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Protect Backup Data In Azure Blob Using Vembu BDRSuite

9 Min. Read

Organizations today have their data spread across a wide range of environments. This includes on-premises, public cloud, hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, and software as a service.

Having your data spread across so many different environments can lead to challenges when it comes to protecting that data. What’s more, traditional data protection solutions were never meant to protect business-critical data outside of the private data center.

This leads to challenges not only in protecting and recovering your business-critical data but also meeting compliance objectives as well as security initiatives.

In this guide, we will show you how to protect your backup data in Azure Blob storage using Vembu BDRSuite.

Introduction

Be it virtual environment back-ups like VMware Backup, Microsoft Hyper-V Backup, or legacy environment backups like Windows Server Backup, or Workstation backup, Vembu BDR Suite has been offering Backup & Recovery with their own file-system, VembuHIVE thereby easing the backup process, storage management since many years.

Recently Vembu released their latest BDRSuite v5.3 which includes many features such as:

  • File Server Backup from BDRSuite Backup Server UI.
  • Azure Blob as Backup Repository.
  • Endpoint Backup from BDRSuite Backup Server UI.
  • Active Directory Integration.
  • Integrity Check on VMware ESXi Server.

Besides additional enhancements and improvements for their BDRSuite product. For more information about these improvements, please check Vembu BDRSuite v5.3 – Release Notes.

In this article, we will show you how to store your primary backup data and backup copy data in Azure Blob storage directly.

Prerequisites

To follow this article, you need to have the following:

1) Azure subscription – If you don’t have an Azure subscription, you can create a free one here.

2) Azure storage account – To create a general-purpose storage account, you can follow the instructions described here.

3) Vembu BDRSuite v5.3 Backup Server installed – You can follow the detailed instructions below to deploy BDRSuite Backup Server in Standalone or Cluster deployment:

Azure Storage Account

Assuming you have already created a general-purpose v2 storage account as described in this article.

The next step is to configure the storage account network firewall to accept connections from specific IP addresses (network) for added security.

Navigate to Networking under the Security + networking blade and then click on “Selected networks“.

If your storage account is connected to an existing virtual network (VNet), you can add it here or create a new VNet if you want (this is needed for private endpoint scenarios).

The most important point is to add the public IP address of your organization to the firewall rule, so Vembu BDRSuite can reach the storage account, you also need to add your client’s IP address as shown in the figure below (we have blur-boxed the value for obvious reasons). Click Save.

The firewall settings allowing access to storage services will remain in effect for up to a minute after saving updated settings restricting access.

Azure Storage firewalls and virtual networks
Azure Storage firewalls and virtual networks

This restricts access to the storage account only from the company on-premises networks (public endpoint), or from the Virtual Network (VNet) it connects to (private endpoint), and other Azure services (since we’ve selected “Allow Azure services on the trusted services list to access this storage account” under Exceptions.

The next step is to create one or more blob containers to be used as backup targets by Vembu BDRSuite.

Navigate to Containers under the Data storage blade and then click on “+ Container” as shown in the figure below.

Create Azure Storage blob container
Create Azure Storage blob container

Add Credentials – Azure Blob Storage

Vembu BDRSuite allows you to choose Azure Blob storage as a repository for all backup data.

Azure Blob storage, an object storage solution for the cloud from Microsoft is designed to manage huge volumes of unstructured data.

Take the following steps to add credentials for your Azure Blob Storage:

Specify a credential name to identify your credential record, and provide the Storage Account Name & Access Key of your Azure Blob Storage Account.

You can manage the Azure Blob Credentials from the Backup Server tab -> Credential Management -> Azure Blob Storage.

Then click on Add Credential, enter the following details and click Add.

  • Credential Name: Give it a descriptive name
  • Azure Storage Account Name: Storage Account Name that you provisioned in Azure
  • Azure Storage Access Key: Access Key for your Storage Account. Please note that this is a sensitive key, make sure to enable and configure the firewall as described in the previous section.
Add Credentials - Azure Blob Storage
Add Credentials – Azure Blob Storage

The added credential will be listed and in case you want to change your storage account access keys, you can click on the edit icon under Actions and update the Access Key.

Edit Credentials - Azure Blob Storage
Edit Credentials – Azure Blob Storage

Once you click on Update, a warning message will be prompted. Read it carefully and click on ‘Yes, Proceed‘ to save your changes.

Create Backup Repository – Azure Blob Storage

Take the following steps to create a backup repository for your Azure Blob Storage:

1) Log in to the BDRSuite Server console. Navigate to the Backup Server tab -> Object Storage and click on the ‘Create New Object Storage Repository’ button on the page that opens.

