Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

Tech-Ed 2006: New Backup & Offline Files Features in Vista

I am stunned and amazed by what I’ve just seen demoed and talked about in this session. The changes talked about here could possibly be the most important reason why I would push for migrating to Vista earlier than I’d originally thought. It is that significant for me and, more importantly, the global staff I have to support.
So what was talked about?
On the backup front:
  • A completely new file backup & restore tool that deals with types of files rather than file locations. The restore tool lets you browse the backup catalog just like Explorer. As the speaker said, a muppet could use it . The backups are done using Zip files which means you can still pull stuff out of them without the help of Vista.
  • A backup & restore system that images volumes. It is possible to restore this to bare metal – as was demonstrated ably through the vice-assisted destruction of the laptop’s harddrive. The images are stored in VHD format and you’ll be able to mount these in Virtual PC.

Both of these can be done to harddrives, servers and DVDs. File backups can also be done to CDs. Tapes are not supported by these tools but third party tools will support tape.

Vista now incorporates the volume shadow service so that you can go back through previous versions of files on your computer. The system only takes snapshots once a day.

System restore has been improved. This also uses the volume shadow service and the Windows Restore Environment allows you to roll back a system snapshot even if your copy of Vista won’t boot.

On the offline file side of things, the development team have listened to a lot of the complaints and seemed to have fixed a lot of the problems. For example, if a share goes offline, the offline file system only takes that share offline. It doesn’t take the entire server offline (which is what XP does). This makes a massive difference if, for example, you are making "My Documents" available through DFS. It means that the "My Documents" path can now go offline but you could still access GPOs, etc, through the rest of the domain DFS tree.

Synchronisation has been improved and it sounds as if it uses a similar technology to the R2 file replication stuff, where only bits of files are thrown around. This means that you can now synchronise PSTs, MDBs – in fact, any file! Woo hoo!

Transitioning between online & offline is now seamless and synchronisation takes place in the background. Only your own files are synchronised now, not everyone who uses that computer.

Slow link speed stuff now works as it should do. It operates as a state between online & offline. If your link speed to the server is too slow, you are effectively working offline. However, you can perform a manual sync and the computer then returns to "offline" working. If the link speed ever gets fast enough, you will be transitioned to online.

This is all really good stuff and addresses pretty much all of the problems we’ve had with offline files and backups with XP and our global users.


9 responses to “Tech-Ed 2006: New Backup & Offline Files Features in Vista

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