News

Microsoft Adds Windows Client Support to Azure Backup

Microsoft's Azure Backup service is now capable of backing up data from Windows 7 Service Pack 1, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 machines, thanks to an update released this week.

The update, available via this Microsoft Knowledge Base article, provides support for 64-bit versions of the aforementioned Windows clients. It also includes earlier updates to the Azure Backup service.

The update allows Windows clients to back up files and folders directly to Microsoft's cloud-based storage service using the HTTPS protocol. After the service is set up, it will transfer just the changed bits from those clients subsequently, which reduces the service's bandwidth demands. The data get encrypted at the source.

The backup service is designed so that it will skip a backup if the client device is running off a battery. The backup service then resumes when the machine is plugged back in and charging.

The cost of the Azure Backup service is simply based on the amount of data stored. The first 5GB stored per month is free, with a charge of $0.20 per gigabyte per month thereafter, according to Microsoft's pricing page. The service comes with a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee.

Users create a "backup vault" to use the service. Azure Backup has an automatic secondary service, so Microsoft recommends creating a backup vault in a region that's closest to the customer's location, according to its setup videos.

The Azure Backup service, which is part of Microsoft Azure's Recovery Services, was commercially released late last year, but it mostly seemed aimed at providing a cloud-based backup service for server data. The server backups can be managed using tools in Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 Essentials or System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager.

Microsoft has released various improvements to the Azure Backup service since initial commercial release. In August, the data source size was increased to 1.65TB max. In October, an updated agent for the Azure Backup service was released that adds support for x64 versions of Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2.

The Azure Backup service is just for use with NTFS storage. It doesn't work with BitLocker-encrypted drives (or rather, the data have to be decrypted first). It also does not work with drive types that aren't fixed or with read-only volumes, according to Microsoft's Azure Backup overview article.

Cloud-based backup services come with all degrees of complexity, which are outlined in this article. The Azure Backup service has been described as something that budget-strapped IT organizations might use at small or midsize companies. It may not be the solution for organizations needing to back up and restore so-called "mission-critical" data.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.