Microsoft has introduced a more efficient way to back up SQL Server when it runs on Azure data center virtual machines. Azure Backup for SQL Server is targeted at organizations that are moving SQL Server from on-premise physical or virtual environments to Azure virtual machines.
This solution allows organizations to centralize backup and restore across a fleet of SQL Server instances. Azure Backup for SQL Server is an enterprise-scale, zero-infrastructure solution that eliminates the need to deploy and manage backup infrastructure, stated Microsoft program manager Swati Sachdeva is a recent blog.
The new solution promises a 15-minute Recovery Point Objective (RPO).
“Having a guaranteed 15-minute RPO will be a major advancement for most organizations because while they may define a 15-minute (or lower) RPO with their database platforms, actually delivering that RPO represents a more significant challenge, especially when recovery must be accomplished in a separate geography,” said Steve Hunter, senior director of enterprise tech architecture at Avanade, a Microsoft Azure partner and consultant.
Azure Backup for SQL Server also provides encryption at rest and in motion during backup. This is particularly useful in supporting regulatory and compliance requirements, as well as for deployments with sensitive information that require increased protection. Historically, this has been a gap in how many clients handle backup and restore operations.
Other features include one-click, point-in-time restores; long-term retention; protection for encrypted databases; central management and monitoring; and the ability to automatically detect and protect newly added databases. AutoProtection, as it’s called, means that administrators no longer have to manually configure backup operations because any new databases will be discovered and will inherit the default backup policy.
Using Azure Backup for SQL Server is a better option than other ways of backing up SQL Server when the RDBMS is housed on Azure data center virtual machines, Hunter said. Typically, organizations would use third-party backup and restore options like Commvault, Veritas or NetBackup, but those solutions require users to manage the underlying infrastructure required to deliver the service.
“Most of our clients are looking to get out of the infrastructure layer whenever possible and simply consume services from the hyper-scale cloud providers,” he said. “The Azure Backup for SQL Server solution requires no infrastructure and is a pay-as-you-consume service offering--exactly what our clients are looking to consume because it lowers overall costs by reducing up-front investments and operational complexity from critical but undifferentiated IT-delivered services.”
Another common option for many SQL administrators is developing custom scripts and using the built-in SQL Server Backup feature. Starting with SQL Server 2012, it is possible to specify Azure blob storage as the target for the backup. This is a popular approach because SQL administrators are familiar with the process, they have granular control of how the backup/restore is performed, and documentation is readily available from both Microsoft and the community at large. The main drawback to this approach, Hunter said, is a lack of centralized management, reporting or error handling.” At scale, the operational complexity of this approach increases exponentially and typically results in the use of third-party solutions referenced above.
Other methods organizations have used in the past include using the SQL Server Agent Extension, which supports backup, patching and Azure Key Vault integration. Similar to the built-in SQL backup options, this approach doesn’t provide centralized management and can quickly become unmanageable at scale. A less common approach involves performing a backup of the VM running SQL Server. This model can provide some level of centralized management. However, there is a limit on the number of times a VM can be backed up in a day, and SQL log files aren’t truncated during the backup, so disks can fill up quickly if the logs aren’t actively managed, Hunter explained.
Azure Backup for SQL Server, available now, is a monthly billable service priced by both instance and storage costs (priced per gigabyte).