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How to protect Azure VM using Azure Backup

Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) offer a scalable and cost-effective compute platform in the cloud. However, data loss remains a constant threat. This article explores how safeguarding your Azure VMs with Azure Backup can mitigate this risk.

What is Azure Backup?

Azure Backup is a cloud-based backup service that safeguards critical data in your Azure VMs. It creates recovery points, which are incremental backups capturing the state of your VMs at designated times. These recovery points are securely stored within Azure Recovery Services vaults.

Azure Backup works for a variety of data sources, including:

  • Virtual machines (VMs) in Azure
  • SQL databases (both in Azure and on-premises)
  • Files, folders, and system states
  • On-premises workloads like VMware VMs and Hyper-V VMs

Why Use Azure Backup Over Traditional Backup Methods?

Eliminates Infrastructure Overhead: Azure Backup uses the cloud, so you no longer need to invest in or manage physical backup infrastructure.

Long-Term Retention: Define custom retention periods to ensure data availability for an extended timeframe. Built-in lifecycle management automatically deletes older backups exceeding the retention period.

Enhanced Security: Azure Backup encrypts your backups at rest and in transit using Microsoft-managed keys.

Offline Backup for Azure VMs: All data transfer occurs within the Azure backbone network, minimizing security risks associated with external connections.

Accidental Deletion Safeguards: The Soft Delete feature offers a safety net against accidental or malicious deletion of backups.

How Does It Work?

1. Initiation

You define a backup policy within the Azure portal, specifying the data sources (VMs, databases, etc.), frequency of backups (daily, weekly, etc.), and retention period (how long backups are stored). Azure Backup triggers the backup process automatically based on the scheduled policy.

2. Capturing Application-Consistent Snapshots

Azure VMs: A pre-installed backup extension within the VM coordinates with the Azure Backup service to ensure all data required for running applications is captured at a consistent state, minimizing inconsistencies during restoration.

On-Premises Workloads: Azure Backup offers three primary methods to safeguard on-premises data sources:

  • Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS)
  • Azure Backup Server (MABS)
  • System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) Integration

The chosen method interacts with the on-premises workload to capture a consistent data snapshot.

3. Incremental Backups and Data Transfer

To optimize storage and bandwidth usage, Azure Backup uses an incremental backup approach, identifying and transferring only the data blocks that have changed since the last backup.

4. Storage

The captured data is uploaded to a Recovery Services vault within Azure storage, offering various redundancy options:

  • Locally Redundant Storage (LRS): Provides a minimum of three copies of your data within the same data center.
  • Geo-Redundant Storage (GRS): Replicates data to a geographically separate location, enhancing disaster recovery capabilities.
  • Zone-Redundant Storage (ZRS): Stores data across availability zones within the same region, offering protection against localized outages.

5. Retention Management and Cost Optimization

Based on the retention period defined in the backup policy, older backups are automatically deleted from Azure storage. The pay-as-you-go billing model ensures you only pay for the storage consumed by your backups, promoting cost-effectiveness.

6. Recovery

In the event of data loss or corruption, you can initiate a restore operation through the Azure portal. Choose a specific recovery point based on your needs to restore data to a desired point in time.

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