Microsoft Adds Backup And Recovery To Windows Azure Public Cloud

Microsoft's Windows Azure Backup Service, which stores data from Windows Servers in the Azure cloud for backup and recovery purposes, is now generally available, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows Azure, said in a blog post.

"This release is now live in production, backed by an enterprise SLA [service-level agreement], supported by Microsoft Support, and is ready to use for production scenarios," Guthrie said in the blog post.

[Related: Microsoft Cutting Azure Pricing For Enterprises, But Some Say Overall Costs Could Rise ]

Windows Azure Backup Service also backs up data from System Center Data Protection Manager and Windows Server Essentials and encrypts it onsite before sending it to the cloud, Guthrie said in the blog post.

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Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, an Oakland, Calif.-based Microsoft partner, said cloud storage makes sense for many customers because it spares them the time and expense of backing up data and keeping track of it.

"Storage is the number one big ticket spending item right now as data is retained across pretty much every part of an organization," Morimoto said in an email. "We've had many of our customers move to cloud based storage for longer term archiving."

Microsoft is charging customers based on the amount of data they store on the Azure cloud. It's offering pay-as-you-go and pre-paid options, both of which let customers store up to 5 GB per month for free.

For pay-as-you-go, Microsoft is charging 25 cents per GB per month as part of a promotion that runs through the end of November. Starting Dec. 1, Azure storage will cost 50 cents per GB monthly.

For a 6-month or 12-month commitment, Microsoft is charging 17 cents to 20 cents per GB per month until Nov. 30, and 34 cents to 40 cents per GB per month after that.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also released the public preview of Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager (HRM), a new service that handles offsite replication of data from System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2 private clouds.

Guthrie, in the blog post, noted that application data in HRM remains in the customer's on-premise replication channel, with only encrypted metadata being sent back and forth to Azure.

Data security is one of the biggest obstacles keeping enterprises from using the public cloud, and Microsoft is trying to show that it has put a lot of thought into this aspect of Azure.

Microsoft is also providing Windows Azure Active Directory, its cloud-hosted user management service, to every Windows Azure account. Customers can keep Azure Active Directory in the cloud or synch it with their on-premise Active Directory, Guthrie said in the blog post.

Developers are also getting a bunch of new tools on the Windows Azure SDK (software development kit) 2.2, including support for Visual Studio 2013 -- which can also be used to remotely debug cloud services and includes integrated Azure sign-in support, among other new features.