How to Back up Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials to Microsoft Azure

Posted by Staff   |   Monday, November 17th, 2014

This is a guest post by Debra Shinder.

For many small businesses, the demise of Microsoft’s Small Business Server (SBS) was greeted with dismay. IT pros and small business decision-makers saw its replacement, Windows Server Essentials, as a poor substitute designed to force small organizations to migrate on-premises applications such as Exchange and SharePoint to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud services.

The latter perception wasn’t inaccurate; Microsoft has, indeed, encouraged small business customers to embrace the cloud. Now many who were dragged, kicking and screaming, into the cloud have discovered that it has benefits, including the simplification of IT administrative overhead for small orgs and cost savings.

Meanwhile, Windows Server Essentials has gotten better with the R2 version, and contrary to first impressions, it does integrate with on-premises server products such as Exchange as well as providing the cloud integration option. Even if you continue to host your own mail server, though, one very convenient feature of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is its ability to back up your data to a cloud service, ensuring that in the case of a natural disaster that would destroy on-premises backups, copies of your mission-critical files will survive.

To back up to Microsoft Azure Online Backup, you first need to need to install an add-in from the Windows Server Essentials dashboard. Thanks to the simplified management interface, this is easy to do.

  1. Open the Windows Server Essentials dashboard.
  2. Click the Get Started tab.
  3. In the left pane, select Add-ins.
  4. In the right pane, choose Integrate with Windows Azure Backup.

Now you need to be signed up with a Windows Azure account. There is a one month free trial available if you just want to try it out, or you can purchase the service on a pay-as-you-go basis. MSDN subscribers may have free Azure services as part of their benefits. There is a link in the dashboard to the web site where you can purchase Azure services or sign up for the free trial.

In your Azure Management Portal, you need to create a vault. This is done by selecting Recovery Services in the left pane, and then Create a New Vault in the right pane. Select Backup Vault, click Quick Create, give the vault a name and select the region of the world where you’re located. Then click Create Vault at the bottom right corner.

After you set up an Azure account, you need to perform the following steps:

  1. Download the Windows Azure Backup integration module. Again, there is a link to the web site with this file on the Windows Server Essentials dashboard.
  2. After you’ve downloaded the integration module (file name OnlineBackupAddin.wssx), install it using the wizard.
  3. Once you’ve installed the module, close and reopen the Windows Server Essentials dashboard. Now you should see a new tab called Online Backup.
  4. When you click the tab, you will see two more tabs, named Protected Folders and Backup History. The Protected Folders tab lists folders that you’ve selected to back up to Azure. The Backup History tab shows your recent backups and restorations.
  5. Going back to the Online Backup tab, you have to upload a Windows Server Essentials certificate so Azure’s backup service can authenticate your machine. You can use the default certificate or a custom certificate. To use the default, copy the path shown.
  6. When you click Upload Certificate to Windows Azure Backup Vault, the Azure Management Portal will open. Click Recovery Services in the left pane.
  7. At the bottom of the page, click Manage Certificate.
  8. Paste the file path that you copied in Step 5 and upload it.
  9. You should see a notice that the certificate was successfully uploaded to the vault.

Now you have to register your server with Azure. Here’s how:

  1. On the Online Backup tab of the dashboard, click Register.
  2. Select the certificate you want to use and its associated vault.
  3. Enter a passphrase.
  4. You should see a notice that the server is now registered.

Now you can configure the files and folders that you want to back up by selecting Configure Backup Settings on the Online Backup tab of the dashboard. This will open a wizard that will guide you through the steps of selecting the files and folders.

That’s it. You’re now ready to back up your data to Windows Azure.

To learn more about Windows Azure check out these articles that show how to configure and manage your Azure environment.