Microsoft Adds Online Backup to Windows Server 8 Beta (UPDATED)
- By Kurt Mackie
- March 12, 2012
Microsoft rolled out an online backup
service for the Windows Server 8 beta late last month, though not everyone can try it out.
The new Microsoft Online Backup Service is currently offered in the United States only as free trial via the
Microsoft Connect portal for those who qualify, although Microsoft indicated on March 16 that many trial spots still are available.
Users have to fill out an online survey form that asks about their number
of servers, how those servers are used and the amount of data that
typically gets backed up. Users may also need to have high-bandwidth connections to participate. UPDATE, 3/16: Microsoft indicated by e-mail that "the service supports backing up over a relatively slow connection -- the minimum requirement is only of 512 Kbps (less than 1 Mbps)."
The online backup service seems to have flown somewhat under the
radar. Its existence was pointed out last week by MVP Aidan Finn in a blog
post. Microsoft's description of the service can be found in a
whitepaper, which can be downloaded here. The service gets installed on the Windows
Server 8 beta, allowing "file and folder backups to the cloud
service." The user experience for this cloud-based backup service
is described as being similar to the user experience found in the
Windows Server backup feature. Testers have the option to use either
the GUI or PowerShell.
Microsoft is getting testing data before making this online backup
service available more broadly available, according to the white paper.
However, it isn't clear how the service will be offered or when.
Apparently, the service doesn't use Windows Azure. For instance,
Microsoft's white paper explains that the Windows Server 8 beta is
already preprovisioned to work with a Microsoft Online Services
account, which is required to use the backup service.
Data get encrypted when using the online backup service, but Finn
noted that users have to be careful to record the passphrase for data
encryption because Microsoft doesn't store it. Users won't be able
restore data if they lose that passphrase.
There are other restrictions with regard to the kind of data that
gets backed up by the service. For instance, users can back up encrypted
data and they can back up compressed data, but they can't back up
encrypted and compressed data.
Finn noted that Microsoft's document omitted any description of
"data de-duplication or compression before backup." UPDATE, 3/16: Microsoft clarified on this point via e-mail that "data is compressed on the server before it is transmitted to the service for backup. Only changed blocks are stored across different point[s] in times of the backup." Finn also noted that a description about backing up Hyper-V virtual machines isn't described in the document.
Some of the limitations of the backup service specified by Microsoft
include the inability to do system-state backups. Furthermore, for the
beta, the backup size is limited to 10 GB. Users of the beta are limited
to performing just three backups per day. The service just works with
the Windows Server 8 beta and does not work with other Windows
The backup service has some system requirements. To test the
service, a computing environment needs to have Windows PowerShell,
Windows Identity Framework and Windows Live ID client authentication
installed. Microsoft also suggests having about 1.5 GB of local cache
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.