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Microsoft moves one step closer to the RTM for Windows Home Server

Microsoft's Windows Home Server is progressing nicely and has achieved Release Candidate stage. Microsoft states that the new build will be available to over 100,000 beta testers along with people who wish to sign up now and test the software.

For those not familiar with Windows Home Server, it is a software application that can be installed on any PC in a home network to allow other networked computers access to files. Users can also have secure web access to files from anywhere in the world with a secure Internet connection.

There will also be hardware products branded as "Powered by Windows Home Server" that simply plug into your home router to provide access to files. Microsoft likes to tout that new internal or external devices added to a Windows Home Server device won't be treated as F:, G:, H:, etc. Instead, total available space will be increased by the size of the hard drive added and divisions between physical hard drives will be transparent to the user.

The first question to spring to many potential users mind is how a Windows Home Server is different from a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. Microsoft responds with:

More than just storage, Windows Home Server uniquely provides pre-defined shared folders, such as "Music" or "Photos" making it easier to organize and find your files. Windows Home Server also features simple storage extensibility, and built-in search capabilities... Also, in a Windows Home Server device with two or more hard drives, you can elect to duplicate folders. This prevents you from losing any photos, music, or other files stored in a folder that has "duplication" enabled, if a hard drive fails.

Pricing for Windows Home Server devices will be set by OEMs and will be available in the second half of 2007.

You can head over to the Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows to get an overview of Windows Home Server.



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What Will ISPs do When They See a Server?
By DaveLessnau on 6/13/2007 12:10:57 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know how this Home Server works, but I wonder what the various ISPs will do when they see these servers inside of homes. My ISP, Cox, says that you can't have a server if you have a standard home account. According to them, if you have a server, you have to have one of their business accounts. If the ISPs can see these Home Servers, there's going to be some wailing and gnashing of teeth.




RE: What Will ISPs do When They See a Server?
By Aikouka on 6/13/2007 12:24:01 PM , Rating: 2
I highly doubt they can tell unless your server is receiving outside traffic (HTTP requests, FTP connection requests, etc), which the point of this seems to be more internal than external anyway.


RE: What Will ISPs do When They See a Server?
By FITCamaro on 6/13/2007 12:40:07 PM , Rating: 2
Which it will be receiving since you can access files from anywhere in the world.

My question with this is how is it different than the shared folder that already exists in Windows? And setting up a simple FTP server gives you the same access. You just have to forward the port to somewhere besides port 80 so your ISP doesn't get upset and find out.


RE: What Will ISPs do When They See a Server?
By cochy on 6/13/2007 1:40:52 PM , Rating: 2
Well for one it's a web based application so people don't have to bother with FTP servers. Keep in mind this product is being marketed to the mainstream Windows users, not the technically savvy users.


RE: What Will ISPs do When They See a Server?
By Oregonian2 on 6/13/2007 2:17:35 PM , Rating: 2
But for the world-access part, I hope it's providing a VPN or something equivalent not matter what it's called.


By cochy on 6/13/2007 6:23:06 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft said it's secure so I assume it's SSL over http. It's just a web app that grants access to files. I don't think it will be creating any sort of VPN.


RE: What Will ISPs do When They See a Server?
By fic2 on 6/13/2007 1:57:48 PM , Rating: 2
How is it different than a NAS? Is it just a pretty interface on top of a NAS?


By cochy on 6/13/2007 6:24:30 PM , Rating: 2
Again, there's more to Windows Home Server than file storage. It's an extensive backup utility plus it monitors health of other Windows machines and such. It does a lot. Plus it's easy to add more storage to it where as a NAS it all depends on what you got.


By Spineless on 6/13/2007 7:36:58 PM , Rating: 2
WHS is probably one of the coolest and most useful products to come out of MS for awhile. Some like to compare the new file storage mechanism to RAID but it's not. RAID is a much lower-level mechanism. The mechanism they use is based on the data that you are storing on the drives. The coolest part about WHS has to be the ability to dynamically add new and replace old storage. Pop in a new 500GB drive to replace that "aging" 200GB drive without even having to take the server offline.

