Mar 16, 2019

Using Azure Storage for SQL Backups

you may have taken backups on local storage, file servers, NAS, etc. Now a days it is becoming crucial you have backup copies available in different locations just in case disaster strikes and you need your large backup readily available on other coast.

Cloud Storage probably is the best option you can have without having data centers offsite availability for BCP.

As I have been reviewing Azure for some time now, I find it very simple and intuitive taking backups on Azure Storage.

Some of the storage objects provided by Azure are Blob, Table, Queue and File. Not only Azure Storage is highly available from anywhere in the world also it secured and durable.

By default, the data in Storage Account is secured with Encryption at server-side (using Transparent Data Encryption).

Data from Azure Storage can be accessed via URLs (http and https). The URL (also called end points) are fixed for each object type and can be referenced by prefixing unique storage account name. Here are the URLs for various object types:


For example, if my blob storage account name is “mystorage” then the URL will become

In order to understand Azure Storage, I would like to give one End to End demo on Azure Storage. The demo will include creating Storage Blob and then taking backup directly on the Storage Blob.

At high level these are the steps we need to take:

Setup Storage
  • Create Resource Group
  • Create Storage Account
  • Create Storage Context
  • Create Storage Container
  • Create Access Policy
  • Create Shared Access Signature (SAS)

Preparing for SQL Backup

  • Create Credentials for Storage in SQL Server
  • Connect to Azure Storage from SSMS

Final Steps (SQL backup on Azure Storage)
  • Take Backup on Azure Storage using connected Azure Storage (URL)
  • Verify Backup on Storage

Setup Storage
  • Connect to PowerShell (Elevated)
  • Install and connect to Az (Azure Module)
Install-module az -AllowCobbler

  • Complete the Sign in Process as prompted
  • Setup a few variables
$resourcegroup = '1209rg'

  • Get the Subscription ID#Get SubscriptionID

  • Switch the context to Subscription as selected above
# Change the context to subscription ID for further work
Set-AzContext -SubscriptionId  $subscriptionid

  • Create new resource group (read more about resource groups here:
# create new resource group for
New-AzResourceGroup -Name $resourcegroup -Location 'East US'

  • Create a new Storage Account
·         You may read more about storage accounts at
·         For creating storage account, you need to provide Resource Group name, Location and Type of storage
·         For more information on storage types, visit this page:
# Create new Storage Account
New-AzStorageAccount -Name $storageaccount -ResourceGroupName $resourcegroup -Location 'East US' -Type Standard_LRS

  • Getting Access Keys
o    After creating storage account, azure will be default create two new access keys and these keys are secret passcode to access the storage remotely using http or https URL
$accesskey = (Get-AzStorageAccountKey -ResourceGroupName $resourcegroup -Name $storageaccount).Value[0]
o    Access keys can be validated from Portal as well

  • Creating Storage Context
o    Storage context is a reference to storage by taking storage account name and access key
$storagecontext=New-AzureStorageContext -StorageAccountName $storageaccount -StorageAccountKey $accesskey

  • Creating Storage Container
    • Storage container can be thought of as a parent folder within Storage Account and holds the data
$storagecontainer = New-AzureStorageContainer -Name $container -Context $storagecontext

·         Creating Access Policy
o    Access Policy can be considered as a group policy for containers and Shared Access Signatures Token can be created with policy as defined in Access Policy and makes it easy to manage, revoke and restrict access. SAS without Access Policies can be difficult to manage. In order to revoke access from SAS without a policy, the access key would need to be changed.
$policy=New-AzureStorageContainerStoredAccessPolicy -Container $container -Policy $policyname -Context $storagecontext -StartTime $(Get-Date).ToUniversalTime().AddMinutes(-5) -ExpiryTime $(Get-Date).ToUniversalTime().AddYears(1)  -Permission rwld

·         Creating shared access key and getting container object
o    A shared access key is required for creating credentials and container object is required to get URL from container
# get blob container
$cbc = $storagecontainer.CloudBlobContainer

o    Following script will copy the script in clipboard
# Create credentials
$tSql = "CREATE CREDENTIAL [{0}] WITH IDENTITY='Shared Access Signature', SECRET='{1}'" -f $cbc.Uri,$sharedaccesstoken.Substring(1)  
$tSql | clip

Preparation of SQL Backups

·         Create Credentials
o    In the previous step we generated CREATE CREDENTIAL script and stored in Clip, paste the content from clip to SSMS where you wan to run the backup process

o    To verify expand the Credentials from Security as you can see below:

·         Now add Azure Storage Account in SSMS
o    SSMS-> Connect-> Azure Storage

o    Enter Storage Account Name and Access Key as got from previous steps (or you may get it from Portal too)

o    Getting from Portal

Final Backups to Azure Storage
·         Backups
o    Backup on Azure Storage is just slightly different from traditional backups on file system or tape. When taking backups on Azure, you need to select URL as destination instead of file or tape:

o    Right click on database (I am using Test database) and select Task -> Backup

o    From Back up to option select URL and click on Add 
o    The Dialog box for Selecting Backup Destination would let you select the storage container that added in previous steps
o    Enter Backup File Name and click on Ok

T-SQL for taking backup on Azure Storage Container is copied below:
o    If the command completes successfully you should have your backup posted on Azure Container

·         Verify Backup
o    You can verify the backup file from either SSMS->Storage Container or from Portal itself
o    From Portal, Navigate to Resources-> Storage Resource-> Blob-> Container

o    From SSMS, Expand Storage Account-> Containers-> Container


You now have your backup on Azure Cloud and you can restore it from anywhere where there is internet to connect to cloud. You can restore backups to On-Premises and IaaS (SQL running on Azure VM). The process to restore is same, you have to follow the process of creating credentials and adding existing storage to SSMS.

