Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Azure backup service - new retention policy options

Since the Azure Backup service was launched way back in October 2013 there was a desire to move some of our backup jobs over to this service. In part, this was to alleviate the strain on our existing on-premise solution, but also cloud storage as a backup destination makes a lot of sense, especially when you think about long term data retention.  Managing backups on tape with 3rd party services is OK, but can you really be sure (without considerable expense) that your data will be recoverable if/when you ever need to go back to your tape in a year or mores time?

Since the launch of this service though I have not been able to, as yet, have this service running in any production environment.  This has been due to a number of issues but the main one being that the data retention policy was just too short.  This though, has now changed!

Previously you only had 120 recovery points available to be used.  not a problem you would think, until you then discover that you can only have one policy per server...daily or weekly.  If you set a daily backup, say Monday to Friday, you could save your backups for up to 169 days (a little over 5 months) before you would then hit your retention limit.

If you changed to a weekly backup to get a longer retention period you would have backups going as far back as just over 2 years...better, but then these would only be weekly backups, with no daily jobs running.  Not a good place to be!

However, as of 10th February 2015 Microsoft have now addressed this...and in quite a big way.
They now support up to 366 recovery points and also multiple policies per server.  using these new options now gives you the ability to have backups as you would expect within most enterprises with retention periods of many years whilst still retaining at least daily backups of your datasets!
The below screenshot shows the out-of-the-box default policy configured when you install the latest Azure Backup client onto your windows server and register it with your vault in Azure.
It's quite a change as you can see and features not only daily, weekly and monthly policies but also yearly too, with a default retention period of 10 years for your yearly backups!

I'm not saying that this is now perfect.  There are still many areas in need of improvement (such as alerting and centralised views of all of your backup jobs at the very least) but this at least covers the number 1 reason why we would never have used this service for any production jobs previously and is certainly going to be re-evaluated again for some of our services.

It would be great to hear if anyone else has much experience of this service and any other pros/cons you have encountered?

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