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How file services could save your bacon

Mar 26, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* What's new in Windows Server 2003 file services?

This week we’re looking at the new and improved features of the rather mundane topic of file services that will be released with Windows Server 2003 later this spring. Last issue, I ended with a look at the Volume Shadow Copy Service, which allows you to take snapshots of storage volumes but there’s also a similar feature that’s more user- (rather than administrator) focused called Shadow Copy Restore (Previous Versions). It’s an odd name, but appropriate.

Shadow Copy Restore (Previous Versions) provides what Microsoft calls “point-in-time copies” for network folders. Users can easily access previous versions of their files through Windows Explorer by right-clicking on a file or folder. Using Shadow Copies, a Windows Server 2003-based file server will efficiently and transparently maintain a set of previous versions of all files on the file server provided, of course, there’s sufficient storage space available.

To me, this is one of the most desirable new features and a sufficient reason to upgrade to Win2K3. How often are you, your staff or your helpdesk called upon to restore a file because some user “updated” or “changed” some information and unintentionally removed important data? Provided sufficient storage is available (and the Virtual Disk Service we looked at last issue should make that easy enough) any user could recall any previous version of a file. This also protects against overwriting a file, something that happens all too often.

Suppose that a user was meant to save a file called 0324NT02 (which, coincidently, is the name of the file holding the content of this newsletter) but instead saved it as 0324NT01 (which, coincidently, is the file name for the previous newsletter) – something that has happened to me on more than one occasion. Under the new Shadow Copy Restore (Previous Versions) technology, I’d only need to load 0324NT01 into my word processor and resave it as 0324NT02, then close the file. Using Windows Explorer, I could right click on 0324NT01 and choose the previous version to load, then resave that as the new 0324NT01 and all of my work is preserved. That’s a time saver for the user (maybe even a job saver!), but also a money saver for you – no need to spend time (and helpdesk salary) searching for other copies of the overwritten file on disk or tape and then trying to restore.

There’s a lot more new and improved in file services for Windows Server 2003, but we need to move on to other aspects of the OS. Download and read the “Technical Overview of Windows Server 2003 File Services”  ( to learn more about this fascinating area.