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Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 12

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Eric B. Rux

Windows Home Server in the Wild


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Coming Home to Windows Home Server Series

Doug and Heather Jacobson of Northwest Gift Company and Steamboat Productions sat down with me last week to discuss their experience with WHS. It was an interesting discussion that helped me understand how WHS can help a small business.

My first question to Doug and Heather was, “What do you like most about Windows Home Server?” Without question, they were really impressed with the solution's worry-free daily-backup capability. Right now, they have four computers that run their businesses, and WHS faithfully backs up each computer each night. They also told me that they appreciate the pop-ups in the System Tray that notify them in the event of a backup failure.

We actually spent a great deal of time discussing the importance of data backups. Heather understands this all too well: She had a hard drive crash a few years ago and lost over six and a half years of historical accounting data. Fortunately, the data loss didn’t affect her ability to deliver the gift baskets that she makes, but this is data that she will never be able to get back. If she ever has a hard drive crash again, she’ll be able to restore the data literally in minutes.

Doug, on the other hand, had a recent success story concerning data loss. He has a successful business creating websites and creating video productions. Recently, a video that he had spent about 20 to 30 hours on became corrupted. His deadline was quickly approaching, and he just didn't have time to recreate the project from scratch. Lucky for Doug, he was able to restore the file from a recent backup, and he lost only about 30 minutes worth of work. Most important, he was able to deliver on his commitment and, in the end, he kept a loyal customer happy.

I must say, I'm very impressed with Doug and Heather's attitude concerning the safety of their data; they take it seriously. They have been burned in the past by not having any restoration capability, and they've seen how much work that capability can save. Many businesses (small or large) aren't prepared for the inevitable, but Doug and Heather are.

After we finished our discussion about data backup, we moved on to some of WHS's other features. Remote access came up, and Doug shared a story in which he was at a prospective customer’s office, and the customer wanted more information. I understand the kind of situation he described: The customer tells you what he or she wants you to demonstrate, you prepare everything on your laptop, and head out to the customer's site. When you get there, the customer informs you that he or she wants you to demonstrate something else. When this situation happened to Doug, he was able to simply navigate to his WHS system from his laptop, connect to his home network via the built-in SSL VPN, and then take remote control of the computer in his office. In just a few minutes, he was able to show the customer the altered demonstration, and he closed the deal.

What feature of WHS do Doug and Heather want to implement next? With the Action Pack that Microsoft released earlier this year, you can now back up your WHS system to an external drive. Doug and I discussed a simple rotation in which you have two large external hard drives in your backup scheme. One drive is always attached to the WHS system, and the other is safely stored at an offsite location. Depending on your business requirements, you'll want to swap these every week or so. Some businesses will want to swap the drives every day. Adding this functionality would bring even more data security to Doug and Heather's business.

On the fun side, Doug and Heather told me they like to stream music and videos to their Xbox 360. Instead of having their albums spread throughout the house and in separate rooms, their entire entertainment investment is safely stored in one location. Their daughter even likes it! She said, “We own that CD”? when she discovered it on the WHS interface.

I really enjoyed my talk with Doug and Heather and appreciate their taking time out of their busy schedule to talk to me about WHS. At the end of the meeting, they promised to read my other articles to get more ideas about how to best use their WHS implementation. I can’t wait to hear back from them!

<< Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 11 | Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 13 >>



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