The new Azure backup agent for Microsoft Azure Backup Server (MABS) allows you to back up to local disks, can be used without Azure, and supports Exchange, SQL Server, Hyper-V VMs, and SharePoint backups. That’s because it’s really just a slightly scaled-down version of System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM). In this post, I discuss differences between MABS and DPM.
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Paul Schnackenburg

Paul Schnackenburg works part time as an IT teacher as well as running his own business in Australia. He has MCSE, MCT, MCTS and MCITP certifications. Follow his blog TellITasITis.
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Many (larger) companies either have already adopted or are adopting System Center—primarily Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager. Less love has been shared for Data Protection Manager (DPM), partly because until recently it’s only been focused on backing up Microsoft’s workloads (VMware support is now coming) and partly because most large businesses already have an enterprise backup product in place.

On the other end of the scale, Microsoft has been pushing Azure Backup for small/medium businesses. Although Azure recently increased the retention periods considerably, the backup agent has suffered from numerous limitations—essentially just backing up Windows file servers and not supporting bare metal restores. Microsoft Azure Backup Server (MABS) is going to change this.

Microsoft Azure Backup Server ^

MABS will run on Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, 2012, and 2012 R2, either physically or virtually. You cannot install it on the same machine as DPM or the DPM agent, nor on a machine that is running the “old” Microsoft Azure backup agent.

You can use the server to back up from the disks of the protected workloads to the disks on the server, commonly called D2D. You can also do a secondary backup to the Azure cloud, D2D2C, or go directly to Azure with D2C.

MABS checking installed prerequisites

MABS checking installed prerequisites

The MABS server must be domain joined and have .NET 3.51 installed. The installer will add .NET 4 during the installation if it’s not present. If you’re not on Windows Server 2012 R2, you’ll also need the Windows Management Framework 4 installed.

You’ll need separate disks for backup storage. The recommendation is 1.5x the size of the data you’re going to protect.

Setting up Microsoft Azure Backup Server ^

First, download MABS. It is 3.2 GB so the download might take some time. Then, log in to the current Azure console and create a backup vault by clicking New – Data Services – Recovery Services – Backup Vault – Quick Create.

Once that’s done, you’ll be taken to the quick start page where you can download the vault credentials file. Before you register any servers with Azure for backup, make sure you decide on your storage model because you can’t change the setting after you register the MABS server.

The default is using Geo Redundant Storage (GRS) with three copies in one datacenter and three in another. That might be overkill for your scenario (and budget). Instead, you might opt for the Locally Redundant Storage (LRS), which keeps three copies in a single datacenter. Note that you can have several vaults with different settings for LRS/GRS that protect different workloads.

After you’ve configured the vault with either LRS or GRS and downloaded the vault credential file, run the MABS installer. It’ll check if the prerequisites are installed and then start by asking for the credential file so it can connect to Azure.

It’ll ask for a passphrase to encrypt the backups with. You can either specify your own or let the program generate one. Be mindful to save the passphrase/file in at least two secure locations because (just like with ordinary Azure backup), if you lose it, you will not be able to recover your data. Microsoft does NOT have a copy of the passphrase/file. Once this is done, SQL Server 2014 (part of MABS) will be installed (you can use your own SQL server instead), followed by the actual MABS product.

SQL installation for MABS

SQL installation for MABS

Be aware that there might be some time lag between the creation of the vault credential file and when the MAPS installer continues. During my test installation, I kept getting an error message that the MABS installer couldn’t connect to the Internet, but after an hour or so the same file worked fine.

Register MABS server with Azure and generate a passphrase

Register MABS server with Azure and generate a passphrase

The official installation instructions can be found here.

Configuring data protection ^

After you start the MABS console, only the name of the application lets you know it’s not DPM. Otherwise, every screen that I found is identical to DPM and the configuration is indistinguishable. Head over to the Management tab to configure disks and agents. For speedy recovery in most scenarios, you’ll want to configure local physical or virtual disks for backup. When you present these disks to MABS for backup storage, they should be configured as dynamic disks and not formatted.

