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Windows Backup 2008: Another Royal Mess

I am always baffled by the constant ability of Microsoft to take something that was working very well and turn it upside down all in the name of trying to improve the product. The list is long so we won’t even bother. The latest in this list is the supposedly new and improved Windows Server Backup 2008. In my opinion, this is one of the most frustrating thing the company has done to small business owners in terms of backing up files. Don’t get me wrong, the concept behind the product makes sense – for those who can afford it. It has:

  • Faster backup technology.
  • Simplified restoration.
  • Simplified recovery of your operating system.
  • Ability to recover applications.
  • Improved scheduling.
  • Offsite removal of backups for disaster protection.
  • Remote administration.
  • Automatic disk usage management.
  • Extensive command-line support.
  • Support for optical media drives and removable media.

The part I have a problem with is Microsoft’s claim that “the design makes it especially well-suited for smaller organizations or individuals who are not IT professionals”. No, the old NTBackup was well suited for smaller organizations and everyone else, as a matter of fact, because it provided something we all cherish: CHOICE. With the old software, you had a choice of backup locations. You had a choice of whether you wanted to backup an entire disk or a single file. You had a choice of backing up to tape, external devices, internal drives or network drives. You could even backup up to a floppy drive for crying out loud. It was less expensive.

The new Windows Backup system will be an expensive and even dangerous experience for the small business owner without an IT person on staff. If a non-IT person had to deal with what I just experienced, there are going to be a lot of calls for data recovery because of hosed drives and lost data. The reason is that if you get hypnotized by the “Wizard” and just click through the backup process, you may end up reformatting a non-system drive with critical data. I know this because I tried it. I plugged in an external drive with test data and clicked through the wizard. It reformatted the external drive before creating the backup.

The latest iteration of Windows Backup is another example of the constant argument that Microsoft sometimes has a tendency of wanting to think for the consumer. Having been around this long, we expect more from the software giant. I have a suspicion that backup software vendors had a hand in the creation of this product. With the old software, I had no compelling reason to buy expensive solutions from third party vendors. It just worked. Backup was simple and restoration was the easiest you can imagine: locate your backup file, restore to your preferred location, done.

This latest disappointment came about because I was at a location the other day and we had just finished installing SBS 2008. The client had a Line of Business application with a database of about 100MB so I wanted to set up a nightly schedule to backup that one file. Never happened. It turned out that there was no option to backup single files. I either had to reformat a 1TB external drive to accomplish that goal, or backup the entire disk content totalling about 150GB. All because Microsoft got infatuated with a technology called VDI.

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