Protecting Exchange with Azure Backup (Part 1)

by [Published on 5 May 2016 / Last Updated on 5 May 2016]

Microsoft Azure Backup provides backup for rich application workloads like Exchange with support for both Disk to Disk backup for local copies and Disk to Disk to Cloud backup for long term retention.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Introduction

Microsoft announced last October the general availability of Azure Backup, a reliable and scalable data protection solution for backing up on-premises data to the cloud. You can protect application workloads such as Hyper-V VMs, Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint Server, Microsoft Exchange and Windows clients.

Although Azure Backup was designed as an end-to-end cloud service (PaaS/SaaS) with the purpose of replacing an existing on-premises backup solution, the current version is still dependent on an additional server (Azure Backup Server) for some workloads.

Azure Backup Server is actually a stripped-down version of Data Protection Manager (DPM) for workload backup. Once you start using it, you’ll notice the obvious similarities. As an example of the reduced functionality, Azure Backup Server does not provide protection on tape or integrate with System Center.

 Azure Backup Server can be deployed as:

  • A physical server.
  • A virtual server (Hyper-V or VMware).
  • An Azure virtual machine. In this scenario we get a 100% cloud solution (IaaS).

Azure Backup is a hybrid backup solution, it consists of multiple components that work together to enable end-to-end backup and restore services, as depicted in Figure 1.

Image
Figure 1: Azure Backup components

There are 4 different components (counting with System Center DPM) that can be used with Azure Backup, each of them supports different kind of workloads and backup scenarios, as described in Table 1 and Table 2.

Component

Can be deployed in Azure?

Can be deployed on-premises?

Target storage supported

Azure Backup agent

Yes

The Azure Backup agent can be deployed on any Windows Server VM that runs in Azure.

Yes

The Backup agent can be deployed on any Windows Server VM or physical machine.

Azure Backup vault

System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM)

Yes

Learn more about how to protect workloads in Azure by using System Center DPM.

Yes

Learn more about how to protect workloads and VMs in your datacenter.

Locally attached disk,

Azure Backup vault,

tape (on-premises only)

Azure Backup Server

Yes

Learn more about how to protect workloads in Azure by using Azure Backup Server.

Yes

Learn more about how to protect workloads in Azure by using Azure Backup Server.

Locally attached disk,

Azure Backup vault

Azure Backup (VM extension)

Yes

Part of Azure fabric

Specialized for backup of Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) virtual machines.

No

Use System Center DPM to back up virtual machines in your datacenter.

Azure Backup vault

Table 1: Backup components

Workload

Azure Backup agent

System Center DPM

Azure Backup Server

VM extension

Windows Server machine - files and folders

 

Windows client machine - files and folders

 

Hyper-V virtual machine (Windows)

 

 

Hyper-V virtual machine (Linux)

 

 

Microsoft SQL Server

 

 

Microsoft SharePoint

 

 

Microsoft Exchange

 

 

Azure virtual machine (Windows)

 

 

 

Azure virtual machine (Linux)

 

 

 

Table 2: Supported workloads

Solution Topology

For the purpose of writing this article, I installed the following environment on Microsoft Azure:

Image
Figure 2: Solution topology used in this article

Server Name

Role

Software

W2K12R2-D1V2

Azure Backup Server

Windows Server 2012 R2

Azure Backup Server

E2K16-DS2

Domain Controller

Mailbox server

Windows Server 2012 R2

Exchange Server 2016 CU1

Table 3: List of servers

Requirements of the Azure Backup Server

It is recommended that Azure Backup Server be installed on a machine with Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter, because a lot of the prerequisites are automatically covered with the latest version of the Windows operating system.

The necessary system requirements are:

  • The server has to be domain joined
  • .Net 3.5 Framework installed
  • Operating System: Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2
  • The hardware requirements are detailed in Table 4

Location

Minimum requirements

Additional instructions

Azure

Azure IaaS virtual machine

A2 Standard: 2 cores, 3.5GB RAM

You can start with a simple gallery image of Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter. Protecting IaaS workloads using Azure Backup Server (DPM) has many nuances. Ensure that you read the article completely before deploying the machine.

On-premises

Hyper-V VM,
VMWare VM,
or a physical host

2 cores and 4GB RAM

You can deduplicate the DPM storage using Windows Server Deduplication. Learn more about how DPM and deduplication work together when deployed in Hyper-V VMs.

Table 4: Hardware requirements

Create the Azure Backup Vault

Whether you send backup data to Azure or keep it locally, the Azure Backup Server machine needs to be registered with a backup vault. To create a backup vault follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to the Azure Classic Management Portal. Click New > Data Services > Recovery Services > Backup Vault > Quick Create. If you have multiple subscriptions associated with your organizational account, choose the correct subscription to associate with the backup vault. In Name, enter a friendly name to identify the vault (this needs to be unique for each subscription). In Region, select the geographic region for the vault. Click Create vault (Figure 3).

Image
Figure 3: Quick create Backup Vault

  1. Click Create Vault. It can take a while for the backup vault to be created. Monitor the status notifications at the bottom of the portal. A message confirms that the vault has been successfully created and it will be listed in the Recovery Services page as Active (Figure 4).

Image
Figure 4: Recovery Services

  1. Make sure that the appropriate storage redundancy option is chosen right after the vault has been created, because the storage replication choice cannot be changed once items have been registered to the vault. To select how storage is replicated, click the vault you created. On the Quick Start page, select Configure (Figure 5).

Image
Figure 5: Configure storage replication

  1. Choose the appropriate storage option (Figure 6). If you're using Azure as your primary backup, choose geo-redundant storage. If you're using Azure as a tertiary backup, choose locally redundant storage. If you selected Locally Redundant, click Save since Geo Redundant is the default.

Image
Figure 6: Configure storage replication

Summary

Microsoft Azure Backup Server is included as a free download with Azure Backup that enables cloud backups and disk backups for key Microsoft workloads like SQL, SharePoint and Exchange. Protecting application workloads like Exchange Server still requires the deployment of an additional server (Azure Backup Server), but, probably, in future releases the service will only require the installation of a backup agent (much like what’s available today for files and folders in Windows machines).

This is the first part of a 3 part series. In the next part we’ll cover the installation of the Azure Backup Server.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to Protecting Exchange with Azure Backup (Part 2)

See Also


The Author — Rui Silva

Rui Silva avatar

Rui Silva specializes in Unified Communications and Enterprise Cloud solutions, using Microsoft technologies, with a proven track record of 15+ years experience working with some of the biggest companies in Portugal and Western Europe. Rui can often be found in the cloud or on-premises contributing to the Technical Community through blogging, writing articles or with a presence in the social networks.

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