Prepare to back up workloads to Azure with System Center DPM

This article explains how to prepare for System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) backups to Azure, using the Azure Backup service.

The article provides:

  • An overview of deploying DPM with Azure Backup.
  • Prerequisites and limitations for using Azure Backup with DPM.
  • Steps for preparing Azure, including setting up a Recovery Services Backup vault, and optionally modifying the type of Azure storage for the vault.
  • Steps for preparing the DPM server, including downloading vault credentials, installing the Azure Backup agent, and registering the DPM server in the vault.
  • Troubleshooting tips for common errors.

Why back up DPM to Azure?

System Center DPM backs up file and application data. DPM interacts with Azure Backup as follows:

  • DPM running on a physical server or on-premises VM — You can back up data to a Backup vault in Azure, in addition to disk and tape backup.
  • DPM running on an Azure VM — From System Center 2012 R2 with Update 3 or later, you can deploy DPM on an Azure VM. You can back up data to Azure disks attached to the VM, or use Azure Backup to back up the data to a Backup vault.

The business benefits of backing up DPM servers to Azure include:

  • For on-premises DPM, Azure Backup provides an alternative to long-term deployment to tape.
  • For DPM running on an Azure VM, Azure Backup allows you to offload storage from the Azure disk. Storing older data in a Backup vault allows you to scale up your business by storing new data to disk.

Prerequisites and limitations

Setting Requirement
DPM on an Azure VM System Center 2012 R2 with DPM 2012 R2 Update Rollup 3 or later.
DPM on a physical server System Center 2012 SP1 or later; System Center 2012 R2.
DPM on a Hyper-V VM System Center 2012 SP1 or later; System Center 2012 R2.
DPM on a VMware VM System Center 2012 R2 with Update Rollup 5 or later.
Components The DPM server should have Windows PowerShell and .NET Framework 4.5 installed.
Supported apps Learn what DPM can back up.
Supported file types These file types can be backed up with Azure Backup: Encrypted (full backups only); Compressed (incremental backups supported); Sparse (incremental backups supported); Compressed and sparse (treated as sparse).
Unsupported file types Servers on case-sensitive file systems; hard links (skipped); reparse points (skipped); encrypted and compressed (skipped); encrypted and sparse (skipped); Compressed stream; parse stream.
Local storage Each machine you want to back up must have local free storage that's at least 5 % of the size of the data that is being backed up. For example, backing up 100 GB of data requires a minimum of 5 GB of free space in the scratch location.
Vault storage There’s no limit to the amount of data you can back up to an Azure Backup vault, but the size of a data source (for example a virtual machine or database) shouldn’t exceed 54400 GB.
Azure Backup agent If DPM is running on System Center 2012 SP1, install Rollup 2 or later for DPM SP1. This is required for agent installation.

This article describes how to deploy the latest version of the Azure Backup agent, also known as the Microsoft Azure Recovery Service (MARS) agent. If you have an earlier version deployed, update to the latest version to ensure that backup works as expected.

Before you start, you need an Azure account with the Azure Backup feature enabled. If you don't have an account, you can create a free trial account in just a couple of minutes. Read about Azure Backup pricing.

Create a Recovery Services vault

A Recovery Services vault is an entity that stores the backups and recovery points created over time. The Recovery Services vault also contains the backup policies that are associated with the protected virtual machines.

To create a Recovery Services vault:

  1. Sign in to your subscription in the Azure portal.

  2. On the left menu, select All services.

    Select All services

  3. In the All services dialog box, enter Recovery Services. The list of resources filters according to your input. In the list of resources, select Recovery Services vaults.

    Enter and choose Recovery Services vaults

    The list of Recovery Services vaults in the subscription appears.

  4. On the Recovery Services vaults dashboard, select Add.

    Add a Recovery Services vault

    The Recovery Services vault dialog box opens. Provide values for the Name, Subscription, Resource group, and Location.

    Configure the Recovery Services vault

    • Name: Enter a friendly name to identify the vault. The name must be unique to the Azure subscription. Specify a name that has at least two, but not more than 50 characters. The name must start with a letter and consist only of letters, numbers, and hyphens.

    • Subscription: Choose the subscription to use. If you're a member of only one subscription, you'll see that name. If you're not sure which subscription to use, use the default (suggested) subscription. There are multiple choices only if your work or school account is associated with more than one Azure subscription.

    • Resource group: Use an existing resource group or create a new one. To see the list of available resource groups in your subscription, select Use existing, and then select a resource from the drop-down list box. To create a new resource group, select Create new and enter the name. For complete information about resource groups, see Azure Resource Manager overview.

    • Location: Select the geographic region for the vault. To create a vault to protect virtual machines, the vault must be in the same region as the virtual machines.

      Important

      If you're not sure of the location of your VM, close the dialog box. Go to the list of virtual machines in the portal. If you have virtual machines in several regions, create a Recovery Services vault in each region. Create the vault in the first location, before you create the vault for another location. There's no need to specify storage accounts to store the backup data. The Recovery Services vault and the Azure Backup service handle that automatically.

  5. When you're ready to create the Recovery Services vault, select Create.

    Create the Recovery Services vault

    It can take a while to create the Recovery Services vault. Monitor the status notifications in the Notifications area at the upper-right corner of the portal. After your vault is created, it's visible in the list of Recovery Services vaults. If you don't see your vault, select Refresh.