2) Enter the following details:

  • In the Repository Name field, specify a name for the new object storage repository. Only [a-z][A-Z][0-9][ – _ ] characters are allowed in the Object Storage Repository name.
  • For the Repository Type, choose Azure Blob Storage.
  • The Service Endpoint field is auto-filled (core.windows.net) which establishes a secure connection between the Azure Blob storage account and the BDRSuite Backup Server.
Create New Object Storage Repository
Create New Object Storage Repository

3) From the Credentials drop-down list, select the user credentials that you have added in the previous step for the Azure Blob Storage credentials to access your Azure Blob storage account. Otherwise, click the ‘Add New Credential‘ button which opens a dialog box, and enter the required details.

4) From the Container drop-down list, select the desired container. Make sure that the container where you want to store your backup data was created in advance as described in the previous section.

Vembu Select Azure Blob Container
Vembu Select Azure Blob Container

5) Choose a cache location to store backup data temporarily before uploading to Azure Blob Storage. Local drives and Network drives added to the BDRSuite Server will be shown in the dropdown list which can be selected as Cache Location.

If you are using a backup server cluster all the nodes will use the location given here for storing backup data temporarily before uploading to the target Azure Object Storage Repository. If you want all nodes to use a common location then make sure the shared drive is mounted in all nodes with the same drive letter given here.

Choose a cache location to store backup data
Choose a cache location to store backup data

6) Once you enter all the required fields, click the ‘Create’ button upon which the Azure Blob will be added as your Backup Repository.

Confirm to create of the backup repository
Confirm to create of the backup repository

The created Azure Blob Repository can be set as default storage to store the backup data of all jobs configured in the BDRSuite Backup Server (or) you can select the repository for specific jobs during the backup job configuration.

Backup to Azure Blob Storage Using Vembu

Now that you have configured your backup repository to use Azure Blob storage as a target, we can start protecting data directly into Azure Blob storage.

The configure backup and manage backup copy features can be used in the BDRSuite Backup Server by navigating to the Backup tab -> Configure Backup or Manage Backup Copy.

Vembu Configure Backup Job
Vembu Configure Backup Job

To create and configure a backup job, take the following steps:

1) The New Backup job can be created by navigating to the Backup tab -> Configure Backup -> then choose your desired workloads (VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, Microsoft Windows, or Linux). In this example, we’ve chosen Microsoft Windows -> Files & Folders Backup Configuration.

2) In the Backup Job Name field, Provide a name for the backup job to identify it. The allowed characters in the backup job name are [A-Z][a-z][0-9][ – _ ]. Space and Special characters are NOT allowed.

3) Specify the Backup Repository type. In this example, we are using Azure Blob storage as Object Storage to store the backup data.

4) After selecting the Backup Repository type as Object Storage, you have to select the name of the Object Storage repository to store the backup data. Click on the drop-down to select the backup repository name if you have more than one.

Create a Backup Job with Backup Repository as an Object Storage
Create a Backup Job with Backup Repository as an Object Storage

5) In the Job Description field, provide a description for future reference. You can provide additional information related to this backup job in the description field.

6) Next, select the host machine from which you would like to configure file & folder backup.

Select Host(s) machine to Backup
Select Host(s) machine to Backup

7) Next, Files/Folders Selection. Click on the File/Folder Selection and Exclusions tab. Choose the File/Folder you want to backup or you can add the path to the File/Folder location in the machine.

Select the Files/Folders for Backup
Select the Files/Folders for Backup

8) Click on Next to select the files/folder type you wish to exclude from the backup. No Filter means that every file/folder selected will be backed up without any exclusion. Standard Filter: You will be given the option to include/exclude a particular file format and you can also choose to exclude all the subfolders. And Advanced Filter: Multiple advanced filters can be applied as per the options provided.

9) Once you made your selection for the filter, click on Apply, and the selected file/folders with the applied filter will be listed.

10) Next, select your desired Incremental Backup Schedule. You can configure the incremental backup schedules by choosing between Run Every Few Hours/Run Daily/Run Weekly options, etc.

Configure Incremental Backup Schedule
Configure Incremental Backup Schedule

11) Next, you need to configure the desired Retention, Encryption, and Advanced settings.

Configure retention for incremental backup
Configure retention for incremental backup

12) The final step is to Review your backup job details and hit Save.

You can see the List of Backup Jobs by navigating to the Backup tab -> List Backup Jobs -> Status (In Progress) sending the backup data to Azure Blob storage.

