File-Based Backup vs VM-Based Backup

Rob Waggoner

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Microsoft Azure provides two ways to protect your Azure-based data. The original method provides file-based backups of your company data, while the most recent backup solution allows you to backup the complete VM. Each backup solution provides its own unique value, so understanding your business requirements is the best way to decide which backup solution, or possibly if both solutions, best meet your needs.

File-Based Backup Solution
The file-based backup solution uses an agent to backup files within your VM.  The agent is installed on the VM that contains the data you want to protect. This solution provides a great way to take multiple snapshots of your data throughout the day (up to three snapshots a day) as well as providing a long-term file retention plan for your business data contained within the VM. File-based backup solutions do not consume as much backup storage space as the VM-based backup solution, and the file-based backup solution provides an easy way to backup all or just part of your company’s data.

When it comes to recovering your data, the file-based backup solution provides very granular restores. You can restore a specific version of an individual file, a complete directory, or even a full volume.

VM-Based Backup Solution
The VM-based backup solution within Azure is a more recent offering and provides a different level of protection. It provides a disaster recovery capability that the file-based backup solution cannot provide. The VM-based backup solution has become a convenient way to backup and recover from a total VM failure or from an infection of malicious software within a VM. The VM-based backup solution does provide the capability to restore individual files similar to the file-based backup solution, but it takes more time and energy to restore individual files.

Which one should I use?
Should I use file-based backups or VM-based backups, or both? Good question and it really depends on your data protection goal.

If you are trying to protect your data from accidental deletion and you require the ability to restore earlier versions of files, file-based backups will probably be the most convenient backup solution for you. File-based backup solutions can take up to three snapshots of your data during the day. This provides the capability to restore to an earlier version of a file, even from earlier in the same day.

If you are trying to protect your infrastructure from disastrous events like malicious software or virtual machine corruption, the VM-based backups may be best for your infrastructure. VM-based backups only occur once a day, and it is usually best to trigger these backups after hours. Because of this, you only have a single backup of a file each day. You could enable Windows Server shadow copies to retain more versions your files, but again, this would increase the complexity of the restore process.

Can I use both?
If you are trying to protect your infrastructure from multiple scenarios, like requiring long term file retention and disaster recovery, you could implement both VM-based backups and file-based backups. They can work together, and if properly managed, would allow up to 4 data recovery points per day. The great part about using both solutions is that you can enable file-based backups for long-term retention, which is helpful because most companies have a data retention requirement. At the same time, you can use VM-based backups with a shorter retention period, say two weeks, to protect your infrastructure from disastrous events like VM corruption or malicious software.

MyCloudIT provides the ability to automate the installation and configuration of the Microsoft Azure Backup agent to provide File-based backups of the data within your MyCloudIT deployment. We have steps on how to do that in our User Guide and/or you can view the video below. We also have steps on how to enable VM-based backups through the Azure portal.

How to Schedule Backups for your Azure RDS Deployment


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