Windows Azure Recovery Services. Part 3: Working with Backup Agent

by Pavlo Revenkov

Hi everyone! Let's continue configuring the Windows Azure Recovery Services. Last time, we finished with loading the certificates necessary for working with the service. Now, let's finally set up the Windows Azure Backup Agent for performing the backup.

Registering a new server

Now that the backup storage has been created, and the necessary certificates were created and imported into the Windows Azure Management Portal and the machine running the Windows Server, all that is left to do is install the Windows Azure Backup Agent on those machines and properly configure it.

Open the Windows Azure Management Portal and go to the Recovery Services section. Then select the created backup repository and click the Dashboard tab.

You must install the Windows Azure Backup Agent on machines running the Windows Server. Download it by clicking the Download Agent link. In the window that appears, select the 'Agent for Windows Server and System Center' option.

Installing the Windows Azure Backup Agent is simple enough, so let's not focus on it too much. In most cases, you should install it with the default settings.

Launch the installed Windows Azure Backup Agent. The first thing we are offered to do immediately after launching it is register the machine on which we are currently working as the server from which Windows Azure will take the data to create backups. Do this by selecting Register Server.

In the server registration wizard, we are prompted to define a certificate that will be used for authentication in Windows Azure Recovery Services. As we have already imported a certificate into the local storage, we will be offered to select it.

After that, select an available backup repository (backup vault) from the drop-down list.

For the final step, you must set a password for the encryption (and decryption) of backups of the given machine. You can come up with your own password (it must have no less than 16 characters), or you can use the generator by clicking 'Generate Passphrase'.

You must also specify the location of the text file containing the password. It is recommended to keep it on an external storage device.

Complete the server registration by pressing the Register button.

Before we proceed to actually configuring the Windows Azure Backup Agent, let's check whether our machine has appeared in the list of servers in the Windows Azure Management Portal.

Select the created backup storage in the Recovery Services section and go to the Servers tab. Your machine should be in that list.

Creating a backup schedule

Now, we'll continue configuring the Windows Azure Backup Agent. After registering the server in the Windows Azure Management Portal, the application window will look as follows:

As you can see, we are now prompted to schedule backups for this server. Essentially, the Windows Azure Backup Agent is a scheduler for creating backups. Create a new schedule by clicking the Schedule Backup button.

Specify the directories whose data should be stored in the cloud. For example, select the current user's profile.

In addition to useful data, the current user's profile may also contain some unimportant data, for example, files with the .tmp extension, so we can define in the scheduler that files with this extension not be considered. To do this, click Exclusion Settings, define the same directory that we want to store in the cloud, and select that the .tmp extension to be ignored. Also, set the value of the Subfolders property to 'Yes' so that the scheduler applies this rule to all sub-folders in the root folder.

For the next step, we have to specify the frequency of this task. The task itself cannot run more often than 3 times per day.

The final step: specify the period of time for backups to be stored in the repository. Possible values are: for the last 7, 15 and 30 days.

And with this, the schedule for creating data backups is completed. You can add additional tasks in accordance with your needs.

Let's now try to start the backup process manually, without waiting for the timer to expire. To do this, click 'Back Up Now'.

In the window that appears, we can track the progress of the operation. Since the operation is performed in the background, you can close this window by clicking Close.

Once the process is completed, we will see the completed task in the list of tasks.

If we go back to the Windows Azure Management Portal -> Recovery Services and select the Protected Items tab, we can see a list of directories that are stored in this repository, including information on where they came from and when.

Data recovery

Now, let's try to recover data from a storage located in the cloud. To do this in the Windows Azure Backup Agent, click Recover Data.

At the start, we are asked to indicate the source of the data that we are going to recover on this computer. In this case, backups have been made of the same machine, so select the 'This server' option.

Next, we have to select the partition volume for data recovery and the time when the snapshot of the data was created (basically, a recovery point).

After that, we choose the data to be recovered. It is possible to recover the entire scope of data, as well as separate elements.

The final step: defining additional recovery options. For example, at this stage we can specify what should be done with files that already exist in the directory being recovered, as well as the directory to be recovered itself. In addition to that, you can specify whether you want to restore the access permissions for the files and folders or not.

Complete the file recovery process by clicking Recover.

As a matter of fact, this is how work with the Windows Azure Recovery Services is set up. Of course, we did not consider the option of integrating with System Center, but that is a topic for a separate article. Thank you for your time and consideration!