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Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 1

Oct 15, 2007 12:00 PM, Eric B. Rux

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Coming Home to Windows Home Server Series

Welcome home! I know it's been a long, hard day at work, but we really need to talk about your home office. It's not what it should be. What if someone breaks into your home and takes your laptop? What if there's a fire, and you lose a lot of valuable, irreplaceable data? We need to discuss a solution that will be easy to set up and maintain, and best of all, will put your mind at ease. You need a server for your home.

Are you taking care of your valuable electronic data? Many of us that work in IT take pride in ensuring that our company can recover from a disaster. Yet, we generally forget about the safety and security of our own home networks. Most home networks are also "disconnected" from the rest of the world. Sure, we have some sort of Internet connectivity, but it's one-way communication. Unlike our corporate network, there isn't an easy, secure way to connect to our home network if we need to download an important file or show Grandma the latest pictures of the kids.

These aren't new problems. They've been around for as long we've had PCs in the home. There are even solutions to some of the problems, such as VPN via a modified Linksys router. Windows Small Business Server (SBS) is also a great solution to many of the aforementioned problems, but it's far too expensive and complicated for the average home user. The solution needs to be inexpensive, easy to navigate, and have a low administrative overhead.

The solution, and the focus of this column, is a new product from Microsoft called Windows Home Server. WHS has been designed for the average "non-technical" home user, but it's built on Windows Server 2003 SP2, so it has goodies that the technical professional would want. It really is the best of both worlds. In this first part of an extended series, I'll start by introducing some of Windows Home Server's features at a glance.

Easy Backup

If you've ever installed and configured a corporate backup system, you know how difficult it can be. WHS takes the complexity out of the backup process and automatically configures it for the user. When the WHS client is installed onto a PC, the entire backup setup is taken care of. If you're a power user and want to dig into the details and perhaps change how your system is backed up, those options are available as well.

Simple Restore

Just as configuring a backup solution can be wrought with complexities that the average user doesn't want to deal with, restoring files can also be intimidating. WHS makes restores easy by presenting the user with a Windows Explorer-like interface during restoration process. Now, getting your deleted files back is as easy as drag-and-drop.

Centralized Storage

You know how convenient your corporate file server is. WHS brings that capability to your home. Storing all your files in a single location brings up new problems the result of "storing all of your eggs in one basket." Fortunately, Microsoft wrote some cool features into the product that will ease your concerns. I'll cover these in a future article.

Remote Access

WHS takes Remote Desktop to a whole new level. Instead of just letting you take remote control of computers you're close to (on the same network), WHS helps you securely connect to your home network from anywhere. The setup is simple, but if you have a newer home router that has UPnP, WHS does most of the work for you.

Simple Monitoring

Just because you add a cool server to your home network doesn't mean you want to be your family's daily administrator. You probably want to come home and take a break! WHS helps in this arena by providing some simple monitoring tools to ensure that all your Windows Vista computers are being backed up, and that Windows Firewall, Windows Update, and your antivirus software are functioning correctly.

New Features

Microsoft built this great product on top of Windows 2003, so it's a "real" server product. Microsoft also wrote a WSH software development kit (SDK) so that developers and third-party vendors can add to the product. When HP releases its WHS appliance, the company is expected to offer features above and beyond those on the WHS CD-ROM. Even during the WHS beta process, developers were starting to write cool add-ons. I'll cover these soon.

WHS is about to change the way many of us take care of and connect to our home networks. It's a great product that I can't wait to tell you more about. Stay tuned to this space for my continued coverage of WHS!

Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 2 >>



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