Microsoft releases updated preview of its Windows Azure cloud backup service

Microsoft releases updated preview of its Windows Azure cloud backup service

Summary: An updated test release of Microsoft's cloud backup service adds support for Windows Server Essentials 2012, among other new features.


Microsoft delivered a beta of its Windows Azure Online Backup service back in March 2012. Late last week, officials shared more on the updated version of that service, which the company is calling a "preview."



Windows Azure Online Backup is a cloud-based backup service that allows server data to be backed up and recovered from the cloud. Microsoft is pitching it as an alternative to on-premises backup solutions. It offers block-level incremental back ups (only changed blocks of information are backed up to reduce storage and bandwidth utilization); data compression, encryption and throttling; and verification of data integrity in the cloud, among other features.

The beta of the Azure Online Backup service only worked with Windows Server 2012 (then known as Windows Server 8). The newly released Azure backup preview also works with the near-final release candidate build of Windows Server Essentials 2012, which is Microsoft's new small business server. The final version of Windows Server Essentials 2012 is due out before the end of this year.

The Azure backup service also supports the Data Protection Manager (DPM) component of the System Center 2012 Service Pack 1. Microsoft made available the beta of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 on September 10, and has said the final version of that service pack will be out in early 2013.

Alongside the new preview of the backup service, Microsoft also released an updated preview build of the Windows Azure Active Directory Management Portal. This portal is the vehicle for signing up for the Windows Azure Online Backup service and how administrators can manage users' access to the service.

Microsoft officials said they had no comment on when Microsoft plans to move Windows Azure Online Backup from preview to final release.

Speaking of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, there are a number of new capabilities and updates coming in this release. SP1 enables all System Center components to run on and manage Windows Server 2012. SP1 adds support for Windows Azure virtual machine management and is key to Microsoft's "software defined networking" support. On the client-management side, SP1 provides the ability to deploy and manage Windows 8 and Windows Azure-based distribution points.

The Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 component -- coupled with the version of Windows Intune due out in early 2013 -- will support the management of Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 devices.

Topics: Cloud, Microsoft, Storage, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Available regions

    I received an email invite from Microsoft to sign up for the beta. However we're based in Australia which doesn't show up the region/country list for Azure Online backup.

    I could just choose any region and not worry, except they warn that this is a one-time setting because it will determine future billing rates, etc (and probably dictate where the data is stored).

    It's one of those things that Microsoft often does for non-US companies - invite you for a great offer (I get those Bing emails with various deals and promotions) but then find that none of it actually applies :(

    Do you have any inside news on whether the Azure cloud backup beta might expand to other regions in future?
    • Coincidence

      Wow - just as I was writing that an email came through. The thread I started at the MS forums about this got an official answer... "No" or at least "Not yet" :)