For redundancy, you can choose which folders to make redundant. And it then balances those files across the drives. Granted it doubles the amount of data stored vs going with RAID 5, but it gives you much easier management. For the target audience, adding an additional drive to make up for this difference will be cheaper than RAID array expansion.

I have a Windows Server 2003 domain at home to manage all of my family's computers, but this is going to make it so much easier.


By crystal clear on 6/13/2007 12:37:36 PM , Rating: 1
They simply charge you more-thats it.

Take it or leave it attitude.


RE: What Will ISPs do When They See a Server?
By cochy on 6/13/2007 1:36:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
My ISP, Cox, says that you can't have a server if you have a standard home account.


Well thats' ridiculous. Most ISPs will block port 80 and 25 (web and smtp) to prevent people from hosting web and email servers. However the web based component of Windows Server will most likely listen on a non-standard port so your ISP can't block it.

Furthermore unless you're on an unlimited account you have a limited amount of bandwidth otherwise you are charged extra.

Lastly if you are not using your internet connection for commercial purposes your ISP shouldn't have any problem with what ever services you are hosting (legal of course). If they give you grief over having a Windows Home server or web server just change ISPs.


RE: What Will ISPs do When They See a Server?
By DaveLessnau on 6/13/2007 3:05:08 PM , Rating: 2
Just for completeness, here's item six in Cox's Policy statement for their home internet service:

quote:
Servers. You may not operate, or allow others to operate, servers of any type or any other device, equipment, and/or software providing server-like functionality in connection with the Service, unless expressly authorized by Cox.


RE: What Will ISPs do When They See a Server?
By cochy on 6/13/2007 6:28:26 PM , Rating: 2
Oh well, lame ISP. Anyway Windows Home Server HTTP server is secure meaning that the traffic is encrypted. Your ISP will never know you have a Windows Home Server.


By jacarte8 on 6/14/2007 8:56:55 AM , Rating: 2
You really know nothing about IP traffic if you think the ISP doesn't know you're running a server if your traffic is encrypted.

Https means they *probably* can't see the content, however it will generally take place along port 443, so if your IP address is serving connections across port 443, Cox will (if they're interested) know that you're serving across it.

In my experience though, ISPs don't care if you're serving data, but you'd better not be using a ton of bandwidth trying to do so...


By jacarte8 on 6/14/2007 9:00:20 AM , Rating: 2
The reason they'll never know you're running Windows Home Server is that in that TOS, it doesn't mean you can't run a server Operating System on your home network...

The TOS means you can't host data and serve it to the internet as a whole. If you limit the server use to when you're away from home and don't advertise its availability, you'll be ok.


Raid?
By Rotkiv on 6/13/2007 9:48:44 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Also, in a Windows Home Server device with two or more hard drives, you can elect to duplicate folders. This prevents you from losing any photos, music, or other files stored in a folder that has "duplication" enabled, if a hard drive fails.


Correct me if I am wrong, but inst this a bit like RAID?




RE: Raid?
By Rotkiv on 6/13/2007 9:51:20 AM , Rating: 2
inst = isn't


RE: Raid?
By Lord 666 on 6/13/2007 9:53:59 AM , Rating: 3
Its more like Shadow Copies.

I'm in the Beta tester pool, but haven't installed the RC yet. Overall, its a decent product.


RE: Raid?
By watkinsaj on 6/13/2007 11:37:00 AM , Rating: 3
You allocate space on the same hard disk to store Shadow Copies of files. If the whole drive fails, you loose the shadow copies as well as the original files. I think this is more like RAID, in that it uses a separate hard disk to duplicate the data.


Start your copiers!
By rmaharaj on 6/13/2007 3:04:10 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Microsoft likes to tout that new internal or external devices added to a Windows Home Server device won't be treated as F:, G:, H:, etc. Instead, total available space will be increased by the size of the hard drive added and divisions between physical hard drives will be transparent to the user.

What, that feature Linux systems have had for years now?




