Should You Get Windows Home Server?

alphaxion should have been a happy customer:

Do you have the same thought as I do when it comes to the windows home server product in that their fear of losing small business server sales has caused them to miss a big opportunity to bring about some very cool parental control or even just user control with simple active directory functions (restricted logon times, roaming profiles) and the sheer capacity that group policy has (it would have to be in a super user friendly mega wizardised interface tho) to restrict and limit a user in what they can do.
If they also did a cust down module of ISA that you could purchase and simply “plug in” to the server and provide a web proxy without needing massive amounts of knowledge, you could have a means for restricting and monitoring your kids browsing habits.

Instead none of this will make it into WHS and it’ll be nothing more than an overpriced password sync, file storage, backup and “network health monitoring” device.. of which the health monitoring section will prolly cause loads of confusion and/or just get ignored (which of course can still potentially happen to the points I raised).

I also tried to get my hands on an evaluation version of WHS to see what it was like but they were wanting to charge me to have it shipped my way (why they can’t offer it as a downloadable iso file like most other items I don’t know).

I used their feedback form to suggest to them that they should enable ISO download for this because I refuse to pay $10 for an evaluation version of software, regardless of if that is to cover shipping fees or not. I got an email back from them telling me that it wasn’t available outside of the US.. I then got a further email apologizing for the incorrect info given in the previous email and they proceeded to tell me “it’s not the software you’re paying for but the shipping”.. so they never bothered to listen to my “I don’t want to pay any money for any evaluation software, I would like to download it rather than waste time and resources on a physical version being shipped to me!

Utterly useless!

I’d be interested in knowing what your take on windows home server is and if you see it the way I do – why bother spending all that money on what is essentially a backup device (especially when online backup services offer greater protection at cheaper prices, tho from what I’ve read the backup procedure is pretty slick.. never underestimate a slick interface for getting users to do something like this) when it isn’t capable of a fraction of the potential it could have had.

13 thoughts on “Should You Get Windows Home Server?”

  1. wheeee.. it’s like the first time you catch your ugly mug on the cover of a supermarket trash-zine (you know the types “scandal: see britneys orange peal!” types 😉 ).

  2. i know how u feel, why don’t they have a downloadable version. Paying cash just to try software is nonsense. Well they do like to lose potential costumers, that’s something they have always been good at…

    anyway you might wan’t to try a free alternative like “ubuntu home server”

    http://www.ubuntuhomeserver.org/

    very easy to setup and friendly forums.

    it’s rather new project but should get you started quickly.

    Can’t be better than the ubuntu community backing it 🙂

  3. also if you need a pre-installed and affordable paid option you can check EZblue.

    as i found a costumer in a forum:

    I recently bought a linux server from a place called EZblue who makes a custom version of Debian that takes care of all the problems of setting up the server. It has a five minute install, which is amazing for linux since it usually takes hours to get a linux server setup properly. Rumor says that they’re about to release a new home server version for under $100. I bought the Business server version and host my website off of my home cable line. Their website is at http://ezbluesoftware.com/

    anyway i suggest you try ubuntu home server first.

  4. I love having home servers, both Unix and Microsoft Windows. Recently I starting taking advantage of my MSDN license and setup a Windows 2008 Server at home with virtualization. Now I have 4 servers running off of one box with 8GB ram, 4 500GB SATA 10,000RPM drives, and dual-quad core Xeons. This system, with all the virtual servers runs better than most single server’s out there! Even better is Microsoft’s new IIS7.0, much more secure.

    At home I use my servers for education, redundancy, data storage, and most importantly as a testing environment.

  5. I bought a PC from newegg.com for $100 added 512Mb memory stick and a 250GB SATA drive. total cost $200. I installed this EZblue Business Server trial CD on it. I was up and running in about 7 minutes. I did try ubuntu but all I got is a black screen with a linux $ . I didn’t want to learn Linux . I just wanted to have a good server.
    I think these guys at EZblue needs someone that can help them market this thing. I can’t believe how easy it was to install. You can try it for yourself. Get the free CD. The download is ok but it took about 20 minutes.
    http://ezbluesoftware.com/

  6. I’ve heard that despite the steps taken to separate function from SBS, Microsoft is expecting some take-up from small businesses as an entry backup solution. They won’t market it that way, but watch for activity.

    Home and business “IT” needs are converging in some ways, with multi-PC homes starting to take on some client/server characteristics, and businesses feeling the consumer-esque Digital Revolution with an explosion of media.

  7. I downloaded a beta version of WHS several months ago, and installed it on a test machine in my house. I set up 2 other machines that we no longer use on a daily basis (both with Win XP) with the WHS Connector. After all is said and done, I have to agree that it is an overpriced backup device.

    Let’s create an example: You have a home with 3-4 computers, and a WHS. You install the connector on all 4 computers, and set them to backup nightly. You have to leave ALL computers in your home on if you want them to back up. So, let’s say you do that – they get backed up. Question: Can you log onto any computer in the house and get the same files, programs, and settings like you could in a Domain environment? Answer: No. Why? Because the files aren’t stored centrally, only backups are. WHS has a shared folders feature, right? Yes. Are they backed up, too? I don’t think so. Not unless you set the WHS to back itself up, which, using the normal Connector interface, I don’t think you can.

