The Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform offers broad range of tools to deploy and manage applications. While designed primarily for businesses and application development, it can also be used to backup your computer’s hard drive.
While we here at Cloudwards.net would generally recommend home computer users backup their computers with a simple solution like one of those highlighted in our best cloud backup services 2017 roundup, backing up with Azure is an option, too. You just need to find the right tool to facilitate the process.
In this article, we’re going to show you how you can go about backup up to Azure with a little help from a friend called CloudBerry Backup. We’ve done a similar guide to Amazon S3, so if that service is more your style, make sure to check it out.
Azure Storage Charges and Plans
Before you decide to backup to the Azure cloud, you’ll want to understand the costs associated with doing so.
Microsoft charges both flat storage rates and usage fees to store data in the Azure cloud. However, new users get a $200 credit for a month to play around with, which for some can go a long way.
Azure lets you store your data in a data center of your choosing. With 34 regions around the world, you can pick location near you to optimize data transfer speeds.
If you choose to just store your content in one data center, Microsoft charges you a flat local redundant storage (LRS) rate. If you go with two, there’s a more expensive geographically redundant storage (GRS) rate. The GRS option is aimed at businesses and developer with a global user base.
Azure also gives you the option to choose between “hot” and “cool” storage. Hot storage targets users who need to access their data frequently, while cool storage is meant for archiving and disaster recovery.
Here’s a look at the LRS and GRS “cool” and “hot” rates:
|LRS - Cool||LRS - Hot||GRS - Cool||GRS - Hot|
|First 50 TB per month||$0.0152||$0.0208||$0.0334||$0.0458|
|Next 450 TB per month||$0.0152||$0.0200||$0.0334||$0.0440|
|Over 500 TB per month||$0.0152||$0.0192||$0.0334||$0.0422|
The advantage of choosing hot over cool is that you get lower usage rates for accessing your data. In fact, with hot storage, both writing and retrieving costs are free.
Azure Data Write and Retrieval Costs
|LRS - Cool||LRS - Hot||GRS - Cool||GRS - Hot|
|Write per GB||$0.0025||Free||$0.005||Free|
|Retrieval per GB||$0.01||Free||$0.01||Free|
There are some other charges associated with usage for both hot and cool storage but these will mainly apply to developers. If you’re just backing up data, the numbers in the above table are all you need to worry about.
So, to sum up, if you were to backup 1TB of data using LRS hot storage, you’d be charged around $20 per month with no fees for uploading and downloading. The first month you sign up for Azure, you also get $200 credit to start out with, making the first 30 days effectively free.
The only problem would be getting data there, since, as we’re about to see, the Azure portal doesn’t let you upload or download content itself.
Step One: Setup an Account
If you already have a Microsoft login for Office Online or OneDrive, you can use that to log into the Azure portal. Once in the portal, you’ll find access points for many other Azure capabilities besides storage: app services, SQL data warehouses and virtual machines, to name a few.
For our purposes though, right now we just want to see how to set up a storage account.
To get started, click on the “new” icon near the top-right corner of the portal. This will redirect you to the Azure marketplace, where you can search for and setup all kinds of tools. You can search for “storage” or just click the “storage” category like we did.
Doing so will pull up any storage-related service, which displays under a newly populated “storage” column.
For basic storage, you’ll want the “storage account” option, which should be the first item listed in the right column. Clicking on this object will redirect you to a storage creation pane where you’ll need to fill in some fields and make some selections.
The “name” field must be unique across all Azure accounts. We went with “cloudwardstest1.”
For deployment model, if this is your first Azure storage account, just leave it as “resource manager.” Classic is for older applications.
The “account kind” field asks if you want to set up a “general purpose” or “blob” account. General purpose accounts limit you to one storage class, while blob accounts can be used for lifecycle management (i.e., moving from hot to cool storage). We went with “general purpose” to keep things simple. But if you’re working with terabytes of data, you’ll probably want to go blob.
You’re also able to choose between standard or premium performance. Premium means lower latency, so it’s better for databases and other applications where you’ll be adding and retrieving data often. We picked standard, because we’re just setting up backup for our test laptop.
Under “replication,” you can choose the level of redundancy you want, which includes LRS or GRS storage.
The next step is to choose whether or not Azure encrypts your storage server-side. Unless you’ll be encrypting data yourself before it gets uploaded, you should enable encryption. It doesn’t cost any extra and protects your data in case of a server breach.
Next, indicate which subscription you want to use. We only have a free trial setup, so that’s what we went with. You’ll also need to pick a region. We went with “east U.S.”
Prior to clicking the “create” button, you’re also given the option to pin your storage to your Azure dashboard. We recommend doing this since it means faster access.
Step Two: Add Files
Back in the dashboard, our new storage account is now visible.
Click on it to open up a control panel that will let you modify settings, browse files, share files.
Of course, we don’t have any files stored yet, and this is where things get a bit tricky if you’re used to working with consumer cloud storage and backup tools.
To get files into Azure, you can either develop your own application, use Microsoft’s AZCopy command-line utility or go with a third-party tool. The first two options are complicated and probably not going to appeal to most users just getting started with Azure.
Using third-party software, however, can be a simple but powerful way to upload your files to the Azure cloud if you pick the right tool. When it comes to routine protection of your drive, you’re probably going to want to go with CloudBerry Backup.
About CloudBerry Backup
Developed by CloudBerry Labs, CloudBerry Backup can connect to Azure, Amazon S3, Google Cloud and over 20 other cloud storage platforms. Licenses are available for both desktop and server backup, are one-time charges for one computer.
|Desktop Free||Desktop Pro||Windows Server|
|File system backup|
|Encryption and compression|
|Storage limit (upgradable)||200GB||1TB||1TB|
Other software licenses are available for MS SQL and Exchange backup. For a full look at CloudBerry Backup, be sure and check out our CloudBerry Backup review.
On a side note, if you want to perform image-based backup of your desktop hard drive, you’ll have to buy the Windows Server edition. Desktop Pro doesn’t let you do desktop imaging, but Windows Server does.
Integrating CloudBerry Backup with Azure
Once you’ve installed CloudBerry Backup, connecting to Azure requires obtaining a key to your Azure cloud storage bucket. To get these, click the “access keys” button in the portal.
Open CloudBerry and click the “files” button.
This will open a wizard to walk you through setup.
Click “next” on the first pane and the “add new account” button on the second. A window will open with all of the cloud storage integration options currently supported by CloudBerry Backup.
Click on the icon for Azure. A popup window will open, allowing you to input your Azure key and some other information.
The display name field can be whatever you want it to be. The account name should be the name of your Azure storage account and the key should be one the two key fields generated earlier. In the container field, click “create new container” to generate a storage bucket.
Click “ok.” A new storage account will be set up.
Click “next” and you’ll be walked through the rest of the setup process. This includes creating a plan name, encryption and file transfer settings, and choosing the content you want to backup. One of the nice things about CloudBerry backup is that you can either select specific folders and files to backup or go backup by file type.
You can also set your backup schedule within the wizard if you want to automate routine backups.
We won’t walk you through the whole process here since our focus is on Azure but CloudBerry Backup wizard makes it all pretty easy. And you can always go back and edit your backup plan later if there’s something you want to change.
Backing up your computer up using Microsoft Azure might seem like a hassle but when you get down to it, the process is pretty simple if you’ve got the right tools. Really, it’s just a matter of wrapping your head around the charges and understanding that you need a complimentary program like CloudBerry Backup to get your data to the cloud on a routine basis.
Hopefully, this guide has set you on the right path. If you have any questions or concerns, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for reading.