Store, Backup, Recover your data – Part 2

This is a continuation of the previous blog post

Azure Blob supports REST APIs so you can use it directly and build tools to integrate, but there are several ways you can use Azure storage to integrate with your on-premises datacenter environment:

StorSimple Cloud-integrated Storage – StorSimple systems combine the data management functions of primary storage, backup, archive and disaster recovery with seamless Azure integration – enabling a hybrid cloud storage solution through a single system and Azure.

StorSimple systems use Azure as an automated storage tier, offloading capacity management burdens and ongoing capital costs, while providing enterprise-grade local performance for active data sets. Using local and cloud snapshots, application-consistent backups complete in a fraction of the time needed by traditional backup systems while reducing the amount of data transferred and stored in the cloud.

Cloud-based and location-independent disaster recovery (DR) allows organizations to recover their data from virtually any location with an Internet connection, and test their DR plans without impacting production systems and applications. Thin restore from data in the cloud enables users to resume operations after a disaster much faster than possible with physical tape, or cloud-based tape methods used with other cloud providers.

Organizations will benefit from significantly reducing their storage infrastructure sprawl, lowering total storage costs (TCO) by 60-80%, and simplifying data protection while rapidly accelerating data recovery times.

Back Up and Restore of SQL Server Databases

The combination of Azure Storage and Virtual Machines provides a great cost effective solution for backing up and restoring your on-premises SQL Server images. On-premises SQL Server images can be backed up asynchronously to Azure Storage and in the case of an on-premises failure, the azure virtual machine can be quickly utilized to restore the image to reduce end user downtime.

While StorSimple solution I mention earlier is more of an on-premises SAN solution that is integrated with Azure, you can also use Azure directly for backups with Windows Server and System Center DPM.

Azure Backup service extends Windows Server Backup, Essentials, or DPM with offsite backup to Azure. You can backup server data to be backed up and recovered from the cloud in order to help protect against loss and corruption. Both Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 support this service. Here’s how you can use Windows Server and System Center with Azure Online Backup:

Windows Server – Cloud-based backup from Windows Server is enabled by a downloadable agent that installs right alongside the familiar Windows Server backup interface. From this interface backup and recovery of files and folders is managed as usual but instead of utilizing local disk storage, the agent communicates with an Azure service which creates the backups in Azure storage.

System Center 2016

With the System Center 2016 release, the Data Protection Manager (DPM) component enables cloud-based backup of datacenter server data to Azure storage.  System Center administrators use the downloadable Azure Online Backup agent to leverage their existing protection, recovery and monitoring workflows to seamlessly integrate cloud-based backups alongside their disk/tape based backups. DPM’s short term, local backup continues to offer quicker disk–based point recoveries when business demands it, while the Azure backup provides the peace of mind & reduction in TCO that comes with offsite backups. In addition to files and folders, DPM also enables Virtual Machine backups to be stored in the cloud.


  • Reliable offsite data protection
    • Convenient offsite protection
    • Safe, geo-replicated data
    • Encrypted backups
  • A simple, integrated solution
    • Familiar interface
    • Protection for older servers
    • Azure integration
  • Efficient backup & recovery
    • Efficient use of bandwidth and storage
    • Flexible recovery
    • Flexible configuration

Store, Backup, Recover your data – Part 1

Let’s first understand why Cloud makes for a great storage option?

A typical organization increases their data storage by 50-60% every year (source: IDC). But only a small portion of the data is frequently accessed or used. So, using purely on-premises storage like SAN/NAS solutions for that data is expensive. Forrester’s study placed a cost of about USD$95 per GB of data per year for an on-premises SAN solution which is 4X the cost of putting a GB in the Cloud.

Of course, not all data can be put in the Cloud for performance or compliance reasons but where you can, using Azure for all backup and archived data, as well as less frequently accessed primary data makes a great business case.

Let us now understand the Azure storage system and some of its salient features.

