Originally Posted by Booga
This is a good background article, but it misses the point of Time Machine, I think. Backing up files is old news, and I'm sure Time Machine does it as well as anyone. The real magic of Time Machine, though, is information retrieval. It's something that Shadow Copy and rsync can't hope to do.
In a traditional file backup solution, if you discover one missing record in your Address Book, you'd have to go get all your incremental backups, restore each file in turn, look for the record, and if you find it export it manually, then restore the current version and import it.
With Time Machine, you just search back through time using the same search field you do normally. It will go back in time and find the first instance of the search criteria and allow you to restore just that record to the present. THAT is revolutionary. The rest is just another implementation of an old concept.
The Shadow Copy service in Vista can do just that. In fact, Sharepoint and Exchange implements this feature extremely well. I can pull back any one piece of data (a calendar event, email, contact etc.) without restoring or exporting the entire record.
Even with Previous Docs you can open up an old folder and just re-instate one file out of that shadow copied folder. The API lets you go even further detail by allowing (or disallowing) certian items to be restored together AND NOT separately. For instance, if you have a bank record of a deposit into one account (item 1) from another account ( item 2) you can make it so it is impossible to reverse item one without reversing item 2 at the same time. That's a simplistic example but it shows the power of A.C.I.D. transactions in Vista/NTFS6.
The data backup features related to Shadow Copy are only useful if a Windows machine is running in an environment with a server backing them up. Shadow Copy is not in itself a backup system, although it can present a listing of duplicated files that were captured by the shadow copy service. Without a dedicated backup system, Previous Versions only shows local shadows of a file. It does not copy files to an external disk for safekeeping, and its shadow copies can't be browsed through by the user in the file system by date or by query. Shadow Copy is certainly not an easy to use consumer backup solution (nor is intended to be), which is what Time Machine expressly is.
That's incorrect. Vista comes with a backup program (that uses Shadow Copy) that can copy incremental backups to external media and hard drives as well as network connected drives. Previous Docs also allows one to search and browse through backups using Windows Explorer by date, time, and numerous other criteria. In fact, if you open a folder from the previous docs window you will see that the address bar shows you the name, date, and time of the folder snapshot in naturall language and that you can do a natural language search over that data or use the breadcrumb bar to see other times and snapshots registered in the file system.