Using the Azure Cloud for Backup and Disaster Recovery

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Using the Azure Cloud for Backup and Disaster Recovery

Cloud Computing

Microsoft Azure offers cloud computing services, including backup and disaster recovery. In this article, you’ll learn about Azure Site Recovery (ASR) and how to use it as a backup and recovery mechanism for your workloads.

What Is Azure Site Recovery?

Azure Site Recovery (ASR) is a service that you can use for disaster recovery of resources. It is designed to be used in combination with Azure Backup, as part of a larger data loss prevention strategy. 

Backup enables you to duplicate data from individual virtual machines and to restore files and data in part or whole. ASR enables you to store copies of your machines in remote regions as a failover in case of an outage or natural disaster.

You can use ASR with on-premises or Azure workloads and machines. It supports the recovery of a variety of applications and services, including SAP, Active Directory, SharePoint, Dynamics AX, and web applications.

Benefits of ASR include:

  • Cost-efficient—you’re charged a flat rate per instance plus storage costs for data.
  • Centralized management—operated from a single management pane regardless of the source location.
  • Resiliency—multiple data copies are stored in geographically-paired regions for greater resilience and reliability.
  • Security—data is protected with at-rest and in-transit encryption with customer-managed keys. 
  • Flexible—you can specify which machines to recover and when through policies.

Using Azure Site Recovery to Replicate Data: 4 Steps

To replicate your data for disaster recovery, you should follow the below steps.

Step 1: Plan

Azure provides several tools to help you with the planning process, including Azure Site Recovery Deployment Planner and Azure Site Recovery Capacity Planner. These tools are designed to help you analyze your resources and predict resource requirements for your failover resources.

When creating your plan, make sure to consider the following:

  • Recovery Time Objective (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objective (RPOs)
  • Storage requirements, including volume and IOPS
  • Network bandwidth and configuration
  • Daily change rates
  • Which services ASR supports 

Step 2: Preparation and Configuration

Once your plan is developed, you need to provision and configure your destination environment. This environment can be a VMware Site, Azure resources, or a Hyper-V host. 

Regardless of which you choose, you need to set up a Recovery Services Vault in Azure. You can do this via the Resource Manager or the portal. This vault houses your replication settings and manages your replication.

Once your replication environment is prepared you can create a replication policy that meets your recovery needs. After that is created, you can assign the policy to those machines you want to replicate. As a last step, you need to create a base replica. This replica is incrementally built upon as data is added to your machines or configurations are changed.

Step 3: Failover and Failback

After your configurations are done and your initial recovery resource is made, you need to test your setup. You can perform this test automatically, through a recovery plan, or manually through the Azure Console. Depending on your results, you can make changes accordingly to ensure that failover is smooth in the event of a real disaster or outage.

Step 4: Maintain

Even though you have verified your configurations and resources, you should continue to monitor and periodically test your system. Any time new resources are added or recovery objectives change, be sure to review as well. 

4 Azure Backup Tips

Once your disaster recovery strategy is in place, you still need to address your backup needs. Backups are your immediate recovery tool and should be leveraged in addition to ASR. the following tips can help you create a solid backup strategy. 

1. Review Your Alerts

You should have alerts configured to keep you updated on your backup status. This includes any time backups fail, are modified, or deleted. You should also review who is receiving alerts and by what means. 

2. Ensure Your Backups are Complete

Azure Backup enables you to create backup copies of a wide variety of data and machines, depending on your needs. You can create simple backups for restoring files and folders or complex, system state backups. The latter is especially useful for workloads such as SQL or Exchange databases, or SharePoint services. 

When configuring your backup strategy, ensure that no resources are missed and that you are performing backups with the correct frequency. This timing may be different for different resources so make sure to adjust accordingly. 

3. Isolate Your Backups

Make sure that your backups are stored separately from your source resources. If you store backups in the same region and network as your resources, you will not be able to access resources in case of region failure. Likewise, if an attacker infiltrates your system, they will have access to your backups in addition to your source data. 

4. Confirm Performance and Schedules

Once you set policies for backups, it can be tempting to just trust the automation. However, this can create significant issues if your scheduling isn’t working as intended or if you created inefficient policies. 

Take time to verify that your policies match your workload priorities, RPO, RTO, and performance expectations. For example, running backups in the middle of the day or backing up rarely used data multiple times a day, only interferes with your productivity. Also, keep in mind that backups aren’t instant; it takes time to create and transfer backups. When using Backup, you share a queue with other Azure customers, which can also affect your timing.

Conclusion

Azure specializes in enterprise workloads, including hybrid operations. This is why backup in Azure is built in. However, you do need to configure how the mechanism works, especially if you’re building this as part of your disaster recovery strategy. Be sure to create clear backup and recovery strategies. This can help you keep track of data and maintain visibility at all times.

James Lee
James Lee
James Lee is a passionate software wizard working at one of the top Silicon Valley-based startups specializing in big data analysis. In the past, he has worked on big companies such as Google and Amazon In his day job, he works with big data technologies such as Cassandra and ElasticSearch, and he is an absolute Docker technology geek and IntelliJ IDEA lover with strong focus on efficiency and simplicity.

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