Windows backup application falls short

XLink's FilePreserver, which allows users to restore files from snapshots, is a great idea but the execution is flawed.

One of the first products that works in conjunction with Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy (VSC) to make point-in-time copies of files on a transaction level, XLink's FilePreserver allows users to restore files from snapshots taken within the previous six months. However, the user interface needs work to make it friendlier, and stability and security are both a problem.

FilePreserver creates snapshots of data files, and then uses VSC to record changes to files as they occur, even if the file is open or locked. Users can restore those files to their states contained in any of the snapshots. FilePreserver doesn't make copies of entire files. Instead, it records discrete changes to the files.

FilePreserver has plenty of problems that prevent its use in corporate environments, and its lack of an intuitive user interface will restrict it to power users. The file list, for example, doesn't support drag and drop. Restoring entire folders through Windows Explorer is straightforward, but restoring individual files requires you to work through the FilePreserver configuration dialog box. Furthermore, creating a temporary folder in which to restore files requires that you open a new Windows Explorer window, because the FilePreserver dialog box doesn't allow you to create folders.

Not for file servers

If your goal is to allow users to restore their own files on a network server, FilePreserver isn't suitable. It's also not suitable for users who store files on their local computer in order to have a snap stored to a network drive. Even though you can install FilePreserver on a file server and it'll back up any file or folder that you configure, only console users can restore files. If you're looking for a server product to provide continuous file backup, then Windows 2003 Server VSC with the VSC client deployed to client computers is a better choice.

FilePreserver can also pose a security risk. XLink apparently designed the product for single-user computers, so it's not appropriate for use in environments where users share computers. There's only one snapshot configuration, which includes the list of files and folders that FilePreserver backs up. It stores this list in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry hive, so it's shared among all users. Also, FilePreserver stores all of its snapshots in C:ProgramFilesFilePreserverSCVol using the default ACL for the Program Files folder. This is a huge security problem because users now have access to other users' files through Windows Explorer.

In my test lab, FilePreserver consistently crashed the computer every time I added a file to the snapshot. It wasn't a polite failure, either. The computer spontaneously rebooted. After logging back on and clicking through Windows error reporting, I was able to successfully add the file. I reported this problem to XLink, but they were unable to reproduce it. The company has committed to improving the product.

This article originally appeared in Storage Magazine.

For more information:

Tip: Be wary of Shadow Copy limitations

Tip: Resource guide to snapshots (or point-in-time copies)

You can download an evaluation copy from the XLink Web site at www.xlink.com.


About the author: Jerry Honeycutt is a freelance writer who specializes in Windows subjects.
This was first published in June 2004

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