First we have to treat Azure as a giant “hard drive”. Why do I call it a giant? Azure Storage has over 10 trillion objects, processes an average of 270,000 requests per second, and reaches peaks of 880k requests per second! Did you get the point?

Azure Blob storage is actually the top most rated by Nasuni Cloud storage report. This ranking is based on a number of factors like read/write speeds, availability and performance metrics.

Microsoft make 3 copies of data for durability and availability. So, if a rack or server goes down, your data is still available and accessible. Microsoft provide an 99.9% SLA for storage.

Azure Storage system is the underpinning to everything in Azure that requires storage. The Azure storage system provides a solid robust data platform for different services that make use of it – Blobs, Tables and Drives.

Use Blob service for storing large amounts of unstructured data that can be accessed from anywhere in the world via HTTP or HTTPS. A single blob can be hundreds of gigabytes in size, and a single storage account can contain up to 100TB of blobs. Common uses of Blob storage include: Serving images or documents directly to a browser, storing files for distributed access, Streaming video and audio, performing secure backup and disaster recovery, Storing data for analysis by an on-premises or Azure-hosted service

Tables is a NoSQL datastore which is ideal for storing structured, non-relational data. Common uses of the Table service include: Storing TBs of structured data capable of serving web scale applications, or storing datasets that don’t require a full-fledged relational DB.

Drives are what are attached to VMs. They automatically provide get the same durability and availability. This differentiates Microsoft from other competitive offerings (like AWS) that have less reliable and durable storage systems for their VM instances.

Typically, large data sets take a very long time to upload or download over a network; For example, with a network 10 TB of data will take at least one month to upload over a T3 line.  With Azure import/export, this problem is eliminated.  Import/Export enables you to move your large dataset to the Azure cloud more efficiently than over your network.

Similarly, you can use this service to export data that you need to recover: Microsoft download it at the Microsoft Regional Datacenters, and ship it back to you.

Per a recent survey, (source: Forrester) 49% of those surveyed plans to move their data or already have moved their data storage to the cloud, citing both cost reduction and flexibility as reasons to move storage into the cloud. 80% of IT decision makers in a recent study cited that encryption in transit was of critical or high importance. (source: Forrester)

A Forrester study also estimated a cost of about USD$95 per GB of data per year for an on-premises SAN solution which is 4X the cost of putting a GB of data into Azure.

Hybrid Cloud storage

Cloud storage is the ideal way to handle the exploding demand for storage across industries. By moving data that is less frequently accessed to the cloud, you free up space on-premises while bringing down costs.

Microsoft Azure StorSimple is a hybrid cloud storage array that you can use to connect to Azure from your on-premises datacenter. A key feature is intelligent storage tiering, so that inactive or archival data is automatically moved to the cloud.

StorSimple is a great enterprise solution, because it connects seamlessly into your existing storage strategy. With StorSimple, you get cloud economics, automated data protection, and increased IT agility.

Cloud economics: Because cloud storage is dramatically less expensive than traditional storage options, you can easily bring down cost. StorSimple lets you:

  • Consolidate multiple distinct storage systems into a single hybrid cloud storage system
  • Add storage incrementally without having to rebalance application workloads
  • Take advantage of the lower cost of cloud storage for inactive and data-protection data

Automated data protection:  With StorSimple, you get a built-in data protection solution, which lets you:

  • Eliminate tape and all tape reliability problems and management hassles
  • Get very fast data protection at a far lower cost than replication solutions
  • Do instant recovery by utilizing synthetic full volume images
  • Test DR – something many IT teams can’t do for much of their data

Increased IT agility: Microsoft Azure StorSimple Manager consolidates storage management through an Azure portal. As a result, you save time by managing all storage arrays from a single point. You can now get near real-time status and updates for all StorSimple arrays.

Overall, IT teams save a lot of administrative time that can be used for business-driven technology instead of storage infrastructure.