UserVoice #3: Provide support for backup and restore of a single project

Hi Readers,

I’m so very happy! And it should come as no surprise to you if you are a LinkedIn connection or know anything about me. I’ll tell you why I’m happy:

I’m an MVP! 

This basically means that I would need to change my UserVoice series a little bit by stating that I’m reaching out to my fellow MVP’s in the Project and Portfolio Management space. Today, we have Guillaume Rouyre as a guest MVP. He wanted us to take a closer look at the UserVoice item:

Provide support for backup and restore of a single project

And just like many great ideas on the UserVoice for MS Project… This one has been on the site for quite some time, Feb 9, 2016! to be exact.

As of September 2018: There have been 204 votes and 13 comments on this item. Let’s increase it and start voting for this to come to Project Online.

My take on the Backup and Restore functionality

Systems crash, servers mall function, but more commonly users misbehave. For whatever reason (and I can name a few) a project manager might need to restore a previous (non corrupt) version of the schedule. And with a restore you could introduce another functionality such as Archiving projects and restoring them at a later stage.

Both scenario’s aren’t possible in Project Online. Mainly the situation of corrupted schedules and restoring a previous version is a miss in the cloud version of Project Server.

Now there are alternatives, for instance FluentPro has a service that assists your organization in a backup and restore similar to the service that was available on the server. But it’s strange that such a basic computer need is lacking on the out of the box functionality.

Guillaume has a great story worth reading. He not only focuses on the need for the functionality, but also gives us a great view on what it used to be like on the server side of life.

An MVP’s view (Guillaume Rouyre)

For those who started working on Project with the on-premise versions such as Project Server 2010/2013/2016, there used to be a back-up and restore feature. It was very well appreciated by users and administrators. That being said, despite what is being said in the user voice comments, this feature was not managed by project managers themselves, unless they had extended permissions.

Basically, the administrator configured the retention policy, i.e. a number of backed up versions. This was a nightly back-up working as a FIFO. For example, if you defined 3 versions of retention, Project Server used to back-up the project at night if any changes were made since the last back-up (last night), removing the oldest of the 3 versions. To resume, you always had 3 versions of your projects.

Note that if the project manager published many times his projects during the day, only the last version was backed up. Note also that you could back up custom fields, resources, etc, but we usually only backed up projects. From a back office point of view, Project Server backed up the published versions in an archive database. On the project manager demand, administrator could restore the appropriate archived version in the draft database.

As I said before, this was very well appreciated since project managers knew that they could always recover a previous version. It was also appreciated by administrators to always keep completed projects in the archive database, once removed from draft/publish databases.

Backup and restore functionality in Project Server 2013

Jumping to Project Online, this feature was deprecated. Just a guess, but it might be due to a storage constraint. If you set your retention policy to 10, Microsoft would have to store up to 10 times your published database.

Even if third party tools are available, it is among the most requested feature in Project User Voice to be implemented in Project Online. Back in 2017, without sharing any confidential information under NDA, Microsoft presented to MVPs a roadmap with a restore feature directly accessible by the project manager in Project. Even though the feature is not marked under evaluation in the User Voice, I do believe Microsoft will work on this feature soon.

I imagine something like a “restore previous versions” button in the backstage menu of the desktop client, where the user will be able to restore a certain number of previous versions. Still, I think that the retention policy itself should be managed at enterprise level by the administrator, but the restore feature itself would be in the project managers’ hands.

I guess the mechanism would remain the same: a nightly backup of the published projects restored on the draft database. Or if Microsoft manages to build kind of a local cache for published versions, every published versions (and not only the last one of each day) could be restored.

If I go on dreaming, since I think the focus will be on the web client for the next years (the core of the project center is still the same since Project Server 2002…), this feature would also be available in PWA.

Call to Action (final notes)

Hi reader, welcome to the end of the page :). And I’m glad you reached it. Backup functionality isn’t the most exciting topic to discuss. However, I hope that Guillaume and I have stressed the need for the functionality.

Now it’s your turn: take action and vote on the topic.

2 thoughts on “UserVoice #3: Provide support for backup and restore of a single project”

    1. Hi Joe, thanks for the kind words! And yes very observant of you. Microsoft announced a lot at this year’s Ignite. At the moment there isn’t enough data to support any theories in regards to this UserVoice item. But I did see somewhere that UserVoice is being noticed more. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the top struggles will be solved eventually in the New Project Service. I’ll be sure to cover it if we get there.

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