I have been personally using Window Home server for about a year now. What is Home Server you ask, good question. Windows Home Server is an Operating System that allows one computer to become a hub of sorts. Not a hub like a switch but a media hub. It is designed to store all of your pictures, videos, backups and the such on one computer. It is basically a Windows Server 2003 machine that is inexpensive in price, easy to operate and is designed to keep a small office or your home data organized and safe.
There are several benefits to using a Windows Home Server in your house or small business (10 or less computers). First are the backup capabilities, if all your data is on one PC and you have a backup plan then you know it was backed up. Let’s say you have an external NAS (Network Attached Storage), you will backup the home server to the NAS. Windows Home Server is itself a backup device. You can backup from your desktop computers to the Home Server (ok, from now on WHS = Windows Home Server). WHS comes with the software and you can schedule what to backup. So we have your local computers backup to the WHS and then redundantly you backup the WHS to a NAS (or off site location such as Mozy.com).
What else can WHS server do for you? In my home, I have ripped not only all CD‘s, moved all family home videos and pictures but I have also ripped my favorite DVD’s to the home server. Now any computer in the house can play any of the movies at any time, no searching for the DVD. At the same time, in another room music can be played from the WHS to the computer in that room while on a 3rd computer the photos are being edited for scrapbooking. Keep in mind that I have a gigabit network in place BUT the WHS only has a 10/100 NIC so data streaming could be limited but thus far has not. I can play 2 movies at once without issue but 3 movies are choppy, this could be the network cards limit of 100MB or the hard drives data streaming limit.
One of the many features that I like about WHS is the ability to add hard drives if, no when, I run out of space. The naming convention is different but basically every drive I add is an extension to drive D:. There is not trying to remember what data is on what drive in which folder, it is all just there.
Another fun but seldom used feature is web site hosting. No, I don’t mean a web site for the world but rather one for your small office, an internal web site. All of the capabilities are there.
Moving on to the “issues” I have encountered with WHS. My only current (Windows updates and patches have solved all the others I previously experienced) issues are watching ripped media content. It seems that only XP Media Center and Vista Ultimate (I have not tried with Windows 7 Ultimate) have a listing called “DVD Library”. My Vista Home Premium machine and XP machines don’t display or play them quite so easily. Yes, they can be played, I just have to select the video files of the movie first, not the DVD title like I can with the Ultimate and Media Center versions of Windows). This issue however should be attributed to the other operating systems and not directly to WHS and this has little effect on businesses but can be frustrating for the home user at first.
I have installed WHS in several businesses as a backup solution and once properly implemented, it has proven time and time again an excellent backup and recovery strategy.
Overall I give 2 thumbs up to the WHS. If you are interested in one, you can have one built but IFix Computers or some major manufactures have prebuilt machines. More information is available at Microsoft.
Until we meet again, have a virus free week.