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Azure backup options: Microsoft vs. third-party products

Backup for Microsoft Azure data is well within your reach. But which product -- or products -- should you use? The choice comes down to some important considerations.

As capable as Microsoft's Azure Backup product is, it's not the best fit for every situation. Organizations should carefully consider their Azure backup options, whether they use the Microsoft product, a third-party tool or a combination of the two.

Azure Backup is a cloud service that organizations can use to protect data within the Microsoft Azure cloud. Microsoft markets Azure Backup as a replacement for both on-premises and cloud-based backup products.

Azure Backup pros and cons

The main advantage to using Azure Backup is that it is a Microsoft tool for backing up Microsoft workloads -- although it can also protect Linux. These workloads can be running in the Azure cloud or on premises. Microsoft presumably knows better than anyone how to best protect workloads running on its own services, so the fact that Microsoft created Azure Backup makes it worthy of consideration.

Another advantage to using Azure Backup is it's offered as a service, which means you get pay-as-you-go pricing. This makes it a compelling alternative to paying hefty licensing fees for third-party Azure backup options.

The biggest disadvantage to using Azure Backup, though, is that it is disjointed. While the name might lead to the assumption it is solely a cloud-based backup product, it is actually a collection of several different backup components. These components include the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) agent, System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM), Azure Backup Server and Azure IaaS VM Backup.

It's important to evaluate third-party Azure backup options alongside the Microsoft product to see what will best meet your needs.

Collectively, these components can protect most workloads. However, none of the components will meet every backup requirement by itself. System Center DPM, for example, seems to be the most powerful of the Azure Backup components, but it lacks the ability to protect Oracle workloads. Conversely, Microsoft does not list a lack of compatibility with Oracle workloads among the limitations associated with the MARS agent but says this agent does not support Linux workloads. If an organization decides to use Azure Backup to protect its resources, it will almost certainly have to use two or more separate components.

Considerations for third-party Azure backup options

The alternative to using Azure Backup is to use a third-party product. If you decide to investigate third-party offerings, keep in mind support for Azure can vary from one product to the next. Some backup applications might support using the Azure cloud as a backup target but lack the ability to protect Azure resources.

One of the best ways to find a third-party backup application that will work with Azure is to search Azure Marketplace. Most of the well-known backup vendors -- such as Cohesity, Veeam and Veritas -- offer products within Azure Marketplace. As you evaluate third-party Azure backup options, consider these elements:

  • Make sure the product enables you to choose backup targets outside of Azure. From a data protection standpoint, it is best to back up -- or at least replicate -- Azure data to an on-premises location or to another cloud, rather than storing it solely in the Azure cloud.
  • Verify the backup product can protect more than just Office 365 data. While it is important to protect Office 365, there are typically other resources -- such as Azure virtual machines (VMs) -- that also need protecting.
  • Make sure the backup product can protect all your workloads. While many of the choices in Azure Marketplace provide Volume Shadow Copy Service backup capabilities for Windows VMs, not every option supports backing up Linux VMs.
  • If you have resources hosted within on-premises VMs, make sure the product you choose supports your on-premises infrastructure. Azure Backup can be used to back up on-premises VMware VMs, but not every third-party platform includes VMware support.
  • Finally, look for multi-cloud compatibility. A good backup offering should be able to protect your Azure resources alongside resources hosted in other clouds, such as AWS.

Azure Backup is a capable product for protecting on-premises resources and resources running within the Azure cloud. Even so, Azure Backup is not going to be the best choice in every situation. It's important to evaluate third-party Azure backup options alongside the Microsoft product to see what will best meet your needs.

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