Jan 28, 2019

Demo - Azure Logic App and Integration Service

What is Azure Integration Service

In modern technology, it has been becoming a common requirement to have integration between various business processes (services or applications). Often times Solution providers give solutions by embedding integration within the code like C#, Java etc. Developers have to ensure that besides integrations, there should be some kind of communication between services, monitoring and security. A good example could be that an ERP or Order System may be integrated with one of the vendor application.
This entire process looks very simple to develop, though it may not be that simple to implement as developing a solution from scratch need planning, coding, triage, testing and eventually time and money.
Many of the application vendors now days expose APIs for data and services, hence making it available to integrate their business processes for data and service utilization. The purpose of Integration Service is to take advantage of APIs and integrate processes.
Azure Integration service does exactly the same thing. With Azure Integration, APIs (Rest\SOAP), Service Buses (Messaging Queue) or Events can be utilized to setup Business Workflow using Logic Apps, hence integrating applications. The process and implementation can be broken down to following technologies:
  • Logic Apps
  • APIs Management
  • Service Bus
  • Event Grid
  • Data Gateway
  • On-Premises Application
Logic Apps

Logic Apps are required to implement the business process or you may call it process work flow with series of actions. Think of CRM system, with any update in CRM you may want to send an email or you may want to access on-premises SQL Server and update it. You may define system to system process, user to system process, etc. Please note that Logic App is server-less implementation (platform) i.e. you don’t need to have VM (infrastructure).
API Management
Most of the modern application vendors expose few of their APIs externally (REST and SOAP) so that external applications can utilize its data or services through these APIs. These APIs can be made available though API Management extension in Azure Portal.

Service Bus
Service Bus is a trigger and important part of application integration. One way to setup communication between applications is APIs, also called Synchronous method of communication and in cases where APIs cannot made available asynchronous approach may be required. This asynchronous way of communication is called Service Bus. Service Bus essentially an MSMQ type of service.
Event Grid
Event Grid is also a trigger. Instead of setting up polling for application to check whether any new message has been received, can be not too useful. Rather receiver can be notified via an event. An event can be setup to monitor the queue and if a message is arrived then event can invoke event handler.

Data Gateway

Data Gateway is a tool installed on individual host on-premises to connect on-premises service or application with Azure Integration Service, also called hybrid solution.

On-Premises Application

On-Premises Application is part of the business process that needs to be integrated, it could be BizTalk server connecting to other sources on Azure using Logic App.

Picture below shows high level architecture of Azure Integration Services

There can be different scenarios where APIs, Events Or Service Buses can be used to integrate. I would like to give a quick demo on how Azure and SQL Database can be integrated. The purpose of the Demo is to create Logic App that continuously monitors if a new file gets added to Drop Box, an entry should be made into Azure SQL Database.

This demo would require following prerequisites:

  • A Drop Box Account
  • Azure SQL Database
  • Connection String of Azure SQL Database
First create a Drop Box Account if you don't have already. 

This is common scenario hence I am skipping demo of creating Drop Box Account.

Create Azure SQL Database

  • If you already have Azure SQL Database then you can skip this step
  • Login to
  • Click on create resource, search for SQL Database resource

  • After selecting SQL Database resource, click on Create

  • Enter SQL Database Details and click on create to submit deployment request

Modify Firewall Settings from Azure SQL Database
  • Once Database gets created, you need to modify database firewall and add client IP of your network so that you could connect to database using SSMS on your machine.
Get Connection Details of SQL Database and create table to save new file record
  • Now get the connection details of newly created database. For this go to resources and select Database resource, it should open properties and from there you can get Connection details.

  • Once you connect to this database from SSMS, create table in this database with following specs

Design Logic App
  • At this time you will have to start creating the Logic App. Select Logic App resource from resources and click on create.
  • Enter basic details of Logic App like Name, Subscription, Group and Location and submit the deployment request

  • This should open Logic App Designer. From Designer under choose action, search for DropBox and under Triggers, select When a file is created

  • It should ask you to authenticate your dropbox account and also select the root folder.
  • After completing dropbox configuration, add new step for SQL Server

  • Add SQL Server connection details
  • Next select the table name that was created earlier

  • Next, select parameters FileName and Date.
  • Enter parameter details

  • It should be all set, finally review all configurations
  • Add a file to root folder

Verify that Logic App is working as designed
  • Execute the Logic App manually, it should execute anyways as per schedule as well
  • Now if you go back to SQL and look at the table content it should have new file names and date new file was observed as per UTC time.

This is all, you now have Azure Logic App monitoring your drop box and adding an entry in SQL if there is a new file found.

Optimizing Indexes with Execution Plans

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