Microsoft pulls Windows Home Server backup feature

The Power Pack 1 upgrade will let users back up Shared Folders, not entire backup database

Microsoft Friday confirmed that it has yanked parts of a backup feature from a major upgrade to its Windows Home Server software scheduled for release later this year.

Recent posting on several blog sites, including "We Got Served" last week and ZDNet's "All About Microsoft" Thursday, said that the database backup feature of the upcoming Power Pack 1 had been pulled from the update.

The We Got Served blog cited several messages on the Windows Home Server (WHS) support forum from Power Pack 1 beta testers who claimed server-wide backup had been ditched because of difficult-to-solve bugs.

"Power Pack 1 will not provide a tool to back up your back-up database," said Ken Warren last Friday in a message posted to the forum. "It was an announced feature, but it has been removed because it doesn't meet the quality bar. I know of at least half-a-dozen bugs submitted around that feature that left end users in a bad place with no obvious way back."

Microsoft announced Power Pack 1 for WHS in January and said it would ship the major upgrade in the first half of 2008. Among the features it touted then was what it called "Windows Home Server Data Backup."

"While adding a hard drive to Windows Home Server, a user is now presented with an option to use the hard drive for backing up the home server," an unidentified member of the WHS team blogged January 6. "Once this option is selected, the home server will appear in the Computers & Backup tab -- where a user can decide what information they want to store on this hard drive.

"You can also backup and restore the entire home computer backup database," read the blog, referring to the data stored by WHS when it backs up individual PCs on the network.

A Microsoft manager used the same support forum to deny claims that all of the backup features scheduled for Power Pack 1 had been stripped. "Backups of the files stored in the Shared Folders is coming in Power Pack 1," said Todd Headricks, a product planning manager on the WSH team. "The various press stories that got posted today are incorrect, misleading and bordering on...," he said, leaving the ending of the sentence to readers' imaginations.

Later Friday morning, however, Joel Sider, senior product manager for WHS, confirmed that the server-wide backup had been pulled while the Shared Folder backup remained. "Power Pack 1 will provide a new feature: Server backup and restore, meaning customers will be able to offload and protect their pictures, music, documents etc. that they have in the server's Shared Folders," said Sider in an e-mail forwarded by Microsoft's public relations firm.

"[But] the server backup functionality won't include the PC backup database -- a separate data store on Home Server that keeps all the data from the PCs that home server is backing up every night," confirmed Sider. "But backing up the Shared Folders is the important scenario."

Microsoft declined to provide a ship date for Power Pack 1 when asked Friday, and instead said only that the upgrade is "moving along with good progress." Power Pack 1 is currently in limited beta testing, and will be released as a public beta "very soon," said Sider.

In early April, Microsoft said it was delaying Power Pack 1 in order to work on a data corruption bug in the existing software that's plagued users since last December. The company will roll out a fix for the data corruption problem concurrently with Power Pack 1, rather than launch Power Pack 1 first, as it had originally intended.

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