RE: Start your copiers!
By TomZ on 6/13/2007 3:27:51 PM , Rating: 2
It's got nothing to do with Linux. The point of that statement is to differentiate WHS from existing NAS and/or USB drives that typically work by adding a lettered drive. I think most "average Joe" users probably don't care much for drive letters.

And by the way, Windows has also had this capability for many years now, ever since NTFS was introduced AFAIK.


Addon
By electriple9 on 6/13/2007 6:13:57 PM , Rating: 2
Is the Windows Home Server a addon for xp, vista. Or a standalone os.
Thanks




RE: Addon
By MGSsancho on 6/14/2007 4:36:01 AM , Rating: 2
no, its an operating system with additional software for home media and home uses


With a bit of blood and pain...
By MetaDFF on 6/13/2007 11:15:07 AM , Rating: 1
With a bit of blood and pain ... you could have something similar setup and more under Linux now...

Here is a guide:
http://www.bit-tech.net/bits/2007/06/05/build_your...

I guess as a Microsoft product there will be less blood and pain involved... or not :P




RE: With a bit of blood and pain...
By erwos on 6/13/2007 12:37:30 PM , Rating: 2
It's also missing a lot of the features that WHS has, like the automated backups and versioning. Any idiot can build a headless Linux box to do Samba sharing. I would know - I did just that.


By KingGheedora on 6/13/2007 1:33:59 PM , Rating: 2
Will they have something similar to no-ip? Where a service on your home machine constantly keeps a 3rd party machine aware of your home computer's IP address?




I've been impressed
By DocSparky on 6/13/2007 3:26:44 PM , Rating: 2
I've been running a Win2k server in my house for a few years and after testing WHS, I'm impressed. It certainly will not please everyone, but it does make running a server much, much easier. Setting up clients, accessing files remotely, adding drives, managing backups all just work pretty easily. Just remember that this is targeted at the more technical home users (ones with multiple computers), but not necessarily the IT pros at home.

It took me just a few minutes to restore my son's computer onto a new (larger) hard drive. I believe it was even easier than Ghost (which I normally use). I know that you can setup a sever to do the same thing, but I think there is a market for this type of product. We'll see how it does.




I am using WHS and love it
By operaghost on 6/13/2007 3:29:45 PM , Rating: 2
I have been using WHS since the beta started and I love it. I have anywhere from 3-5 computers in my house on a given day.

The biggest use is the automated backup. Every day each of my PCs gets automatically backed up to the WHS box and the Shadow Copy keeps the size of these backups very small. Previously I used Ghost for all backups. This is much simpler.

I also use it as a media server. So I keep a ton of video and audio files on it that I can access from any PC or my Xbox360.

The remote access feature is nice too. While on vacation I was able to login and grab some files that I wanted. This isn't usually a big need for me.

Adding a new hard drive or replacing a drive is a breeze. There are no drive letters and all of the data space is pooled. I had a hard drive fail (Iknew it was bad, but risked it anyway) and all I had to do was tell WHS to disconnect (or unmount, I forget the wording) that drive. It took a few moments make sure all data was duplicated and then removed it from the pool. I pulled the drive out and replaced it with another larger drive and told WHS to add it. Again after a moment it formatted and made the drive available and I had more space. Very very easy.

All in all, there really isn't anything new in the pieces. Previously I could share media using WMP and backup using Ghost. But the sum of these pieces is impressive. I just hope the price isn't ridiculous.

The install of the Beta was a bit picky, hopefully this RC is better.




The potential add-ons
By SUOrangeman on 6/13/2007 10:48:51 PM , Rating: 2
There are plenty of crafty coders out there who will turn the WHS base into something tremendous. Since WHS is already based on Server 2K3, it should be quite easy to add widgets for SharePoint (WSS3) and, for the true geeks, Update Services (WSUS3).