Management tab of the MABS console

Management tab of the MABS console

Each server that you want to protect also needs the MABS agent installed. You can either push this out from the console or install it manually on the workload server from the MABS installation file and then register it with MABS. Note that this means you can also protect Windows VMs running on VMware or any other hypervisor.

After you have somewhere to store the data and an agent on the workloads you want to protect, it’s time to create one or more Protection Groups (PG). These are a common grouping of backup frequency, compression, and encryption settings. In essence, you want to use the PG to group data sources with the same protection needs.

Creating a protection group

Creating a protection group

You can protect either servers or clients in each PG. Pick the data sources on each server that you want to protect and select whether you only want short-term disk protection or online protection as well (note that you can choose NOT to back up to Azure). Pick how often to synchronize and how often to do an Express Full backup. MABS will figure out how much space to allocate initially depending on the size of your workloads; you can then select whether you want to do the initial backup now or at a scheduled time over the wire. You can also do an offline backup and ship it to the MABS server if you’re on the wrong side of a WAN link. After your PG is created, your workloads start being protected according to the settings you’ve defined.

Allocating storage space to a protection group

Allocating storage space to a protection group

MABS limitations ^

So what’s the difference between DPM and MABS? DPM offers tape protection, which is not available in MABS. With DPM, you can also protect one data center’s DPM installation with a secondary DPM server in another datacenter (and vice versa), which MABS doesn’t offer.

You can also manage many DPM servers in a single, central console in Operations Manager. Finally, DPM can act as a conduit for Azure Site Recovery services with Hyper-V replica, whereas MABS only does backup.

But apart from these “on-premises,” “big business backup” features, MABS is the real deal. There’s even full DPM PowerShell support for automation.

So, having paid nothing for the MABS license (compared to an arm and a leg for System Center with DPM), what’s the catch? Well, the catch is that, even if you only back up your workloads to local disk without using Azure at all, you still pay a monthly fee per protected workload.

This is actually the new pricing model as of April 2015 for all Azure backup, not just MABS. Each instance up to 50 GB of data costs $5 per month; instances between 50 and 500 GB are $10, and larger ones are $10 for each 500 GB. From my understanding of reading the FAQ, if you back up a workload to the cloud as well (D2D2C), you pay for another protected instance (one on premises and one in the cloud), doubling the above rates. If you are backing up to Azure, you will also pay for the LRS or GRS storage used in the vault.

Conclusion ^

I really like DPM. It’s a solid backup solution for Microsoft workloads, and I’ve run it in production at one of my clients. I’m happy to see that it is available to more people in the form of the “free” MABS. Just do your math on the expected costs, both for the amount of local disk storage you may need and the Azure costs, to ensure that it will deliver the right solution for your data protection needs.

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39 Comments
  1. avatar
    Dan 2 years ago

    Hi, thanks for the great article, very useful to get some info on MABS.

    One question I have is, we want to use it for both internal domain servers and external non-domain web servers. It appears that to use the Cloud Azure backup option, we also have to select "short term" storage to disk. This is fine for the internal servers but i'd rather the external servers just backup directly to Azure so MABS isn't downloading and storing it locally. Your article mentions D2C but I can't seem to see this option in MABS.

    Thanks!

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  2. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 2 years ago

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the feedback!
    My training lab is on the wrong side of a broken router at the moment but I dropped in and had a look at the VM I used to write this article. I can create a new Protection Group and untick the "short term to disk" option but still select the Online protection - provided it's been setup in the Management area. That will give you Disk to Cloud. Is that what you're after?
    Hope that help,

    Paul

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  3. avatar
    Dan 2 years ago

    Hi Paul, thanks for taking a look. On ours we can't have Azure without short-term checked - if we uncheck short-term, then the online protect option gets disabled with a message of "this option is available only if short term protection using disk is selected". Odd why yours behaves differently? We have azure setup and working with short-term so i know that working correctly.

    Any ideas why this might be?

    Thanks
    Dan

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  4. avatar
    Paul 1 year ago

    Hi Paul, I also do not have the option to use online protection only. When I uncheck the box "I want short-term protection using: Disk" then the I want online protection box greys out. Have you been able to get this to work direct to online only?