    As far as its Network Health component is concerned, as easy as it looks to someone like myself, I think the average user could still not understand it. A relative of mine thought she had firewall and anti-virus protection through her ISP. When she got her new computer, she just plugged it in and that was it. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize she actually had to install the security software from the ISP. So, is the theory of the Network Health center good? Yes. Will people know what to do with it? Possibly. Possibly not. It could get ignored by many.

    So, in reality, is there any benefit with WHS that cannot be achieved via NAS device? Probably not, at least for the average user.

    With the beta I downloaded, I did have the ability to set up an Active Directory Domain, with Roaming User Profiles, special server roles (such as Exchange, IIS, ISA, etc.). But what home user knows how to do that? None that I know. Also, if anyone did want to set up an AD domain, they would need to have Windows 2000 Pro, XP Pro, Vista Business, or Vista Ultimate, to even use the AD services. What home user has all of those? Some, but not most. Most have XP Home, or Vista Home Basic/Premium.

    Furthermore, anyone who had the technical know-how to set up such an elaborate network would not even buy WHS, would they? Probably not. Instead, they would buy Windows Small Business Server 2003, or maybe even Windows Server 2003 Standard.

    No, in my opinion, WHS is useless, and will be a total flop. Just like Windows MCE, and possibly Vista. (OK, so MCE and Vista aren’t TOTAL flops, but they are awfully close). I also tested Windows XP MCE, and Windows Vista Ultimate (I now own a copy of Ultimate), and was very disappointed. The concept was good, but the end result was not.

    I also own an iMac, and (I’m afraid to say) I love it. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its flaws (and believe me, it has many), but it seems to be a very good system, comparable to Windows. Do I believe the Mac vs. PC ads? Not really. But the Mac is comparable to Windows. Even so, I don’t think they have really understood the whole home network and media center computer thing, either.

    My Advice: Invest in something more worthwhile.

  8. I’m sure they can do what you ask, just add another $500 to the price tag…. so don’t hold you breath.

    Better yet, just get service from providers like “safe eye” for parental control, it would be much better than anything microsoft would provide.

  9. labtroll: any software like that seriously doesn’t compare to what you can do with active directory, group policy and a web proxy. And all of it would work with 1 configuration in AD and on every machine that is part of the domain that they log onto.

    ish: it’s why I was saying that WHS with a super wizardised interface could allow the average user to do this without the need for intimate knowledge of AD and still give them the benefits. Regardless of their interest/knowledge, why take away the ability to benefit from the same things?

    It’s also why I believe that the crippled versions of windows should be dropped from the product line and the functionality sit in a disabled state until activated by the user – having it crippled from the get go can also mean that people learning about just what they can do with their computers are restricted by the very nature of their operating system and it then costs them money and time to be able to get their OS into the state where they can play with it.

  10. I’m going to have to differ here. WHS is simply far better than ANY NAS device available today, for a few key points (that everyone neglected to mention).

    1) SIS (Single Instance Store)
    2) SIS
    3) SIS
    Ok..so why is this important you ask? Its a filesystem that only saves the differences in those 4k NTFS data clusters. Thus, all that shared data, across all your systems only gets saved ONCE. This means those lovely large backups of all your systems..the MP3s and h264 files you have scattered everywhere..etc only take up one copies worth of space. Speaking of which..
    4) Automatic, transparent backup, and bare metal network restore. Yes, you can use Ghost, Acronis, etc..but can your grandmother? She CAN use WHS.
    5) plug-ins. They’re pretty cool. One click website publishing. Simple Wake-on-LAN
    6) Easy, simplified sharing, simplified username/password management, DNLA sharing to Xbox360, PS3, Vista Media Centers (SageTV plugin now available too).
    7) Drive extender. Just hook up all your old drives, and have it turn into one big storage pool. Works well. If you really *need* raid, nothing to stop you from using it.

    From what I’ve seen Ubuntu doesn’t even come close to these capabilities…

  11. I agree with Proteus. I’ve installed a WHS (Tranquil T3) and it is great – unlike other comments on this forum, I’ve found it a walk in the park to configure powerful functions, such as being able to wake a computer, backing it up, and closing down the computer – all automatically to schedule. The ability to remote access your files, and change the way the server functions remotely is good too. + people are installing things like sharepoint services .3 on their WHS and getting dam cool interactive stuff happening.

    The fact is that I run a small business, and I’m based in two sites (home office and city office) and the WHS is great for me. Of course, I need more functions than it alone offers, so stuff like my Outlook/Exchange server and database SQL server are both hosted by external providers, which is fine by me because my time is more important to me than the hosting fees – I don’t want to be up to my neck in manuals trying to sort things out if they go wrong.

    I’d say for a very small business, WHS is a pretty sophisticated solution – combine it with external hosting and you’ve got a very scalable solution. Frankly, it’s the nicest bit of software I’ve come across for a while, and if you check out the transfer speeds it wipes the floor with most NAS devices cos it is clever – most NAS boxes are built on piddly little chips and linux, wheareas my Tranquil WHS has some crunch and oompf.

    That’s it – happy business customer

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