Why would gamers find Windows Home Server a great solution? Let me identify a few cases that make it a great addition to your gaming “rig”.
As gamers, we tend to install add-on’s, accessories, and other utilities to tweak our systems for max performance and efficient gaming sessions. These tend to make a system unstable, often to the point of unusable. Windows Home Server’s ability to restore a system to a point in time allows us to undo changes that might have brought our gaming rig to it’s knees.
Beyond the nightly backup process, WHS also provides file shares for storing common utilities, installers, and other files necessary for a reinstall or the dreaded “rebuild”.
2. Media Storage
Often at a LAN party I see someone playing a game while watching a movie or even more often, listening to their music. Media storage on WHS provides essential functionality to the gamer in the form of offline/near line storage for the huge collection of video and music files we develop. While many gamers will recommend that this be stored on the gaming rig for immediate access, however there are a situations where storing the files on your WHS is a better solution, such as:
- When combined with a gaming console (Xbox 360/PS3)
- When disk space is at a premium on the gaming rig (always?!?)
- When you’ve set up your WHS to stream your media
Each of these can be a help to the avid gamer, especially when they have lost everything to a worm at their buddie’s LAN party, or more likely, after power problems when someone decides to make another pot of coffee once everyone has plugged into that one convenient outlet.
3. Console Integration
How many times have you wanted to watch that movie on your big screen TV, only to have to dig for the disc? As indicated above, with WHS and your console, this is not a problem. Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 support streaming music and movies from WHS. This experience would be improved with Media Center integrated into the WHS on the Xbox side, however this functionality is not required to access the media on our Windows Home Server. Both systems provide interfaces to connect to the WHS and access the media stored there. The catch, you need to encode your media in a format your console supports. Wikipedia has entries for both systems identifying the currently supported media formats. (The PS3 information is on a sub page found under the heading “Graphical user interface”, strangely enough.)
4. LAN Party Server
Many times I’ve hosted a LAN party or been at one only to find I needed to set up a file share on my rig, or find some other way to make sure everyone has the right maps and patches for their systems. With WHS, this file serving is already available, and turned on by default. Even more, if your system has enough horse power, it can be used to host dedicated servers on your network. Not every WHS system has the horsepower to host a game of Counter-Strike, or Day of Defeat, so you’ll need to check your specifications and figure out the requirements for the server you want to host. There are some other useful things you can host on WHS even with a low powered system, such as the open source voice server Murmur or a small Ventrilo server for you and your buddies.
5. Gaming Clan/Website
There are many companies that will host a clan website for you, however if you’re like me, you prefer to roll your own. If you’re the kind of person who has the interest and knowledge, this can be very rewarding. (warning: this approach is not for the meek!) Windows Home Server is essentially Windows Server 2003 with some business functionality removed. The most important part of the website (IIS) is already installed, and enabled by default. In fact, WHS will set up your router/gateway with port forwarding for you using UPnP (assuming your device supports it) so that you have a web presence even if you have no knowledge of web servers. In addition, WHS allows you to register a website at homeserver.com such as josephnell.homeserver.com allowing easy access to your home server when on the road.
These are just a few features that make Windows Home Server a great choice for gamers. There are even more once you start looking under the hood. If you’ve got a spare PC hanging around that meet the spec’s, why not try out WHS with the free trial available from Microsoft?
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