How To Use Azure Backup and Still Keep Costs Down and Performance High

Microsoft Azure backup tips
Written by Gilad David Maayan

Got a hybrid cloud? Need to keep at least some data on-prem for compliance purposes?
Here’s GILAD DAVID MAAYAN with the hows and whys of Microsoft Azure Backup …

Thinking of using Azure Backup? You should. Azure, the Microsoft-powered cloud, now extends its high availability and scalability to provide a backup service, and there are a number of options for on-premises, hybrid and cloud deployments, too.

The great thing about Microsoft Azure is that it offers free basic support and a pay-as-you-go pricing scheme. Still, as it is with every cloud-based service, there’s a tricky price/performance balance to achieve. Here’s what you need to know about Azure, Azure Backup and how to keep costs at bay while still improving performance across the board.


What Is Azure?

Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing service. It’s a leading platform that offers a number of services — compute, data storage, security, backup and recovery among them. Azure Backup is the feature that automatically sends a backup of the Windows Server to the Azure Cloud. The system encrypts data both in transit and at rest. Users can manage their backups using the Data Protection Manager and restore the backups later to local servers.

The system is highly supportive of hybrid environments, allowing users to download and deploy the components on a computer, server or in the cloud. 

While other backup solutions treat the cloud as a static storage destination, Azure offers dynamic backup, allowing you to move data back and forth between on-premises and cloud environments. It supports the following application frameworks: NEt, PHP, Java, Ruby on Rails, all major programming languages, and all major operating systems and environments, which means you can run a Windows or Linux Virtual Machine. 

Some of the features and benefits of Azure Backup include:

  • Automatic storage management Hybrid environments require storage that works both on-premises and in the cloud. Azure allows you to work with on-premise storage devices without extra cost. It works with a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which means you only pay for the storage you consume.
  • Scalability and high availability—The unlimited scaling of Azure cloud lets you have unlimited backup without having to worry about the high availability of your data in the cloud.
  • Multi-storage You’ve got two types of replication: local and geo-redundant storage. Locally redundant storage (LRS) involves creating three copies of the data in a designated datacenter in the same region, making it a low-cost storage option to protect the data from hardware failures. Geo-redundant storage (GRS) replicates the data to a secondary region. While it costs more than locally redundant storage, the level of durability is higher due to the geographic distribution.
  • Unlimited data transfer This means you can transfer inbound or outbound data without extra cost. However, there is a cost associated with inbound data when using Import/Export services.
  • Encrypted data The system crypts data in transit as well as at rest. Moreover, the encryption key stays local and is never transmitted through the network.
  • Short and Long-term retention Because Azure does not limit the length of time data remains in a Backup or Recovery Services vault. However, it does have a limit of 9999 recovery points per protected instance.
  • Support and documentationAzure provides other three paid layers besides the free support. It has the advantage of including access to a 24/7 helpline for billing issues. 

Challenges and Considerations to Keep in Mind

As with every cloud solution, migrating to the backup service is not exempt from challenges. Here we describe some of the challenges that may come in the way when using Azure backup. There are several solutions and tools that make your backup in Azure easier. You can learn more in this article about things to consider before you use Azure backup

Now, Microsoft Azure is not without its limitations. Here are the main ones:

  • Requires code for logging in and debugging Azure provides standard log and diagnostic data, only if your app is properly coded and configured to request and capture the data you want. 
  • Migrating data from SQL Server 2008 to SQL Azure is not an easy task While hosting the applications in SQL Azure has the advantage of helping retrieve easily the application data. However, migrating the data from a SQL Server 2008 is not that easy. You may need to work with tools such as CodePlex, using this open-source shared development platform to migrate your local data to SQL Azure.
  • You cannot change an application while running When deploying your applications in Azure, the package runs in read-only mode. Meaning changes need to be done as a redeployment.

Before migrating to the cloud you should evaluate your requirements, such as the number and type of assets you need to back up, and plan ahead to make your migration smoother. 

Tips to Reduce Costs and Improve Performance 

Azure has a pay-as you-go pricing scheme but watch out: there are  still lots of ways your monthly bill can escalate. Most likely the compute costs compose the largest part of your bill. Where you can reduce costs in Azure is in reducing virtual machine usage.

So how do you reduce costs? Here are some tips:

  • Reserved instances Because Virtual MAchines (VM) workloads are mostly static, reserving instances can save a large percentage of tn the VM costs.
  • Incremental backups Azure Backup starts by doing a full backup at the start but you can follow up with incremental backups. This reduces the load by compressing the data by approximately 30 percent.
  • Azure hybrid benefit If you are already using a Windows Server license, you can use this benefit. That way you won’t be charged for the Windows Server license.
  • Shut down inactive VMs You can use Azure scheduling software to shut down VMS not currently in production by a subscription cost.
  • Resize Avoid over-provisioning by downsizing a VM one size.

Backup options

Microsoft offers three different ways to backup your data under Azure backup. Here is a rundown of those options and why or how you might use them:

  • MARS This is a backup agent deployed specifically to the machines that need to be backed up. Note that the option is only valid for backing up files and folders.
  • Data Protection Manager (DPM) This option works with an on-premise backup server. It offers disk-to-disk-to cloud backups, supporting all entities available for Azure Backup.
  • MABS The data direction is also disk-to-disk-to-cloud here. Because the server originates from Microsoft, so it doesn’t involve any software cost.

The Bottom Line

Using Azure Backup is beneficial for companies working in hybrid environments or those who just need to keep some of their data on-premises for compliance purposes. Its flexibility lends itself to a range of backup and organizational needs. It is definitely worth a look.

For aNewDomain, I’m Gilad David Maayan.

Cover image: Pixabay