Last night, I posted saying that I think Microsoft had missed a trick in not taking advantage of the Windows Azure Cloud Backup features in Windows Server 2012 Essentials, and today it looks like I must eat a slice of humble pie.
After some reading on the subject this evening, it appears that Microsoft are actuallyÂ incorporating it, but not natively. To access the feature, you need to install a plugin. A blog post on the Small Business Server TechNet Blog details the installation steps to get the plugin installed and working (http://blogs.technet.com/b/sbs/archive/2012/09/18/windows-azure-online-backup-and-windows-server-2012-essentials.aspx).
Users of Windows Server 2012 Essentials can get a free six month trial for the service, however information on pricing is hard to find and understand: There is nothing on the trial signup page which offers an insight into what you will pay beyond the trial? Using the extremely complicated (and for good reason due to its capability and scale) Azure Pricing Calculator gives you a hint as to what you will pay but I think Microsoft need to provide some confirmation around the storage options.
Storage is offered in two different flavours: Geo Redundant and Local Redundant with the former seeing your data replicated throughout the Azure global infrastructure and the latter seeing your data only being replicated within your geographic region, but I can’t seem to find anything that states whether either option is valid for the backup service,Â or if you must use a particular option? Geo Redundant storage is £7.58 per month for 100GB, while Local Redundant is £5.64 per month for 100GB to give it some context.
The two storage types will have implications on your views on the United States and their laws such as the Patriot Act. If you are precious about your data (you should be)Â and don’t want these authorities to be able to view it under law without your consent which is essentially what the Patriot Act boils down to, then you may want to consider against the Geo Redundant option as after all, Local Redundant still gives you way more availability than your single on-site server. The region that your data is stored in is determined by the country you select during registration, so make sure you set it correctly.
Compare the above prices to those of one of the most popular Windows Home Server cloud backup solutions, Cloudberry and Azure directly looks good. For the same 100GB of storage, you will pay $9.30 a month for Amazon S3 or $12 a month for Google Cloud Storage, plus a $29.99 license cost for the Cloudberry product.
The thing to be conscious of, is this small catch: retrieving the data. Azure provides free unlimited inbound (upload) traffic so you pay nothing to upload your backups, but download is priced per gigabyte per billing cycle. If your server was to fail and you need to pull down your 100GB of data back to the server once it is recovered, thenÂ in a single billing period then you will pay £6.55 for 95GB (the first 5GB is free), but the key to remember is that this is a one time cost if and when the server fails. This price also will vary based on your geography. The price I’ve shown is for US and European egress data. If you like in another location, then the price is £10.37 instead, so bear this in mind.
Looking at this as a home user and not an SMB, I think paying £5.64 a month is a very small price to pay for piece of mind that all of my family pictures and important documents can be protected to a much higher degree than I can do at home withÂ a Mirror Storage Space and an external USB or eSATA disk on-site backing up the server. From the perspective of an SMB then your data is your business so only you can value what your data is worth, but I would guess a lot. If you are an SMB without the luxury of a full time IT professional or a well managed agreement with a Microsoft Partner for supporting your environment, then I would guess that this service could one day prove invaluable.