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Azure File Storage

Azure Backup Service: 8 Ways to Backup with Azure

What is Azure Backup Service?

Azure Backup Service provides simple, secure and cost-effective capabilities for creating backups and restoring data in the cloud.

What can you backup?

  • On-premise resources—like files, system state, and folders. You can do this via the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) agent. Alternatively, you can use an Azure Backup Server (MABS) to protect local virtual machines (Hyper-V and VMware) and other local workloads.
  • Azure VMs—use the MARS agent to backup files, folders, system state, or entire Windows / Linux virtual machines.
  • Azure Files shares—backup from Azure file storage to an Azure storage account.
  • SQL Server in Azure VMs—lets you backup a SQL Server database that runs on an Azure VM.
  • SAP HANA—backup a SAP HANA database running on an Azure VM.
  • Azure Database for PostgreSQL—backup an Azure PostgreSQL database with a long retention period of up to 10 years.

In this article, you will learn:

How Does Azure Backup Work?

Azure offers various features for backing up your VMs and data, for on-premise as well as cloud resources.

Backup on-premise machines

  • Use Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) agent—can back up any local Windows machines directly into the Azure cloud. Linux systems are not supported.
  • Use System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) and Microsoft Azure Backup Server (MABS)—for backing up servers. Then you can replicate your backup server into a Recovery Services Vault.

Backup Azure virtual machines

  • Directly backup Azure VMs—Azure Backup installs backup extensions on the Azure Virtual Machine agent running on every virtual machine. This extension lets you backup the entire virtual machine.
  • Backup specific files and folders—located on an Azure VM by running a MARS agent.
  • Backup Azure VMs to an Azure-based MABS server—and then replicate MABS into a Recovery Services Vault.

The following table describes the different types of backups and how they are supported in Azure Backup.

Backup type

What Does Azure Backup Offer?


A complete backup includes the entire data source. Uses more network bandwidth than incremental or differential backup. Used for initial backup of a storage volume or dataset.


Incremental backup only stores data that blocks have been modified since previous backup was written. This provides high storage and networking efficiency.


This method is used by DPM / MABS for disk backup and all backups from on-premises resources to Azure. SQL Server is not supported.


Differential backups contain blocks that were modified after the first full backup was initiated. It uses small amounts of network and storage and does not hold unnecessary copies of data.

This method is not supported by Azure Backup. 

Related content: read our guide to storage on azure

8 Ways to Backup with Azure

Backup Center

Provides a single, integrated management environment in Azure to manage, monitor, operate and analyze large-scale backups. Designed for large, distributed Azure environments. You can use it to manage backups for multiple Azure subscriptions, regions, and Azure Lighthouse tenants.

Backup Center provides views and filters for data sources that you backup (such as virtual machines and databases). This allows resource owners or backup administrators to monitor and manipulate project backups without knowing which vault each item is stored in.

Backup Vaults

A backup vault is an Azure storage unit that stores backup data (note this is only for supported workloads). Use the backup vault to store backup data for various Azure services. For example new workloads supported by Azure Database or Azure Backup for PostgreSQL Server.

Backup vaults provide simple organization of backup data with minimal administrative effort. It ensures that even in the event of an attack, such as a Ransomware attack, you can recover data even if attackers compromise production or backup servers. Vaults support RBAC for granular access control in Azure, with three built-in roles for managing recovery points.

Backup Explorer

Backup Explorer is a workbook built into Azure Monitor. It provides data on Azure backup events. Backup Explorer enables you to monitor the operational activity of backup assets in Azure locations, tenants, subscriptions, backup vaults, and resource groups.

Azure File Share Backup

Azure File Share Backup is a cloud-based native backup solution, which integrates seamlessly with Azure File Sync to centralize data exchange and backup. You can use it to set up corporate sharing security in a few simple steps, and recover data from the cloud in the event of a disaster.

Azure File Share Backup uses snapshots of shared files, so you can select the specific files you need and restore them immediately. Additionally, Azure Backup supports “soft delete”, with a 14 days retention period. When an attacker deletes a shared file, the recovery contents of the file and the recovery point are also retained. The retention period is configurable.

Related content: read our guide to file storage in azure

Azure VM Backup

Azure Backup provides isolated backups to prevent accidental damage to your virtual machine data. Azure stores these backups in a Recovery Services Vault, providing capabilities to manage recovery points. Backed up snapshots are taken without affecting production workloads and transferred into a Recovery Services Vault.

Azure VM Backup works differently on Windows and Linux.

  • Windows VMs—for Windows virtual machines, the VSS backup service is used to take snapshots of virtual machine disks that match your application. By default, Azure Backup performs a full VSS backup.
  • Linux VMs—to create snapshots tailored to Linux virtual machine applications, write your own custom scripts using the Linux pre-script and post-script framework. Azure Backup automatically triggers your scripts when performing a backup.

Related content: read our guide to linux on azure

SQL Server Backup in Azure VMs

Azure Backup provides capabilities for backing up a SQL Server database running on Azure VMs. This solution provides the regular benefits of Azure Backup: Zero Infrastructure Backup, long term storage and centralized management.

Azure SQL Server Backup supports workloads with a recovery point objective (RPO) of 15 minutes and point-in-time recovery of up to 1 second, with support for full backups, differential backups, and periodic backups.

Related content: read our guide to azure database migration

SAP HANA Database Backup in Azure VMs

The SAP HANA database is an important workload requiring low RPO and fast fast RTO. Azure Backup provides capabilities for backing up SAP HANA databases running on Azure VMs.

Azure Backup is certified by SAP and provides native backup support using the native SAP HANA API. It provides a 15-minute RPO, with one-click point-in-time restore, and support for long-term retention.

Azure Database for PostgreSQL Backup

Azure Backup and Azure Database Services together provide an enterprise-grade backup solution for PostgreSQL servers hosted on the Azure Database Service. The solution can store backups for up to 10 years (while Azure PostgreSQL on its own provides a basic backup solution with only 35 days retention).

The solution provides RBAC, scheduled and on-demand backups, and ability to use pg_dump at a single database level.

Azure Backup with Azure NetApp Files

Azure NetApp Files is a Microsoft Azure file storage service built on NetApp technology, giving you file capabilities in Azure that can support even your core business applications.

Azure NetApp Files solves availability and performance challenges for enterprises that want to move mission-critical applications to the cloud, including workloads like HPC, SAP, Linux, Oracle and SQL Server workloads, and Windows Virtual Desktop.

Get enterprise-grade data management and storage to Azure so you can manage your workloads and applications with ease, and move all of your file-based applications to the cloud.

With integrated data management capabilities to backup your data at the storage layer, you get a simple, fast backup of your data, leveraging NetApp Snapshot technology which requires no additional storage capacity. You can protect your file data more regularly and more efficiently than ever before, using an Azure storage service.

Want to get started? See Azure NetApp Files for yourself with a free demo

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