Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is chock-full of features that enable valuable new IT scenarios. Among these is a sought-after “backup to cloud” feature in the System Center backup component, Data Protection Manager (DPM). DPM 2012 with SP1 now includes a subscription add-on feature that makes Windows Azure cloud-based storage available for your DPM backup data.

Until now, in the DPM component of System Center, you had the choice to back up to either tape and/or to disk. Now there is a third option for backup media type, which is “Online”, in other words, “in the cloud”. Since a second copy of your data in the cloud is off-site protection, this feature can essentially eliminate the expense and complexity of tape libraries — if the only reason for going to tape was to enable an off-site backup copy.

Adding Online Backup to DPM

To add the backup to cloud feature to DPM, you need to apply to join the Online Backup trial. Customers of Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 Essentials, and System Center 2012 can preview Online Backup as a no-charge, fixed storage quota subscription. Sign up for the preview at this link:

Before you can begin to use the online protection service, you must download and install the Windows Azure Online Backup agent on the Data Protection Manager (DPM) server. You can download the Windows Azure Online Backup agent from the Windows Azure Online Backup portal. After you have been admitted to the trial, download the Online Backup agent. Then install it on the DPM server and click on the Register button in the ribbon to configure your DPM instance to use online backup.

After you have registered with online backup, the Configure button in the ribbon lets you confirm or modify settings. Figure A shows the Configure Subscription Settings Wizard on the page where you can specify the 16-charatacter or greater passphrase to be used to encrypt your backups in the cloud. You can also have DPM generate a GUID-based passphrase for you.

Figure A

Backups in the cloud are encrypted with your choice of passphrase or a generated GUID. (Click to enlarge.)

Backing up to the cloud

Once you have configured your online backup settings, a new option becomes available when configuring the disk-based protection method of a DPM protection group. The option is labeled, “I want online protection“. For protection groups with this setting enabled, new pages in the protection group modification wizard appear: “Specify online protection data” and “Specify online protection goals”.

You can granularly select a subset of the protection group to be subject also to online backup as well as disk backup. DPM will create an online recovery point using the latest DPM replica on disk. No new data is transferred from protected computers.
For example, if you have disk-based replicas created at noon and midnight daily, and then configure online protection to back up daily at six in the evening, it will be the noontime replica that is uploaded to the cloud each day. At the scheduled times, a DPM online recovery point job will be launched (see Figure B).

Figure B

Online recovery points in progress on two SQL databases being backed up to the cloud.

Note that you cannot enable online backup for DPM protection groups that only backup to tape; in other words, online protection requires that you are performing also a disk-based backup of what you want in the cloud.

Restoring from the cloud

If you want to restore data that was backed up to the cloud, use the regular Recovery feature in DPM. When selecting the date and time to restore from, a drop-down list box for the selected day will show either Disk or Online for each backup made on that date. Select Online to recover data from the cloud as seen in Figure C.

Figure C

Selected to restore from the cloud in the Recovery pane of the DPM console.

For more information consult this Microsoft document: