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Azure Backup vs Azure Site Recovery

Businesses are increasingly integrating cloud technology as a part of their business continuity and disaster recovery strategy. The corporations around the globe are using the cloud to create backups of their on-premises resources and for replicating their virtual machines. A significant proportion of these institutions use Microsoft Azure as their preferred cloud solution. Microsoft has developed two tools for integrating and replicating data from on-premises resources to Azure. Let us compare and contrast the two tools and find out how Azure Backup is different from Azure Site Recovery.

How Does Azure Backup Service Work?

In layman terms, Azure Backup service is a provision to create and recover backups using the Microsoft Azure cloud in a simple, secure, and cost-effective manner. The service works in tandem with existing backup solutions for both Azure and on-premises resources. This makes it ideal for organizations looking to substitute their existing backup solutions cost-effectively. This is because Azure cloud is a significant improvement over existing archiving methods for retaining data over medium and longer timeframes that are often a requirement for meeting regulatory compliance needs. With Azure Backup, the need for storing backups on bulky on-premises devices is virtually eliminated.

Why Should Organizations Use Azure Backup?

Azure Backup introduces a paradigm change in the way data is stored and retrieved.

  • It helps in establishing the required architecture and environment necessary to ease the load off the existing on-premises infrastructure by making the transition to Azure simple and seamless by eliminating the need for on-premises storage. The storage management is automated as space is allocated using the pay-as-you-go model.
  • It consolidates the cloud and on-premises resources into a hybrid environment and makes accessing backup resources simple in both environments. 
  • It simplifies scaling of storage, computing, networking, and other resources as compared to the on-premises infrastructure.
  • It is capable of providing independent and isolated application-consistent backups to protect the original data. It uses the Recovery Services vaults to extract data from automatically saved recovery points. The Recovery Vault provides an integrated environment for monitoring and alerting users while proving an efficient solution for long- and short-term data retention.
  • It does not impose restrictions on data transfer either in terms of limits or costs. Moreover, data is encrypted at all stages and is secure both during the transition phase and at rest.
  • There is greater flexibility in terms of storage options. The locally redundant storage (LRS), is the low-cost option that replicates user data thrice and stores them in the same region. The geo-redundant storage (GRS) stores data in a different region to protect data better.

How Data Is Stored Using Azure Backup?

Azure Backup services use the Recovery vaults to store and retrieve data. The service can store data, information on the machine state and the different workloads running on on-premises and Azure Virtual Machines (VM). The architecture is flexible enough to offer multiple ways of creating backups for both types of resources.

Azure Backup in On-Premises Machines

Windows machines can be directly backed-up to Azure using the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) agent. Alternatively, the Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) or Microsoft Azure Backup Server (MABS) can be used to transfer information to a backup server which can eventually be relayed to Recovery Services vault in Azure.

Azure Backup in Azure VMs

Data on Azure VMs can be backed up even more easily with the help of the Azure Backup extension that integrates with the Azure VM agent to back up the entire VM. Like for the on-premises machines, the MARS agent can be used to back up specific files and folders. Similarly, the MABS can be used to transfer data to the Recovery Services vault.

How Does Azure Site Recovery Work?

The Azure Site Recovery is a Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution that helps businesses keep running their applications during outages which may be either planned or unplanned. It is an integrated offering that can be used for replication, failover and failback operations on on-premises and Azure VMs. Azure Site Recovery works by providing redundancy for sites by running applications on several virtual machines and allowing users to use different environments spread across regions for ensuring availability. It is essentially a replication mechanism to enable continuity in application operation.

Why Should Organizations Use Azure Site Recovery?

Azure Site Recovery ensures that end-users can continue to access the application along with their data even in the event of a failure. It has complex capabilities and functionalities to maintain business continuity. Some of its important advantages are as follows. 

  • Simple deployment of integrated capabilities to ensure site recovery with robust replication, failover, and failback mechanisms.
  • Significantly lowers capital costs by eliminating the need for a secondary datacenter. Operational costs involved in deploying, maintaining, monitoring and repairing on-premises infrastructure are also eliminated because of the pay-as-you-go model for resource utilization.
  • Scales coverage across several regions, platforms, and applications to ensure serviceability and comply with industry regulations.
  • Frequent/continuous replication to minimize disruptions.
  • Robust testing features, customizability, and network integration impart greater flexibility.

How Azure Site Recovery Maintains Site Uptime?

Azure Site Recovery maintains the VM workload availability using the steps described below.

  • Azure Site Recovery replicates VMs to the Azure storage.
  • Failover to Azure initiated in the event of an outage of the primary site.
  • Azure VMs created to access workloads with the stored VM data.
  • Azure storage replicated and failback of Azure VMs initiated when the primary site is up and running.

Here’s a summary of the working of the various components of the Azure Site Recovery.

Every subscription involves the setting up of a configuration server VM which communicates between the on-premises components and Azure and a process server that optimizes data to be stored in Azure. Each VM is installed with the mobility service when the replication begins. The data moves to the Azure storage when the Azure network failover is initiated.

The configuration begins with the entry of the replication source and target in the Recovery Services vault along with the policy creation and enabling replication. The Mobility service starts replication based on the replication policy and the initial server data is stored in the Azure storage. All changes thereafter are sent to Azure using the configuration server and the process server. These changes are replicated in the primary environment once normalcy is restored.

Difference Between Azure Backup vs Azure Site Recovery

The comparison between Azure Backup vs Azure Site Recovery is not so much about competition as it is about identifying appropriate scenarios for optimal utilization of either offering. While Azure Backup is ideal for creating and recovering granular data, Azure Site Recovery is a comprehensive service whose capability extends beyond restoring simple data to replicating applications on the cloud for continued operations during outages.

Here are some factors to consider before choosing between the two offerings:

  • Azure Backup is ideal for restoring data that has been accidentally deleted or corrupted. Azure Site Recovery is a disaster recovery solution for managing black-swan events like natural disasters that hamper operations of a data center.
  • The frequency of updates is lower for Azure Backup than Azure Site Recovery because of the nature of their operations.
  • While Azure Site Recovery provides failover and failback capabilities, Azure Backup can only restore lost or corrupted data.
Azure Backup vs Azure Site Recovery – What’s the Conclusion?

Azure Backup is different than Azure Site Recovery in more ways than one. The two solutions cater to different scenarios and are equipped with different capabilities. Having said that, their functionalities aren’t exactly mutually exclusive with Azure Site Recovery inheriting the capabilities of Azure Backup to a large extent. The complexity of operations would dictate the necessity for either solution.

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