Before you can get started with backups on a specific server, you must register it with the Windows Azure Online Backup service. This happens from the Windows Azure Online Backup management tool which is actually a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in (see Figure 3). After opening the tool, you should see an option labeled Register Server in the Actions pane. Clicking on this item will take you through the process of logging in to the Windows Azure Online Backup service with the credentials previously established. Once that's complete, you'll have full access to the backup tools from within both the management tool and through the online portal.
We tested the backup features on a Windows Server 2012 Essentials installation to evaluate the integration with the dashboard tool. The typical usage model for Windows Azure Online Backup is to configure the local agent to perform periodic scheduled backups. Defaults here are set to run weekly on Saturday night. You also have the option to choose which directories or volumes you want to protect. This can be done in bulk or by inclusion/exclusion of specific file types. There's also an option to perform an immediate backup, which is useful for establishing a backup immediately after installing the agent.
Once you have data actually stored on the Windows Azure Online Backup service, you have the option of accessing the data from either the local server or through the online portal. This makes it easy to view backups from multiples sites without the need to actually access the physical server. If you have access to the server, you can use the Recover Data Wizard to browse archives and select either an entire backup set or individual files (see Figure 4).
Figure 4 - Recover Data Wizard
The Windows Azure Online Backup portal is where you go to view files and restore them to a different location. It's important to point out here that the Windows Azure Online Backup service is strictly for files and folders in the current version. System backups must be accomplished using the server backup feature on the physical server. That means you'll need physical access to the machine if you ever need to recover from a hard disk failure.
Windows Azure Online Backup provides a tightly integrated service that will keep off-site backups of files and folders. It works with any version of Windows Server 2012 and includes an automated agent to accomplish all backup tasks in an unattended fashion. The cost is reasonable and definitely worth checking out for any small or medium-sized business looking for an off-site backup solution.