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  5. avatar
    Andy Smith 1 year ago

    Hi all - it's because MABS runs as a "local cache" for online protection. Online protection only isn't an option as going straight to online would cause too many problems (relatively large data, SQL incrementals handling, plus relatively slow link). It wants to go to local disk first so it can buffer it up to Azure and pre-handle it, otherwise the source endpoint (and the link, and the MAB SQL) would get too much of a hit.

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  6. avatar
    Paul Schnackenburg 1 year ago

    Hi all,
    I'm sorry for the delay in replying to this (the broken router has finally been replaced). Andy is correct, you have to have short term disk protection, you can't go direct to the cloud. Even the original Azure Backup cached data locally before uploading to Azure.

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  7. avatar
    Adam 1 year ago

    Hello Paul,

    Great article.

    If I have a physical server running Windows 2012 DC with HyperV role on it and 3 VMs, do I need to install the whole 3.2GB backup server just to backup those vms ?

    Or do I need additional server with that backup installed and then agents on each vm ?

    The simple azure agent MARS does only flat files i think.

    Adam

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  8. avatar
    Anonymous 1 year ago

    Hi Adam,

    Yes, that's pretty much it. MABS runs on a server (you can run it in a VM) and then an agent on each host or VM backs the data up to the MABS server. With a single server like your setup I suppose the question is, do you have the resources to run a MABS VM?

    Hope that helps,

    Paul

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    • avatar
      Shreesh 1 year ago

      Hi all,

      A quick question.

      Can we take a full VM backup using MABS? That too Azure DS series VM?

      Shreesh.

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  9. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 1 year ago

    Hi Shreesh,

    Yes, if you install MABS on a Hyper-V host it'll back up VMs just like DPM does (online, including Linux VMs). You can then restore the whole VM or individual files from within the VM, this is called Item Level Restore (ILR) if you look for it online. Note that this doesn't work for SQL or Exchange or similar workloads, if you want to do granular restore from them you need to install the MABS agent inside the VM. You can have the agent in both the host and the VM for a "belt and suspenders" approach.

    Not sure what you mean by the second part of your question - can you clarify?

    /Paul Schnackenburg

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    • avatar
      Ozzie Castillo 11 months ago

      Hi Paul, great article. Thank you.

      What are the limitations (if any) when doing backups of VMware VMs? Consider the scenarios where DPM is running on a physical server, a Hyper-V VM, and a VMware VM.

      I'm quite interesting on the level of effort associated with Bare Metal restore of a VMware VM, and haven't been able to find clear answer on this topic. It seems MABS requires a two-step approach (BMR, then OS file and app data recovery).

      Also, any additional concerns/limitations when  backing up / restoring non-Windows VMware VMs?

      Ozzie

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  10. avatar
    Michelle Salgado 1 year ago

    Hi Paul,

    Can you point me in the right direction about how best to protect and recover my MABS server itself?

    I know that one MABS server can not backup another MABS server. I have also tried to use a second MABS to "Add External DPM" with both MABS connected to the same Azure vault, but it simply states that "recoverable data is not available or selected server is not DPM server". Both MABS servers have the latest agents (2.0.9037.0).

    The basic objective is to gain access to the backups in the Azure vault if the primary MABS goes down.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards,

    Michelle

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  11. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 1 year ago

    Hi Michelle,

    This is a good question. I found this https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/backup-azure-alternate-dpm-server/ which talks about this from a DPM perspective but it was actually linked from the end of this MABS article: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/backup-azure-microsoft-azure-backup/

    Other than that, it would be a matter of protecting the MABS server itself so that you can restore it quickly. Is it running virtual or physical? Perhaps using a local backup tool (even Windows Server Backup) to back up the server?

    Hope that helps,

    Paul Schnackenburg

     

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  12. avatar
    Michelle Salgado 1 year ago

    Thanks so much for the quick reply, Paul.

    Thanks for the links. I've reviewed both of those articles thoroughly.