List of Backup Jobs
List of Backup Jobs

After some time and depending on your backup data size, you could verify that the backup is stored in the Azure Blob storage container as shown in the figure below.

Verify backup data in Azure Blob Container
Verify backup data in Azure Blob Container

You can calculate the container size occupied on the Azure Blob Storage side. In our example, the actual backup data is 5.38 GiB, however, the stored data is 3.43 GiB. As you can see, Vembu BDRSuite has compressed the data, which will help on saving on your storage costs in Azure.

Container size in Azure Blob Storage
Container size in Azure Blob Storage

The Data Compression Level in Vembu BDRSuite is set to the default ‘Optimal‘ compression option. The ‘Higher‘ the compression level, the more time it will take to compress the data. You can edit and choose to modify the levels from High, Optimal, or Low.

If you want to calculate the capacity size for a specific container, then you could run the following PowerShell script after you connect to your Azure subscription.

# Connect to Azure
Connect-AzAccount

# Storage account to be used - change to match your resources
$resourceGroup = "Resource-Group-Name"
$storageAccountName = "storageaccountname"
$containerName = "vembu-container01"

# Get a reference to the storage account and the context
$storageAccount = Get-AzStorageAccount `
  -ResourceGroupName $resourceGroup `
  -Name $storageAccountName
$ctx = $storageAccount.Context 

# Get a list of all of the blobs in the container 
$listOfBlobs = Get-AzStorageBlob -Container $ContainerName -Context $ctx 

# Zero out our total
$length = 0

# Loops through the list of blobs and retrieves the length for each blob
#   and adds it to the total
$listOfBlobs | ForEach-Object {$length = $length + $_.Length}

# Output the blobs and their sizes and the total 
Write-Output "List of Blobs and their size (length)"
Write-Host " " 
$listOfBlobs | select Name, Length
Write-Host " "
Write-Output "Total Length = " $length

You could also look at the storage account (storage browser) experience in the Azure portal and see the total number of blobs and the total data stored.

That’s it there you have it!

How it works…

The backup data be it binary, texts, documents, videos, audio, images, etc. can be backed up and stored on the Azure Blob storage.

The backup data will be stored in the form of blobs (Similar to blocks). All these blobs are organized in a container. The containers are maintained on a storage account which provides a unique namespace for all the data that is stored.

The BDRSuite backs up data in the form of chunks. These chunks will be stored on a temporary cache location which the user has to provide while configuring any object storage repository type. This cache location should be a locally available drive.

Vembu BDRSuite will recognize the repository type using the global repo ID. While the backup job is progressing all the chunks from the cache location will be uploaded to the Azure Blob storage. Once the upload to the Azure Blob storage is complete, the locally stored chunks in the cache will be removed. Ultimately having the backup data stored on the Azure Blob storage.

Please note that if the primary backup job is stored in Azure Blob storage (object storage repositories), then Offsite Copy/DR and Backup Copy for those backup jobs are not supported (Neither Block nor Object storage repository). But if the primary backup job is chosen to be stored on a block storage repository (disks, or network drives), then Offsite Copy/DR and Backup Copy for those backup jobs are supported (This can be stored on either Block or Object storage repository).

The Azure Blob Repository will be set as the default storage. Enabling this option makes the created backup repository the default selection for backup jobs. However, you can change the backup repository while configuring a backup job.

Summary

In this article, we showed you how to store your primary backup data and backup copy data in Azure Blob storage directly using Vembu BDRSuite v5.3.

It is highly important that data needs to be backed up and there should be an effective Disaster Recovery plan in case of data threat or a catastrophe.

While data continues to grow and there is a number of technology providers who offer better and more comprehensive storage techniques to businesses, there has not been an alternative to the concept of backup.

While costs are a major factor for businesses, having a steady backup plan to counter data threats and compliance with strict regulatory standards such as the EU’s GDPR is necessary.

BDRSuite is a comprehensive Backup and Disaster Recovery solution for virtual, physical, cloud, and SaaS applications. It’s designed to meet all the backup requirements of small, medium, and enterprise businesses. BDRSuite encompasses in it the required features to set up a complete backup and disaster recovery infrastructure in any organization.

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

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Author
Charbel Nemnom
Charbel Nemnom is a Senior Cloud Architect, Swiss Certified ICT Security Expert, Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT). He has over 20 years of broad IT experience serving on and guiding technical teams to optimize the performance of mission-critical enterprise systems with extensive practical knowledge of complex systems build, network design, business continuity, and cloud security.

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