Azure Backup: Changing the Scratch Location

The Azure Backup Agent uses a scratch or cache location to prepare backup data before exporting it to Azure. The recommendation is for this location to be at least 5% of the data backed up to the cloud in size, preferably more. When installing Microsoft Azure Backup calculating the required space is quite simple, however, as backups begin to increase making sure the scratch space is maintained can bring with it problems. i.e. drive space can run out.

In this scenario the scratch location needs relocating. The method documented around moving the scratch location calls for uninstalled and reinstalled the Azure Backup Agent. This can be a pain and requires the passphrase created during the original install, which has of course been saved somewhere safe.

After spending much time researching I came across a couple of articles online outlining a possible alternative. I have since tested the process in my development environment and it does appear to work successfully.

By default, Microsoft Azure Backup creates its scratch folder on the local drive at the following path:

%ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Azure Recovery Services Agent\Scratch\

Changing the default location

1. Open an elevated Command Prompt, then stop the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services Agent service.

net stop obengine

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2. Once the service has stopped, copy the scratch folder and data stored within it to its new desired location.

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3. Update the following registry entries with the new scratch folder path.

  • [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows Azure Backup\Config\ScratchLocation]

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NOTE: Only update this registry key if it already exists otherwise ignore.

  • [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows Azure Backup\Config\CloudBackupProvider\ScratchLocation]

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4. Jump back to the elevated Command Prompt, then restart the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services Agent service.

net start obengine

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Hopefully this post will be of help to people.

As always, if anyone finds anything within the post to be wrong, please don’t hesitate to let me know so I can adjust accordingly. 🙂

Azure Backup: Installing Microsoft Azure Backup

As mentioned in my previous post here Microsoft have added the ability to backup additional workloads such as SQL, Exchange, Hyper-V and SharePoint to the cloud. Essentially this version of Microsoft Azure Backup is actually nothing more than a rebranded version of System Center Data Protection Manager with the backup to tape option replaced with the cloud and the ability to integrate with System Center removed. However, where no separate license is required, I believe this now opens the door to many new enterprises and I’m sure it will become a very favourable cloud backup solution.

In this post I will step through the process of configuring a Microsoft Azure Backup Vault, installing Microsoft Azure Backup and registering it with the previously created vault.

Apart from the extra application workloads, the main difference Azure Backup has to the Azure backup agent is the fact that as with DPM, it requires its own server to run on. This server can be configured as:

  • Physical or Virtual (on-premise or in the cloud)
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, 2012 and 2012 R2.

NOTE: The server must NOT have SCDPM or the SCDPM agent installed, nor should the Microsoft Azure Backup agent be installed and registered with an Azure Backup Vault.

Hardware Requirements

  • Processor: Minimum: 1 GHz, dual-core CPU, Recommended: 2.33 GHz, quad-core CPU
  • Memory: Minimum: 4GB, Recommended: 8GB
  • OS Disk: Minimum: 3GB, Recommended 3GB
  • Dedicated Data Storage Disk: Recommended storage pool size is 1.5 times the size of protected data
  • Disk space of at least 5% of the data backed-up to the cloud is required by the Microsoft Azure Backup agent for its scratch location. (By default this is on the OS drive but it can be moved to a dedicated disk)

Additional Prerequisites

  • Microsoft Azure Backup server should have internet connectivity
  • Microsoft Azure Backup server must be domain joined
  • Microsoft Azure Backup server must have .Net 3.5, .Net 4.0 and .Net 3.5 SP1 features installed
  • Microsoft Azure Backup server should have Windows Management Framework 4.0 installed.

Create a Microsoft Azure Backup Vault

Once a base server has been prepared, the next step is to preconfigure the Azure Backup Vault. The Microsoft Azure Backup Serer will be registered with the vault later.

To create an Azure Backup Vault, firstly browse to https://manage.windowsazure.com and sign in to the Azure Portal with your credentials.

Scroll down the left hand menu and click on the  Recovery Services tab.

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In the main window click on CREATE A NEW VAULT.

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Select Backup Vault > Quick Create before giving the backup vault a Name and Region and clicking the check to create the Backup Vault. The Region will be the location  in which the data is stored, choosing the correct location can help reduce network latency when backup up data to Azure.

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Once the Backup Vault has successfully been created it will appear in the list of recovery services resources as Active.