    Refresh the list of backup vaults

Modify storage settings

You can choose between geo-redundant storage and locally redundant storage.

  • By default, your vault has geo-redundant storage.
  • If the vault is your primary backup, leave the option set to geo-redundant storage. If you want a cheaper option that isn't quite as durable, use the following procedure to configure locally redundant storage.
  • Learn about Azure storage, and the geo-redundant and locally redundant storage options.
  • Modify storage settings before the initial backup. If you've already backed up an item, stop backing it up in the vault before you modify storage settings.

To edit the storage replication setting:

  1. Open the vault dashboard.

  2. In Manage, click Backup Infrastructure.

  3. In Backup Configuration menu, select a storage option for the vault.

    List of backup vaults

Download vault credentials

You use vault credentials when you register the DPM server in the vault.

  • The vault credentials file is a certificate generated by the portal for each backup vault.
  • The portal then uploads the public key to the Access Control Service (ACS).
  • During the machine registration workflow, the certificate's private key is made available to the user, which authenticates the machine.
  • Based on the authentication, the Azure Backup service sends data to the identified vault.

Best practices for vault credentials

To obtain the credentials you download the vault credential file through a secure channel from the Azure portal:

  • The vault credentials are used only during the registration workflow.
  • It's your responsibility to ensure that the vault credentials file is safe, and not compromised.
    • If control of the credentials is lost, the vault credentials can be used to register other machines to vault.
    • However, backup data is encrypted using a passphrase that belongs to the customer, so existing backup data can't be compromised.
  • Ensure that file is saved in a location which can be accessed from the DPM server. If it is stored in a file share/SMB, check for the access permissions.
  • Vault credentials expire after 48 hrs. You can download new vault credentials as many times as needed. However, only the latest vault credential file can be used during the registration workflow.
  • The Azure Backup service isn't aware of the certificate's private key, and the private key isn't available in the portal or the service.

Download the vault credentials file to a local machine as follows:

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal.

  2. Open the vault in which you want to register the DPM server.

  3. In Settings, click Properties.

    Open vault menu

  4. In Properties > Backup Credentials, click Download. The portal generates the vault credential file using a combination of the vault name and current date, and makes it available for download.

    Download

  5. Click Save to download the vault credentials to folder, or Save As and specify a location. It will take up to a minute for the file to be generated.

Install the Backup Agent

Every machine that's backed up by Azure Backup must have the Backup agent (also known as the Microsoft Azure Recovery Service (MARS) agent) installed on it. Install the agent on the DPM server as follows:

  1. Open the vault to which you want to register the DPM server.

  2. In Settings, click Properties.

    Open vault menu

  3. On the Properties page, download the Azure Backup Agent.

    Download

  4. After downloading, run MARSAgentInstaller.exe. to install the agent on the DPM machine.

  5. Select an installation folder and cache folder for the agent. The cache location free space must be at least 5% of the backup data.

  6. If you use a proxy server to connect to the internet, in the Proxy configuration screen, enter the proxy server details. If you use an authenticated proxy, enter the user name and password details in this screen.

  7. The Azure Backup agent installs .NET Framework 4.5 and Windows PowerShell (if they're not installed) to complete the installation.

  8. After the agent is installed, Close the window.

    Close

Register the DPM server in the vault

  1. In the DPM Administrator console > Management, click Online. Select Register. It will open the Register Server Wizard.

  2. In Proxy Configuration, specify the proxy settings as required.

    Proxy configuration

  3. In Backup Vault, browse to and select the vault credentials file that you downloaded.

    Vault credentials

  4. In Throttling Setting, you can optionally enable bandwidth throttling for backups. You can set the speed limits for specify work hours and days.

    Throttling Setting

  5. In Recovery Folder Setting, specify a location that can be used during data recovery.

    • Azure Backup uses this location as a temporary holding area for recovered data.
    • After finishing data recovery, Azure Backup will clean up the data in this area.
    • The location must have enough space to hold items that you anticipate recovering in parallel.

    Recovery Folder Setting

  6. In Encryption setting generate or provide a passphrase.

    • The passphrase is used to encrypt the backups to cloud.
    • Specify a minimum of 16 characters.
    • Save the file in a secure location, it's needed for recovery.

    Encryption

    Warning

    You own the encryption passphrase and Microsoft does not have visibility into it. If the passphrase is lost or forgotten; Microsoft cannot help in recovering the backup data.

  7. Click Register to register the DPM server to the vault.

After the server is registered successfully to the vault and you are now ready to start backing up to Microsoft Azure.

Troubleshoot vault credentials

Expiration error

The vault credentials file is valid only for 48 hrs (after it’s downloaded from the portal). If you encounter any error in this screen (for example, “Vault credentials file provided has expired”), login to the Azure portal and download the vault credentials file again.

Access error

Ensure that the vault credentials file is available in a location which can be accessed by the setup application. If you encounter access related errors, copy the vault credentials file to a temporary location in this machine and retry the operation.

Invalid credentials error

If you encounter an invalid vault credential error (for example, “Invalid vault credentials provided") the file is either corrupted or does not have the latest credentials associated with the recovery service.

  • Retry the operation after downloading a new vault credential file from the portal.
  • This error is typically seen when you click on the Download vault credential option in the Azure portal, twice in quick succession. In this case, only the second vault credential file is valid.