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Microsoft Azure Backup Server "SharePoint Workload"

Skyline Blog  |  
Oct 30, 2015
 
On October 7th, 2015, Microsoft Azure Backup Server was announced at https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/azure-backup-introduces-backup-of-sql-hyper-v-vms-and-more/. This is huge because it means that companies without System Center Data Protection Manager (Which this tool is based off of) can now backup application workloads including Microsoft SQL Server, Hyper-V VMs, SharePoint Server, Microsoft Exchange and Windows Client. This blog post is going to cover what it can do in the SharePoint space.

What do you need?
  • An Azure tenant
  • An backup vault created in the Azure tenant
  • A SharePoint Farm to backup
    • WSS 3.0, SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010, and SharePoint 2013 are all supported. SharePoint 2016 is not support yet at the time of this blog 
  • A server to install Microsoft Azure Backup on. For my testing I used an A2 VM and it worked perfectly for backing up/restoring a small farm
    • The hardware recommendations are:
      • Supported Operating System
        • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2 
        • Processor: 
          • Minimum: 1 GHz, dual-core CPU
          • Recommended: 2.33 GHz quad-core CPU
        • RAM:
          • Minimum: 4GB
          • Recommended: 8GB

Microsoft has done a great job laying out all of the steps to get this tool up and running here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/backup-azure-backup-sharepoint/ 

I ran through/implemented this setup will note some gotchas in the setup and also some use cases for all of those Azure SharePoint farms sitting out there. 
Let’s start with the gotchas:
  • Storage Configuration: For those of you that don’t know you are limited to the physical disks that you can attach to an Azure VM. This number is calculated by taking the CPU cores assigned to the VM and multiplying that number by 2. For an A2 VM this means you can attach 4 additional physical disks to the VM. Each physical disk gives you a max of 500 IOPS (Standard Tier Virtual Machine - https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/azure-subscription-service-limits/). Once all physical disks are created we usually group the disks into storage pools and then create a virtual disk/storage space. Don’t do this on your Microsoft Azure Backup Server! You cannot use storage spaces for your Microsoft Azure Backup Server storage pool - https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn554221.aspx. Microsoft Azure Backup Server/DPM utilize their own storage pools, so be prepare to save some unallocated space for this. 
  • SQL Aliasing – As part of many SharePoint installations client-side SQL aliases are set. In order for this to work SQL Client Connectivity Tools (I installed 2012 without issues) need to be installed and also a command needs to be ran on the SharePoint server: ConfigureSharePoint –ResolveAllSqlAliases
  • RBS – SharePoint RBS is supported (I confirmed in testing. Only Filestream is supported), but a registry key must be set on the Microsoft Azure Backup Server in order for this to work. Source - https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh758215.aspx
    • Also, (Not documented in Azure Backup/DPM documentation) if the Microsoft Azure Backup Server SQL Server is set as the staging database server for the SharePoint recovery and RBS is enabled you will need to make sure the following registry keys (for the data and logs locations) are set - HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL12.MSDPMINSTANCE\MSSQLServer 
    • Tip: After to changing the data and log locations in SQL Server Management Studio and then setting them back to the previous values the registry gets set appropriates
  • Cataloging Backup Sets - Nothing shows up in the Recovery search results until a SharePoint Catalog Task has been ran. Don’t panic just yet! By default this runs 3 hours after the first backup is scheduled, but if you are impatient like me you can run the following PowerShell to force a catalog:
    • $ds = Get-Datasource -DPMServerName <AzureBackupServerM | where -Property ObjectType -Like "SharePoint*"Start-CreateCatalog –DataSource $ds
  • SharePoint Databases in Compatibility Mode – Microsoft Azure Backup Server uses the unattached database recovery functionality for item level recovery. This speeds up recovery times, but if the databases are in a faulty state the recovery will fail because SharePoint will block it. Check to make sure all databases have “no action required” in Central Admin > Upgrade and Migration > Review Database Status. If some of them do check you’re update history and if you notice SharePoint security patches were pushed, start scheduling a maintenance window to run the SharePoint Products Configuration Wizard (This causes downtime).
  • SharePoint Recycle Bins - Items in the recycle bins are not included in backups. You will need to find a backup set where the item is not in the recycle bin. Make sure to check recycle bins for all restore requests anyway.
Alright, now onto the fun stuff. How can this tool help me create that killer Azure SharePoint farm I’ve been longing for? Well, first let’s take a minute to reflect – You are backing up an Azure SharePoint farm, using a server application installed on an Azure VM (With Azure in the name), and then storing the data in an Azure Backup Vault…Did I mention Azure?! I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty jacked up reading that sentence! Before this tool came out you didn’t have as many options – You needed SCDPM or some other sort of manual backup (VM backups (Not recommended/supported for restoring SharePoint – See this blog series for more about that: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/mossbiz/archive/2013/02/22/sharepoint-vs-snapshots-part-2.aspx), SQL backups, SharePoint built-in farm backup tools, third-party tools, etc.), but nothing felt like an enterprise solution. This does..

This tool can back up the entire SharePoint Farm and recovery options can get as granular as the item level. Once the Azure Backup Server Agent is pushed to a SharePoint web server you can start backing up the SharePoint farm (If SQL Aliases are implemented to re-read the gotchas above) – Which allows you to restore the entire farm, search (if the appropriate commands are ran to enable it), any SharePoint database, and essentially any document in the SharePoint farm. Check out this screenshot of my Site Pages library:


 
What’s even cooler is where this backed up information goes. You have 2 options (You can use a combination of both) – Short-term protection using Disk and Online Protection (To the cloud!). You can keep a copy of the SharePoint backups on disk for as many days as you’d like (Default is 5) and keep a copy in the cloud simultaneously. Here’s default retention policy for Online Protection:
 


What about price? The Microsoft Azure Backup pricing details page gives an example of a 5 server SharePoint server farm with 1000GB-1500GB of content and estimates that at $30/month. Source – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/backup/ 

This is a great solution for backing up SharePoint in Azure and I can’t speak highly enough about my experiences with the tool
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