Moving to Cloud Backup

Integrating off-site backup with Veeam and Microsoft Azure

The Client

This project was undertaken on behalf of our client SQW Group, which consists of SQW Ltd, a consultancy specialising in economic and social development; Oxford Innovation, which provides incubation services to innovative start-up and high-growth companies; Oxford Innovation Services,which provides coaching, training and mentoring support to high growth businesses, and the Oxford Investment Opportunity Network, which is one of the UK’s longest running angel investor networks, connecting entrepreneurs and firms with highly active potential investors. SQWGROUP

Syplex have provided managed IT services to SQW Group for many years, with an embedded team for regular day-to-day support as well as project engineers to implement many new solutions.

The Scenario

SQW Group’s offsite backup had used an LTO tape drive with rotation to safe storage provided by Iron Mountain. As the hardware was reaching end of life it presented an opportunity to review the backup strategy and to consider a switch to Cloud backup. Cloud backup is now a mature solution, widely accepted as being secure and reliable, plus it integrates fully with the on-site Veeam Backup software used by the Group.

Using Veeam Backup to Cloud storage we would be able to create an automated backup and archiving solution which didn’t need capital expenditure nor rely on the handling logistics required to manage off-site tapes. For these reasons the decision was made to implement backup to Cloud as a replacement for tape.

The Solution

The existing Veeam Backup solution operated by using primary and secondary disk-based servers hosted in separate sites plus weekly copies to tapes held off-site. This adhered to the industry best practice of 3-2-1 (3 copies - 2 storage types – 1 offsite). The main purpose of adding Cloud storage was to replace the tape media in this mix, but it also offers the advantage of quick access to an unlimited storage space for longer term retention. This allows Veeam to manage a full Grandfather-Father-Son (GFS) backup strategy merging use of the on-premise disk storage with the Cloud storage into a single solution.


Planning the transition

Our Engineer first verified the current solution, assessed the required scope of SQW Group’s data backup and discussed the optimal retention strategy with the client, before presenting recommendations and gaining approval.


Upgrading Veeam

Veeam is an industry-leading Backup & Replication software provider. It allows fast,reliable backup and recovery plus server replication for business continuity using disk-based backup servers.  Previous versions of Veeam had not been able to connect directly to Cloud storage, but the release of version 9.5 added the option to integrate with Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. This meant we were able to use Veeam to both create the backups and store them in Azure instead of having to use a second solution to manage the Cloud element.

Before we could complete the new setup, we needed to upgrade SQW Group’s Veeam licenses from Backup Essentials Standard to Backup Essentials Enterprise. This allows use of the Capacity Tier feature which is required to integrate the additional tier of storage that the Cloud provides.


Forecasting and provisioning Azure

We had already implemented Azure Site Recovery for SQW Group so although Veeam supports both Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) it made sense to add to their existing Azure commitment rather than starting another in a different service.

Azure storage capacity scales on demand but the charges are dependent on average monthly usage, so it is important to plan the backup and retention schedules for maximum cost-effectiveness. We made sure that SQW Group had the right retention periods, number of copies and backup frequency to provide the required RPO (Recovery Point Objective) at optimal cost.


Internet Bandwidth

With terabytes of data backed up in the Cloud being updated daily we needed to make sure there was minimal impact on the Internet bandwidth available to other services. The Cloud backup is scheduled to run out-of-hours but we can also throttle the backup network traffic so that it won’t interfere.


Backup Transition

Having implemented the Azure based solution we continued to operate the tape backup in parallel for several weeks to ensure the new system was operating as planned. The existing tape inventory provides an archive going back many years which needs to be retained as well as the means to recover from tape if required. Switching to Cloud storage will begin to build up a backup history, but it will take time for this to provide an equivalent retention span before the tape system can be fully retired.

The Conclusion

Preparing to retire SQW Group’s tape drive hardware gave us the opportunity to re-evaluate their backup strategy and introduce a Cloud based solution which now serves them better.

Increased confidence in Cloud infrastructure, as well as recent innovations in backup software, meant that we could create a smooth, automated, cost-effective solution using Veeam Enterprise software and Microsoft Azure storage.

The project to upgrade and re-configure Veeam to integrate Azure storage went without a hitch and is now completed, providing SQW Group with an up-to-date system and data backup with rapid RTO (Recovery Time Objective), comprehensive RPO. Unlike tape the solution doesn’t rely on any manual procedures so also offers total reliability as well as scalability.



Do you have data you’d like to archive long term or an unreliable backup solution that needs looking at? Questions about Veeam or Microsoft Azure? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss.

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