Microsoft has quietly removed a key backup feature from an upcoming update for Windows Home Server, much to the frustration of channel partners who've been touting this particular feature of the product to customers.
In January at CES, Microsoft announced Home Server Power Pack 1 and said it would not only fix a number of minor issues in the software, but also give users the ability to perform full Home Server data backups on external storage devices, including the backup database. PP1 is due for release in the second half of the year.
Last week, Todd Headrick, marketing director for Windows Home Server, said the ability to back up the backup database has been dropped from Power Pack 1.
"The feature had to be cut due to the interplay with the connector install and the fact that consumers may hork their backup database by doing an incomplete backup or interrupting the restore process. The team will look to add this functionality in a future release after Power Pack 1," Headrick wrote in a post on Microsoft's Windows Home Server forums.
In an email to ChannelWeb, Joel Sider, senior product manager for the Windows Server Solutions Group, said Power Pack 1 will provide a server backup and restore feature that will allow users to offload and protect their pictures, music, documents stored in Home Server's Shared Folders.
Until recently, information about Power Pack 1 was cloaked under a Microsoft NDA, which is why the cutting of the database backup feature came as an unpleasant surprise to many Home Server partners and users, some of whom vented their spleen to the rest of the Home Server community.
"Are you serious? It's ok for Microsoft and the MVPs to talk about Power Pack 1 and it's features since January, but it's not ok to mention the fact that 'Oh yeah, by the way, one piece of the community's most-wanted (not to mention previously-announced) features got scrapped some time ago due to low quality issues'?" wrote poster Kariya21.
In a recent post on Microsoft's Windows Home Server community forum, Microsoft MVP Ken Warren said it's still possible for users to back up the backup database manually.
"As I've been saying for some time, Power Pack 1 will not provide a tool to back up your backup database. 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," Warren wrote.
Other Microsoft MVPs were less willing to forgive Microsoft for removing the backup feature. "I am all about holding the product back until it's perfect, but if you ship a product and then yank its primary feature set what are you left with?" wrote Vlad Mazek, a Microsoft Exchange MVP and Small Business Specialist based in Orlando, Fla., in a Wednesday blog post.
Mark Crall, president of Charlotte Tech Care Team, a Microsoft Small Business Specialist in Charlotte, N.C., says it's possible that Microsoft's ultimate goal of tying Windows Home Server in the Live Services could be causing the delay. "Knowing that Microsoft would like to integrate Live Services with the Essential Server Solutions family, it makes sense," he said.
Power Pack 1 will include a fix for the serious data corruption bug in Home Server that surfaced last December and which Microsoft says it's on course to repair sometime in June.
Chris Rue, CEO of Black Warrior Technology, a Northport, Ala.-based solution provider, is willing to be patient with Microsoft on the data corruption issue, but says the combination of problems in Windows Home Server is causing some partners' patience to wear thin.
"Partners may be getting more amped up about the backup issue because of the earlier data corruption bug, but it seems like the Windows Home Server group needs to take stock of the situation and get their act together," said Rue.
This article was updated Thursday afternoon to add comment from Microsoft and correct information about the data corruption issue being fixed in Home Server Power Pack 1