The crowd settles.  The pizza crumbs clear away.   A fresh wind blows through the door.

*2009*

The first meeting of the year, and what a way to knock them away.  Windows Home Server! 

A chance to see what it can REALLY do.

The lights dim lightly as Jacqueline Hutchison and Fred Gregory plugs in this tiny but power packed little system.  The reserve generators at Darlington kick in to help out.

A small system barely the size of two full sized hard cover books.   You can almost see the server software wanting to leap out and take hold.  Need to stand up and shout “Look out folks, I might be small looking but I can take hold of your house and your systems, sort it all out, bring you online, and enhance your life.”

All with the touch of one CD.

So what did we learn?

Windows Home Server has some pretty low requirements to run.

Pentium III 1Ghz     Recommended AMD Pentium 4 x64 or new x64 recommended for future upgrades

Minimum 512 meg ram – Recommended 512 ram

70 GB Hard drive, Recommended 2 x 300gb

It will work with

Windows XP SP2 or higher and Vista.

Wireless link from the server is not officially supported (but it can work)

Installs from DVD

Installation

“Brainless wizard install”

Jacqueline was describing her house where she walked in with the home server and between dropping it in and backing up of the entire house, it was all done in an hour and  half. All done.  The whole home network.

Now I don’t care WHO you are, you try doing that in a standard server environment.  Cold.  Out of the box.

One of the beautiful parts of Home Server is it TELLS you the problems, doesn’t wait for you to check for them.  Very Proactive.  It will identify which computers don’t have antivirus, which ones haven’t backed up recently.

The room lights up with interest as Jacqueline goes through the features, the ease of remote access and setting up.  Arms shoot into the air as questions launch in rapid-fire succession.

Interest peeks up as people discover how easy it is to work on the files on the home server remotely.

Fred Gregory fgregory@greg-tech.com, MCSE SBSC takes the stage next.  

What’s inside Home Server

Windows Server 2003 (based upon the SBS 2003 core)

Most of the server components are there an be can be used via a simple Remote Desktop connection. BUT it is highly recommended to do any work or Administration through the provided Windows Home Server Console as opposed to the standard MMC snap-ins.  For Windows Home Server you can also get “Add-ins” which allow you to extend the functionality of the system.   Many of these add-ins are free and a great set of resources Fred brought to our attention were.

http://www.wegotserved.co.uk

http://whsaddins.com

The cost of the software is as low as $99 US.  Some Canadian providers are going as high as $170.

Now interestingly enough you can just reuse old hardware based upon the system requirements but a few notes Fred brought to our attention.

If you going from scratch, try above all else to make the largest drive your primary drive.

Duplication is your friend in Windows Home Server.  Use it liberally.  Effectively you can mirror folders across mismatched drives using the Drive Extension technology WITHOUT Raid.

Things on old computers break.

It’s fun to build your own machine but the fully built OEM units are minimal cost more, have a manufacturer’s warranty.

Remember Windows Home Server is geared toward Grandpa and the non-technical user.

Current providers of Windows Home Servers are Hewlett Packard, Acer, Via, Shuttle,Tranquil and Fujitsu/Siemens

If you’re going to put together one yourself you’ll need a DVD rom Drive, keyboard, mouse and VGA connector for install.  Only for the install.

OEM systems from HP and others

Advantages

Warranty

Easy to add parts (hard drives)

Extra software or features

Disadvantages

No onboard /video / keyboard

limited expansion

minimum spec hardware

Home Made Home Servers

Warranty is your own problem

Standard O/S

No free software thrown in

Advantages

You can spec out your own hardware, thus making the system a lot more responsive than many OEM units.

Reusing machines is plausible but keep an eye on the standard caveat about any old machine.  It WILL break when you least expect it.

What was really cool to note was a lot of the freely downloadable features from Microsoft (WSUS, Windows Server 2005 R2, WSS can be added in and used)

Remote Access is gorgeous as is file access remotely.

In a nutshell, Windows Home Server while not designed for businesses, can be used as a drop in solution for some networks (under 10 users) or co-exist as a backup solution.  It can drop into a house and prevent the kids from losing music collections giving you a perpetual headache about recovering.  It’s simple enough the completely un-technically inclined can restore entire systems and access data.

It’s simple.

It’s powerful.

I’m wondering why you’re reading this right now rather than getting a Windows Home Server installed.