    The DPM recovery article doesn't seem to work for MABS. When I "add external DPM" and pick my primary MABS server, it fails and says my server is not a DPM server.

    The primary (and secondary) MABS server is a VMWare VM with Windows Server 2012 R2 DataCenter (all updates applied) with the latest MABS agent.

    However, the MABS article is interesting because it shows setting up the recovery vault thru the new Azure portal. I setup my Azure vault when only the classic portal was available, and interestingly enough, my classic portal vault doesn't show up in the new portal under recovery services. I have to go thru resource groups, and as soon as I pick the vault to see details, it kicks me over to the classic portal. I didn't really worry about it much (before now) because I figured it was all the same stuff in the background and chalked it up as a portal "display" issue.

    I'll try creating a new vault using the new Azure portal and spin up 2 more MABS servers and see if I can get one MABS to recover the other using the "add external DPM" functionality.

    Otherwise, the Windows Server Backup is probably the way I'll go.

    I'll let you know how it goes.

    Thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it!

    Michelle

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  13. avatar
    Pamila 1 year ago

    Just to correct one thing in the article, there is no dual pricing for the D2D2C backup as mentioned under the MABS Limitation section "if you back up a workload to the cloud as well (D2D2C), you pay for another protected instance (one on premises and one in the cloud), doubling the above rates.". MABS pricing works similar to the MARS agent pricing i.e. Instance size and storage consumed on the cloud.

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  14. avatar
    Michelle Salgado 1 year ago

    Hi Paul,

    Just wanted to confirm that my issues seem to be with the "Backup Vault" that I created on the classic Azure Portal back in November 2015. It does not work the same as the "Recovery Site Vault" in the new Azure Portal.

    I was able to setup 2 new Microsoft Azure Backup Servers and connect them to a new Recovery Site Vault. I was then able to connect each to the other using the "add external DPM". I confirmed that I was able to restore files from one MABS to another MABS using the external DPM connection. So with that, I'm comfortable that if I were to lose the on-premises MABS, I would be able to create a new MABS and at least have access to the online backups and a backup of the DPMDB sql server database.

    Under the Resource Groups listings, I can see that the old vaults are called "Backup vault (classic)" and the new vaults are called "Recovery Site Vault". Obviously they have different functionality.

    I will contact Microsoft to see if it's possible to convert the classic to the new to try to save my backup history, but most likely I'll have to register my production MABS to the new vault and move on.

    Michelle

    1+
  15. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 1 year ago

    Hi Michelle,

    I'm glad you got that sorted. I also learnt something, thank you.

    I think many people are caught in the gap between the "service manager" and "resource manager" worlds for different Azure services. The cloud is great for many things but there are times when the rapid change makes extra work for sysadmin's.

    Paul Schnackenburg

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  16. avatar
    Afia 1 year ago

    Hi,

    Which firewall ports are required for DPM?  We have a DMZ in Azure which is protected by a Network Security Groups so need to know which ports need to be opened and in which direction.

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  17. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 1 year ago

    Hi Afia,

    You'll find the answer to that question here https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh757794(v=sc.12).aspx

    Good luck,

    Paul Schnackenburg

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  18. avatar
    Rob Delany 12 months ago

    I have tried using a NSG with DPM and cannot get connectivity to work using the ports on that page. I have even reduced the DCOM ports on the DPM server to 5000-5100 which works with the normal windows firewall but the NSG does not let it connect. Even if I have all the ports listed there open. The only way it works is to allow ALL ports from the DPM server to the agent will it work. Any advice?

     

    Cheers

    Rob

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  19. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 12 months ago

    Hi Rob,

    Sorry, I haven't used NSGs with DPM. But your symptoms are weird - I suggest you open a case with Azure support, after all it's all MS products / services so they should be able to sort it out. Only other suggestion would be to run Wireshark (or do a netmon capture at the command line) and look at the packets and see what's blocked.

    Good luck,

    Paul

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  20. avatar
    Rob Delany 12 months ago

    Thanks Paul, I always forget wireshark and the likes. I'll try that and open a ticket. I'm in the middle of a large deployment which is why I've not opened a ticket as i haven't got hours spare to screenshare with MS lol!!

