Microsoft Extends Azure's Safety Net for Windows Server Cloud Backups

Microsoft Azure Backup, the company's cloud-based data protection platform, can now protect both the data and configuration information stored on Windows Servers.

Microsoft Azure

In its latest stab at cloud-based data protection for enterprises, Microsoft is making it easier for Azure Backup customers to bounce back from Windows Server mishaps, or worse, debilitating ransomware attacks.

Moving beyond simple data backups, Microsoft this week announced an expansion of the features in its Azure Backup agent software that also take a server's operating system and application configuration into account, enabling businesses to quickly resume operations with a minimum of server setup chores. The cloud backup now integrates with the Windows Server System State feature available in the operating system since Windows Server 2008 R2.

The updated Azure Backup agent, available now in preview, allows organizations to protect their Windows Servers and business applications, like Active Directory, with a more comprehensive cloud-based safety net, claimed Saurabh Sensharma, a program manager at Microsoft Azure Backup.

"System State of a domain-controller server captures the Active Directory and files that are required for domain-controller synchronization and allow for targeted Active Directory protection and restores," Sensharma offered as an example in his blog post. "On a file server, System State captures important file-cluster configurations and policies that protect files from unauthorized access."

Likewise, the feature can be used to backup Internet Information Services (IIS) web servers, complete with a website's file and folder structure along with configuration information.

This week also marked the release of Microsoft's Azure Backup Server 2.0, building on its existing VMware support to provide data protection for virtual machines (VMs) running on vCenter and ESXi 6.5 servers. Included is an option that enables users to automatically backup VMware VMs to the cloud the moment they are added to folders.

Of course, Microsoft isn't neglecting its own Hyper-V virtualization technology. As part of the new Windows Server 2016 integration with Azure Backup Server, the system can now backup Hyper-V VMs deployed to storage managed by the operating system's Storage Spaces Direct feature.

Storage Spaces Direct is a scalable server storage pooling technology that uses direct-attached drives as an alternative to network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) arrays. Part of the Windows Server 2016 Datacenter edition, it provides a number of enterprise storage management capabilities, including erasure coding.

Azure Backup Server also introduces Microsoft's performance-enhancing and capacity-optimizing storage technology, dubbed simply Modern Backup Storage.

"Modern Backup Storage is a technology that leverages Windows Server 2016 native capabilities such as ReFS [Resilient File System] block cloning, deduplication and workload aware storage to optimize backup storage and time, and delivers nearly 50 percent disk storage savings and 3x faster backups," explained Maanas Saran, a program manager at Microsoft Azure Backup, in a May 31 announcement. "With Modern Backup Storage, Azure Backup Server goes a step further in enhancing enterprise backups by completely restructuring the way data is backed up and stored."

Altogether, Azure Backup Server's new storage efficiency features, along with no-cost restoration from cloud recovery points, help drive down the cost of protecting vital server infrastructure, asserts Microsoft. Video demonstrations of the basics of protecting storage volumes using Modern Backup Storage are available here.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...