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Once items have been archived to the Backup Vault its not possible to change the replication type, so its at this point we need to decided how this should be configured.

  • Geo-Redundant Storage (GRS) maintains six copies of your date. Three times within the primary region and three times in a secondary region. In the event of a failure at the primary region, by sporting data in GRS, Azure Backup ensures that your data is durable. (One thing to note here is that the data in the secondary region can only be accessed by Microsoft during a failure to their systems)
  • Locally Redundant Storage (LRS) maintains three copies of your data. The data is replicated three times within a single facility in a single region. This would protect your data from normal hardware failures, but not form failure of an entire Azure facility.

By default a Backup Vault is configured with Geo-Redundant Storage, to change this click on CONFIGURE before changing the replication option and clicking SAVE to complete the change.

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Installing Microsoft Azure Backup Server

Before we can begin the install of Microsoft Azure Backup server we need to first download the installation software for Azure Backup and also the Backup Vault credentials which are needed for registering the server with the Backup Vault. Both downloads can be found on the Quick Start tab of the Backup Vault.

Microsoft Azure Backup can also be downloaded directly from here

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Microsoft Azure Backup comes split up into six separate files, five .bin files and  single .exe. Download them all to the same location and then run MicrosoftAzureBackupInstaller.exe, this will begin the setup wizard.

On the first screen click Next to continue.

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On the next screen choose a location for setup to extract its files or leave the default. When happy with the location, click Next.

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Click on Extract to begin extracting the install files.

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By default, Execute setup.exe is checked, leave this checked and click Finish if you wish to continue with the installation. Otherwise, uncheck the option and click Finish.

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On the Microsoft Azure Backup splash screen select to install Microsoft Azure Backup.

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On the Welcome page, click Next.

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On the next page click on the Check button to confirm the server meets software and hardware requirements. Resolve any issues that are raised before continuing by clicking the Next button.

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Choose whether to use a new or existing instance of SQL then click Check and Install to begin prerequisite checks and install any missing Windows components.

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As long as all prerequisites mentioned at the beginning of the post are installed, the only warning message that should be displayed is to warn the SISFilter has been installed and the server requires a reboot.

Reboot the server and then restart the installer.

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Once the server has been rebooted, click Check Again and once the computer meets all software and hardware requirements, click Next.

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The next step is to choose the file locations for the program files, database files and scratch folder, then click Next.

NOTE: As mentioned in the prerequisites, the scratch location must have free space of at least 5% of the data backed up to the cloud.

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Enter a strong password for the restricted local user accounts the wizard creates, then click Next.

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Choose whether or not to use Microsoft Update, then click Next.

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Review configuration and click Install to begin installation.

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The next stage of the installation installs the Microsoft Azure Recovery Service Agent. If the server connects to the internet by a proxy, this is where the proxy settings need to be added.

Click Next.

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By clicking Install, setup checks for all prerequisites, installs any that are missing and completes the installation of the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services Agent.

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Click Next.

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After the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services Agent has been installed, the next step is to register this server with the Microsoft Azure Backup Vault that was configured at the beginning of this process. To do this browse to the credentials file downloaded from the Backup Vault, then click Next.

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Enter a passphrase or click the Generate Passphrase button to automatically generate a passphrase. The passphrase requires the minimum of 16 characters. The passphrase should also be saved somewhere safe, if lost it will not be possible to recover data from the cloud or connect other Microsoft Backup Servers to the online replicas.

Click Next to continue.

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Once the connection has been created to the Azure Backup Vault, the installer continues with the installation of SQL Server, SQL Tools and Microsoft Azure Backup.

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Once installation has complete, click Close.

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At this point in the setup process, Microsoft Azure Backup has been installed and associated with the cloud storage in the selected Microsoft Azure Backup Vault. However, before its possible to configure the first protection group and begin backing up data, local storage needs to be added. To do this, double click on the Microsoft Azure Backup icon on the server desktop to open the application.

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Click on Management.

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Click on Disks, then on Add.

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Select the disk that will be added to the storage pool, click Add then OK.

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If everything has gone correctly, the disk will appear in the list of disks available to the storage pool.

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Microsoft Azure Backup is now installed and configured with local and cloud storage. It is now ready to begin configuring protection groups and start to backup data.

That’s it for this post, in future articles I plan to cover more Azure Backup processes so don’t forget to check back!