob-storage/#create-account (Steps 1-7 are all you need)
- Get the Account String: Open the Portal (as above), click on Storage, select the account you want, and click Manage Keys at the bottom of the screen. Copy that string to a secure place.
OK, now that you have all that, you’re all set. In fact, you’re all set for things like Web Sites, VM’s, Code Deployment and lots of other things, but let’s focus on backups first. What are your options?
Mount a Drive, Use as Backup Target
The easiest way to send files to Windows Azure is to mount the storage as if it is a local drive. You can use that as regular storage (I’ll talk more about this in my next post) but you can also use that as a drive letter where you can send backups. While that’s simple to implement, it isn’t always the most efficient – you’re going through a layer of storage abstraction. Still and all, it’s a good choice and quick and easy to implement. Here are some options:
- Gladinet: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/avkashchauhan/archive/2012/01/10/accessing-windows-azure-blob-storage-as-network-drive.aspx, and http://www.gladinet.com/
- Cloudberry: http://www.cloudberrylab.com/virtual-drive-amazon-s3-azure.aspx
- CloudDrive: http://www.clouddrive.com.au/default.html
- Open Source: http://coderead.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/mount-azure-blob-storage-as-a-windows-drive/ which uses: http://dokan-dev.net/en/
Backup Servers and Workstations using Third-Party Software
In addition to (and including) the providers mentioned above, some also skip the step of having to mount a drive to use as a backup target, and simply allow you to mount an agent or tool that just backs up straight to Azure.
- Cloudberry: http://techinch.com/blog/backup-your-files-to-windows-azure-with-cloudberry
- Veeam is an interesting product which focuses on backing up Virtual Machines: http://blogs.technet.com/b/haroldwong/archive/2013/02/14/modern-data-protection-for-virtual-environments-using-veeam-and-windows-azure.aspx
- Commvault (Simpana) Lots of options here: http://news.commvault.com/articles/011089_Microsoft_CommVault_Offer_Simpana_Data_Management_With_Windows_Azure_.asp
- Evault is a backup service that use Windows Azure: http://www.evault.com/products/cloud-storage-services/laptop-backup/endpoint-protection.html
Backup Servers and Workstations using Hardware
- StorSimple – a hardware appliance that can act as storage or backups, with encryption, de-duplication, compression and a Hierarchical Storage Management concept: http://www.storsimple.com/total-storage/
- Riverbed Whitewater – hardware, provides de-duplication and encryption onsite prior to backup to Windows Azure: http://filipv.net/2012/08/11/using-windows-azure-cloud-storage-with-riverbed-whitewater/
- Nasuni: http://www.nasuni.com/
Backup Servers and Workstations using Data Protection Manager
Data Protection Manager is a feature that is part of the System Center suite. We’ve updated that in the latest versions that will allow you to incrementally back up Servers and even Workstations and Laptops straight to Windows Azure. The beauty of this feature is that if the user is in a remote office or traveling the data will flow up to Windows Azure from wherever they are.
- More on Windows Azure Backup Services here: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/home/features/online-backup/
- And more on how to use DPM with Azure here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj728752.aspx
Backup SQL Server Databases
SQL Server can use the mounted-drive approach described above, and you can back up your databases
- Mount Drive (first option described above)
- SQL Server 2012 backup to Windows Azure: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj919148.aspx
- And, as part of HADR, this: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/buckwoody/archive/2013/01/08/microsoft-windows-azure-disaster-recovery-options-for-on-premises-sql-server.aspx