MicrosoftWindows Home ServerWhy I got a Windows Home Server

Why I got a Windows Home Server

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For a few years now, I’ve wanted to purchase a file server for my home. I wanted to have my desktop, laptop, and my wife’s laptop be able to simply share files. Having had more than one disk crash, and seeing people lose their life’s work due to a disk crash, I knew that I wanted some kind of redundancy, so I would not lose valuable data, like pictures.

At first, I set up a simple share on my desktop computer, and periodically copied files from it to somewhere else – CD’s, DVD’s, dual layer DVD’s, a spare hard disks in an external enclosure, my laptop. But this wasn’t organized properly. In addition, if the desktop computer was powered off, or in use playing a game, network access was a problem.

So I decided that I needed a dedicated, network attached storage. That’s what a NAS is – network attached storage. Not necessarily a dedicated computer, not necessarily a high-end storage device that big corporations have. Just something simple. Just something with at least two disks, that would mirror each other.

I spent the better part of a year looking at the various NAS devices, reading reviews, looking at pricing, checking prices, and learning that some of them allow access from the internet, some only allow one user at a time.

I also looked at signing up for storing my files on the ‘net, but that’s too slow for real use. I did think that putting a backup copy out on the ‘net would be a good idea, albeit fairly expensive and cumbersome.

And, backing up all the computers in the house would be a good idea.

Oh, yea, and in the mean time, we had a baby. Baby pictures and videos are very important. I REALLY needed a shareable, reliable and fast network attached storage (NAS).

And then, Microsoft released Windows Home Server (WHS), and Hewlett-Packard (HP) released the MediaSmart Home Server running WHS.

I know a bit about running servers, but I don‘t want to have to get an MCSE just to store some photos. The WHS is made for the novice user, but has enough features and add-ons to make advanced novices, like myself, and even most professionals happy.

I priced out the various NAS options with a couple of 1 terabyte (TB) disk drives, and I priced the WHS. The feature set of the WHS is so much more impressive than any NAS anywhere in the price range, for my needs, I just had to have one. My wife agreed.

So, what does the WHS do that is so AWESOME?

I am setting up accounts for grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, out-laws (just kidding), friends and extended family. They can all visit my WHS to see photos and videos of baby, as well as upload their own photos and videos.

I am copying all of the CD’s and DVD’s with old photos to it, for the wife.

I am copying tax, warranty, manuals, important documents and such to it.

I finally have a real backup of all of the computers in the house.

I bought an EeePC for the living room, and it is also backed up. I did a manual backup out of the box, and did a manual backup after installing some drivers, windows updates, security software, and programs.

It’s fast, and it takes very little power, and can sleep at night.

It monitors the computers in the house for Windows Firewall and security alerts, like if someone turns off the firewall.

There are add-ins to manage virus software on all of the PC’s in the house (Avast).

And, there are add-ins to automatically copy data to off-site storage on the ‘net, just in case something terrible, like a fire, destroys your house. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that if you have a fire, you at least still have your wedding and baby pictures?

So, that’s why you should get a WHS – file sharing, backup, and sharing baby pictures with the family.

Why should I get my mother (mother-in-law, grandmother, uncle, brother, friend, etc.) a WHS?

How many times has your mother had a computer question that you could fix if there was a backup of the system, or files? WHS has built-in backup, and it is easy to use.

How many times has your mother asked you to store photos and home movies? WHS can do this easily. The HP MediaSmart comes with software to publish photos on it, or on some popular web sites.

How many times has your mother misplaced an important document at home? WHS can store all these files, and they can be searched. There are add-ins to help manage this for you.

How many times has your mother had a problem that you could fix if you were sitting at the computer? WHS has a web interface that can allow you to remotely connect to other computers (this requires XP Professional, Vista Business/Enterprise/Ultimate, and doesn’t work on XP Home or Vista Home – however, there are FREE software such as UltimateVNC that can be used).

There are add-ins like WHSTweet that you can set up on the WHS to use Twitter to send you alerts of issues. So, if your mother’s WHS has a disk failure, you will know, before she does, and you can put in a new one, quickly.

I recommend that my friends, family and the in-laws get a WHS.

I recommend that you get one too.

Michael Peele
Michael Peelehttp://
Michael Peele has been an IT manager for more than 11 years, with a current day-job at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC. Michael is a self-proclaimed "advanced novice" or "power user", and feels that he is the target audience for Windows Home Server. He beta-tested Windows 95, and is a general early-adopter (not much of a beta-tester, though), he purchased Vista 64-bit early on. He has a wide range of experience in technology management, and works as an independent consultant, periodically, primarily for IT Management and IT Security services. He has presented at numerous conferences and written several articles (primarily university-related). Many years ago, he worked on a team writing a hint book for id's Quake. Michael has a number of qualifications, including a MS in Technology Management, BS in Electrical Engineering, and multiple certifications, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP), is Board Certified in Security Management (CPP), and is considering other IT certifications, such as A+, Network+, Security+, SSCP/CISSP, and some Microsoft certifications, but hasn't had reason to sit for the tests.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great information Michael, I was in the same situation as you, PC's and notebooks everywhere and not time to build, never mind manage a full fledged server. WHS was a great solution and solved a myriad of problems so far.

    I liked it so much I also wrote up an article walking through the decision process of why I went with it (great minds think alike?). You can read through it here, and leave me any feedback you may have, http://www.squidoo.com/windows-home-server-info

  2. I did not go the HP way and buy an out of the box WHS. I found a HP pc (1.8 ghz, 512 mem, 160 hd) at a garage sale for $5.00. I bought the WHS software at FRY's and easily set up the system. After two backups of my wife's PC her hard drive died with all of art work and business records. After putting in a new hard drive and loading the client software the restore was a simple drag & drop from the server to the pc.

    The computer gods where really looking out for me.

    If you have more than one computer you need a WHS and they are not hard to build!.

    Phil

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