Azure Backup – New! Instant Restore

Azure Backup is a service offered within the platform that allows you to backup and restore your IaaS data both from within Azure and on-premises. The integration out-of-the-box within Azure, and the attractive cost point make it a great option for many deployments. Simplicity is also key, for example, you can enable backup right from within the VM blade, or, for several VMs within your environment from the recovery services vault itself.

Another benefit is the speed and efficiency with which you can test and confirm your required restore processes. This has been recently improved on again by the introduction of Instant Restore. This introduces the ability to use snapshots taken as part of a backup job, which are then available for recovery without waiting for any data transfer to the vault. This greatly reduces the wait time to trigger a restore.

While Instant Restore is the quickest option, it does incur additional cost for the storage required to hold the snapshots. Also, it currently is only available in four regions, West Central US, India South, Australia East, and North Europe.

There are other alternatives included in the cost prices of Azure Backup. They are as follows:

  • Create a new VM
    • This quickly creates a basic VM from a chosen restore point. Configuration options are limited.
  • Restore disk
    • This creates new disks from a restore point. These disks can then be attached manually or via script. You pay for the disks while they are active but this option offers great flexibility.
  • Replace existing
    • This is more automated. Azure Backup takes a snapshot of the currently active VM, powers it off, then detaches current disks. While this is happening, it creates new disks from a restore point. Once restore is complete, it attaches them to the VM and powers it back on. There are some limitations here due to the automation used, it’s not supported for unmanaged disks, generalized VMs, or for VMs created using custom images.

There is also a fourth option that combines some automation for file level recovery. This is well detailed here – Azure Backup File Recovery.

Based on the previous options available, I think the new Instant Restore capability is a welcome addition. It brings Azure Backup more in line with traditional snapshot-as-a-quick-backup solutions people regularly leverage on-premises. If you are running significant IaaS workloads in Azure that require regular changes, I would strongly consider upgrading your Recovery Services Vault to support Instant Restore.

Azure IAAS Disaster Recovery

The ability to recover your IAAS VMs in Azure to a different region has been a logical requirement within Azure for quite some time. Microsoft made the feature available in preview last year and this week have made it GA.

Azure DR allows you to recover your IAAS VMs in a different Azure region should their initial region become unavailable. For example, you run your workloads in North Europe, the region experiences significant downtime, you are now able to recover your workloads in West Europe.

In this post I will go through setting up an individual VM to replicate from North Europe to West. However, it’s worth pointing out that DR should be a business discussion, not just technical. All scenarios that could occur, within reason, should be discussed to decide whether DR is warranted. For example, if your business entirely relies on your premises for production, if you lose the premises, you don’t need DR as there is no production capability regardless of system recovery etc. The idea is to scope what DR actually means for your business and remember, DR is only valid if it is tested!

Enabling DR for a VM is straight forward. Open your VM blade and scroll down to Operations, you will see an option for Disaster Recovery

DRvmBlade

You select a Target Region that must be different from your current region, you can then choose the default settings for a POC. In my screen shot, I have created a Resource Group and Recovery Services Vault in WE already so will use those. Once submitted, replication for your VM will be enabled. You can then view the configured options:

DRvmSettings.PNG

And that’s it! Once synchronisation completes, you now have your VM protected in a different region. However, for it to be valid, you need to design and confirm your Recovery Plan then complete both a Test Failover and Complete Failover and Failback.

More reading on the overall concept and Azure-Azure DR specifics here.