Windows Offline Folders – Not an effective backup

by | Jul 8, 2011 | jahlberg

I’ve used the Windows feature called Offline folders for years with great results. It allows me to flag a folder on the file server to be “offline” which means the data in that folder syncs to my local laptop hard drive so it can be seamlessly accessible while I am out of the office. There can be some random errors and times when the file on the server will get out of sync with my local one, but overall it works very well. If you want a solution for syncing network files locally then this might be a good option. If you expect this to be a “backup”, think again. This is my story.

I recently found that one of my offline folders was missing. I did a search for the data in case I moved the folder, but alas, it was gone. My first thought was to check my offline folders since it is a copy of what is on the network. The problem is that it is a copy, so the missing folder was missing locally and on the network. My next step was to look at my server backups since it should be there. My backups were fine, but the folder must have been deleted more than a month ago since the backups did not have the folder listed. Now I was beginning to panic since the missing folder had years of documents that I needed back. My next step was to look at my local laptop backups. I started doing full laptop backups using our Waident Watch technology which takes a backup of the entire C: drive allowing me to use the backup to restore my entire laptop in a matter of minutes if anything ever fails completely. I have some local backups that went back several months so the data is surely there since it would have synced up with the network so the files would be on the local drive. Well……

The backup was fine, but the Offline folders on the local C: drive are not files/folders, but some sort of Windows admin files that act as a database for the information. The only way to retrieve the information was to recover the entire computer and copy the data off. Not really a path I wanted to take since it would be painful and time consuming, even if I did the restore to a different computer. My next option was to dig up an old monthly backup of the server or spend a lot of time to get the local backup restored so I can recover the data. I opted to spend some time looking for another server backup first. Luckily I found one so I could recover the folder pretty quickly.

The moral of the story is to treat Offline folders are just what it is – files/folders that sync with the network. In the back of my mind I always figured that it also acted as a backup of sorts since they lived in both places. I learned my lesson.

John Ahlberg, CEO, Waident Technology Solutions

John Ahlberg
CEO, Waident

CIO in the corporate world and now for Waident clients. John injects order and technology into business process to keep employees productive, enterprises running, and data safe.

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