     

    I'll post any results or fixes I find.

     

    Rob

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  21. avatar
    Rob Delany 12 months ago

    Figured this out. Even though you limit the DPM server DCOM to 5000-5100 ports, it still uses a high dynamic range to try and connect to the agent machine. So you have to have a NSG rule allowing 49152-65535 from the DPM to the agent machine.

    Along with the 135 and 445 and 5000-5100 ports obviously. Then it connects.

    Rob

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    • Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
      Paul Schnackenburg 12 months ago

      Hi Rob,

      That's great. Thanks for sharing with everyone too, much appreciated.

      /Paul Schnackenburg

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  22. avatar
    Hugh Jass 11 months ago

    DPM is one of the worst products on the planet. Expanding it to a different product will surely result in failure.

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  23. avatar
    Rob Delany 11 months ago

    I'm starting to agree with Hugh. Ticket open for two weeks now with MS to try and solve a SQL cluster/AlwaysOn backup nightmare that is developing!

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  24. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 11 months ago

    Hi Hugh and Rob,

    Not sure that I would agree that DPM is the worst product on the planet - I can think of several others (many Apple products come to mind, not to mention Symantec) but what I would agree with is that there's perhaps not enough engineering resources given to DPM / MABS to make it the best backup product on the planet.

    Rob - let us know how you go with the ticket - hope they fix it for you.

    /Paul

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  25. avatar
    Stefan Eder 9 months ago

    Thanks a lot for the article, very useful information.

    Im playing around with a typical small setup, 1 host, 2VMs and the idea to have a backup offsite in the cloud.

    A few questions are open, so maybe someone here is able to answer.

    1. Where to install the MABS itself? i created an extra VM for it, but not sure, if this is the right approach.

    2. in case of desaster how to restore the Host? Do i need to install a new host first, then mabs and then ?? or is there a way to point a windows server install directly to azure backup recovery points? Or still use windows backup to usb for the host?

    i went through all the Microsoft documentation, but couldnt find proper answers.

    Thanks.

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  26. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 9 months ago

    Hi Stefan,

    Glad you liked the article.

    Yes, I would create a separate VM for MABS, with data disks attached to store the on-premises backups.

    For the host you've got a few options. I would suggest the easiest option is to back it up using Windows Server backup to an external drive. That gives you easy recovery should the host fail. You can't do bare metal recovery using Azure Backup, so you can't point a install at Azure (but you can point it to a local Windows Server backup stored on external HDD).

    Slightly tangential to your questions however, if you're looking for disaster recovery, rather than backup (or in addition to), have a look at Azure Site Recovery. This replicates your VMs (both Hyper-V and VMware) and physical servers to Azure for DR.

    Hope that helps,

    Paul Schnackenburg

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  27. avatar
    Stefan Eder 9 months ago

    Thanks for your answer.

    another question: again case is desaster.

    Let's say i restored the host somehow. not i want to restore the VMs backuped to azure.

    Do i need to install MABS again before i can restore from azure or is there an easier way?

    thanks again

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  28. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 8 months ago

    Hi again Stefan,

    Yes, in this scenario you'd need to restore the MABS server before you could restore any other data from Azure. I still suggest you look at Azure Site Recovery, if you were using that and your whole host failed (disaster) you could simply start your VMs in Azure.

    And since we're talking a single host - also take a look at Azure Backup. MABS is more for a larger environment, Azure Backup plugs into Windows Server Backup and lets you store backups in the cloud.

    Hope that helps,

    Paul Schnackenburg

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  29. avatar
    Rudi Groenewald 7 months ago

    Hi Paul,

    Great article.  Just not sure what you mean with this line:

    DPM can act as a conduit for Azure Site Recovery services with Hyper-V replica, whereas MABS only does backup

    Could you elaborate exactly what you mean?

