Backup Techniques for SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines

In the previous blog post I did a quick overview building a SQL VM (imaged) in Azure. It is now time to clarify some backup techniques because it can get confusing.

At a high level there are 3 techniques.

  • Automated backup.
  • Azure backup for SQL VM (that’s what MS call it).
  • Manual backup, for example backup to URL.

I prefer not setting up manual backups to storage accounts, I have done it, I just find it painful to  setup/support/fix. So my choice would be automated backup vs “Azure backup” for SQL VM. What’s the difference?

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Azure SQL Database and Transaction Log

Checking out the transaction log in Azure SQL Database. If you are curious like me, you will want to know about what your transaction log is doing in the cloud. The following queries have been tested and run okay within Azure SQL Database it gives you some great insight. First up, the classic log_reuse_wait_desc. You can’t exactly do much with this output, more so, just to fulfill curiosity.

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SQL Server Looking into Differential Backups

I seem to be writing solely about Azure so to shake things up a bit I am going back to my “roots”. In SQL Server your differential backup is cumulative and NOT incremental and a differential will contain the data that has changed since the last full backup.

Let’s dig in using DBCC PAGE.

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SQL Server Backup To Azure Storage

Once again I would like to share with you an article I wrote about backing up (and restoring) a SQL Server database to Azure Blob Storage. In this article I write about some important concepts and show you the code needed to do this. This includes all the lovely components such as SQL Server credentials, secrets and SAS etc.

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Azure SQL Data Warehouse and Backups

Just because the cloud movement is strong doesn’t mean the end of “DBA’s”, it does mean a change in skills and no doubt you will (one day) create Azure SQL Data Warehouse (DW) in Azure. If you are from an operational background like me then backups will be on your mind for this product. The question is how are backups done with Azure SQL DW?

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Backup and Restore Options for Azure SQL DB

I have decided to do a summary blog post on backup and recovery options for Azure SQL Database. If you have a DBA background, you will know the importance of securing backups for your SQL Server databases. We have many options to do such a thing; being full, differential, log and filegroup backups. The common question that is asked is how do you backup (and restore) Azure SQL Databases? Or, what are the options available?

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SQL Server 2017 Encrypted Backups And Compression

Let’s work through some code to do an encrypted backup. This feature is available to you if you are using SQL Server 2014 onwards but I decided to use SQL Server 2017.

To encrypt during backup, you must specify an encryption algorithm, and an “encryptor” to secure the encryption key. I have decided to use the following options:

  • Encryption Algorithm: AES 256
  • Encryptor: A certificate

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I noticed that my backup was taking longer than usual.

I went to Perfmon to look at some counters, more specifically Physical disk:Avg sec/read(orange/yellow line) and Physical disk:Avg sec/write(blue line), yes it was very busy, much busier than normal.


Waits stats was painting the following picture: I was very intrigued with the sleep_bpool_flush so I headed straight over to the waits library.


You get this wait type when the checkpoint process realizes that it’s saturating the I/O subsystem. (, so it seemed that my backup could not even issue a checkpoint successfully. With that thinking I decided to do a manual checkpoint which just made the problem worse.


After some detective work I found the answer. Someone enabled TDE and it was going though the encryption process whilst I was trying to take a backup so my backup was never going to complete anytime soon.

The error message I was ended up with was  “Msg 5901, Level 16, State 1, Line 7 One or more recovery units belonging to database ‘NEWdb’ failed to generate a checkpoint”.

You can use the following query to understand the state of the encryption process for your databases.

sys.databases db
LEFT OUTER JOIN sys.dm_database_encryption_keys dm
ON db.database_id = dm.database_id


When you have a state of 2 it means encryption is in progress, you may have heard of this as an encryption scan.

This behaviour is confirmed via Books on line and totally makes sense. (Last bullet point)


  • Dropping a file from a filegroup in the database.
  • Dropping the database.
  • Taking the database offline.
  • Detaching a database.
  • Transitioning a database or filegroup into a READ ONLY state.
  • Using an ALTER DATABASE command.
  • Starting a database or database file backup.

You live and learn.