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  30. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 7 months ago

    Hi Rudi,

    Azure Site Recovery (ASR) allows you to replicate VMs to Azure so that in the case of a site disaster (or simply a migration to the cloud), you can spin up these VMs in Azure. ASR can do this from stand alone Hyper-V, using just Hyper-V Replica, and from bare metal servers as well as VMWare ESX VMs. If you have System Center DPM / VMM on premises it can also be part of the ASR orchestration and handle larger environments.

    MABS only backs up your data to the cloud and local disk. If you do a recovery of a VM you can recover to a Hyper-V host (or more recently VMware, since I wrote this article MABS now also supports backing up VMware VMs, just like full DPM) or put the VM files on a file share. But you can't just recover a VM as an Azure IaaS VM, something you can do with ASR. This isn't to say that you couldn't do this manually but it's not part of MABS.

    Hope all that makes sense 🙂

    Paul

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    • avatar
      Rudi Groenewald 7 months ago

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks very much for responding back, I just need to understand a little better what you mean.

      With the above statement, are you saying that you could then restore an on prem VM (Hyper-v or VMWare), directly to an Azure IaaS VM?  I did a quick Google search but cannot find any documentation that supports something like that.  I guess I just have to understand what you mean when saying "If you have System Center DPM / VMM on premises it can also be part of the ASR orchestration" What that actually means.

      Are you stating that you can restore directly to Azure IaaS?  What physically does the above statement mean.  I'm not understanding what functionality DPM is providing when it comes to virtual machine protection over what MABS can offer.  I get that you can protect on the VM level on both Hyper-v and VMWare... IS the differentiating factor that DPM would restore the VM to VMM (first locally to a hyper-v host) and then you would move the vm over to Azure IaaS in one orchestration, where you would have to do this manually with MABS? (Restore to Hyper-v, then migrate up to IaaS?)

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  31. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 7 months ago

    Hi again,

    Sorry for managing to make this confusing. 🙂

    To answer your follow up questions - Yes, with ASR (which is for Disaster Recovery more than backup), your VMs are stored in the cloud as VHD. If you have a disaster you can immediately spin them up as Azure IaaS VMs (which is when you start paying VM prices, when you're just keeping the VHD files in sync, you only pay for storage and ASR). So ASR is for DR, essentially having Azure act as your recovery data center. DPM / MABS is for backup.

    I also think I made it more confusing when I said that DPM is involved in orchestrating ASR, that's actually VMM, not DPM. If you have VMM, it can talk directly to ASR and orchestrate the synching of lots of VMs from on-premises to Azure.

    The difference between DPM and MABS for VM protection is that DPM supports site to site protection (one DPM server to another), tape backup and that you pay a different type of licensing for DPM versus MABS.

    As for restoring, both MABS and DPM supports restoring to on-premises hosts or file shares and you would then have to upload the VMs to Azure if that's where you want them to run, whereas with ASR, they're already in Azure so it's just a matter of spinning them up.

    Hope that's clearer.

    /Paul

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    • avatar
      Rudi Groenewald 7 months ago

      Hey Paul,

      Yup that makes sense, thanks very much for clarifying 🙂

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  32. avatar
    Eilz 2 months ago

    Advise on following set up:
    Current:
    - DPM used On-Premise (with enough licenses for more)
    - All on-premise servers on Hyper-V hosts

    We only want to backup our OnPremise VMs to Azure whats our best option DPM or MABS/MARS:

    option 1 -- Azure MARS/MABS option
    a) Create MABS server in Azure VM (create two in avset? primary/secondary)
    b) Will Install the Agent M.A.R.S agent to the HyperV Host only allow file/folder backup or can we install the MABS agent directly to ther Hyper Host?
    c) Install MABS agent on each VM for granular SQL or Snapshot backups?

    or

    option 2 --- DPM option
    a) Deploy two DPM servers in Azure (in Azure avset primary/secondary)
    b) Install MABS agent to all onpremise VMs (in hyperv) or again can we just install this agent to the HyperV directly for granular backups?

    other than tape backups and a cnetral console to manager multiple DPM instances what do we lose by going MABS only. Appreciate if someone can help to clarify this, thanks

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