Whit a little more leg work, a headless MCE server is also possible. I tried to start with WHS for my current home server build, but IIS+SQL became just a little too cumbersome for my needs/desires (i.e., streaming audio via Jinzora and MyTunesRSS; HDTV via MediaPortal/TVEngine/HDHomeRun). I'm not too concerned with backups, which is one of the key selling points for WHS. Maybe they'll do me a favor and offer WHS as an add-on to a base Server 2K3 install, possible in an x64 flavor, just because!

-SUO




Correction:
By jacarte8 on 6/14/2007 9:01:22 AM , Rating: 2
"For those not familiar with Windows Home Server, it is a software application that can be installed on any PC in a home network to allow other networked computers access to files"

Windows Home Server is an operating system...




I expect...
By EntreHoras on 6/13/07, Rating: -1
RE: I expect...
By MatthewAC on 6/13/07, Rating: 0
RE: I expect...
By TomZ on 6/13/2007 10:43:41 AM , Rating: 4
I disagree - with more homes having multiple PCs and more people getting their content digitally, I think there is a big market for a product like this. I've had a server in my home for 4 years alrady for just this purpose.


RE: I expect...
By leidegre on 6/13/2007 11:14:56 AM , Rating: 3
"If you build it, they will come"


RE: I expect...
By crystal clear on 6/13/07, Rating: 0
RE: I expect...
By tdawg on 6/13/2007 12:41:44 PM , Rating: 2
These hardware devices are going to be all-in-one server solutions for homes that you can just take out of the box and plug into your router to create a kind of instant server so all the other computers in your house will have a centralized server and all the goodies that come from that.

This isn't to replace Vista or anything like that and it's not just hard drives or memory that will be labeled "Powered by Windows Home Server". If you don't want a hardware server solution from Microsoft, just build your own.


RE: I expect...
By crystal clear on 6/13/2007 1:01:49 PM , Rating: 2
As per your comment-I visualize "A BOX" that sits between the router & say 3 PCs spread around the house.

Again M.S should have some really convincing solutions/answers/explainations to get people to look at it as "MUST HAVE" in the house.

If not buyers will not take on to this idea !


RE: I expect...
By tdawg on 6/13/2007 1:09:24 PM , Rating: 2
I see it that way as well. However, for households that don't have people ready to build their own servers for central storage and data access, this will probably be pretty helpful. Imagine setting something up for your family that ties together one or two PCs and a laptop and allows all of them to access data from a central store, coupled with the ability for you to remotely access the server to fix problems, etc.

I imagine this device will be used for more "simple" server setups than could be achieved by most people here. That and it does seem to include some decent features. I guess we'll just have to see.


RE: I expect...
By crystal clear on 6/13/2007 2:19:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If you don't want a hardware server solution from Microsoft, just build your own.


That prompts me tell you that -I converted my PS3 to a Linux server (experimenting on weekends)

"Yellow Dog Linux v5.0 utilizes the IBM 64-bit 3.2 GHz Cell processor to provide a powerful state of the art Linux server for Sony PLAYSTATION¨3."


RE: I expect...
By SmokeRngs on 6/13/2007 5:34:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I see it that way as well. However, for households that don't have people ready to build their own servers for central storage and data access, this will probably be pretty helpful.


I agree that this would probably be the main use for this. However, MS and whoever uses this to manufacture pre-made boxes are going to have to sell the idea aggressively. While it may be useful, for people to buy another computer so they can share files between all computers in the house they will need reasons.

I'm not putting down the product, but a new market will basically need to be created to make this viable in the long run. Some people already have a setup similar to this and it may be a hard sell to get them to purchase this as they already have a solution. This is also a small group and won't have the numbers to make something like this a success. I think the target audience for something like this will have to be the average consumer. That group is large enough to make this a profitable endeavor. I think it will take a lot of advertising to get it mainstream, though.

I base most of my comments on pre-built boxes that have this installed for the OS. I don't see this OS being a big seller at the retail level.

This should bring about some interesting hardware solutions. I would assume it won't need much processing power so the hardware requirements other than drive space should be light.

I wonder how long it will take before a box like this becomes an accessory on Dell's website.


RE: I expect...
By Lord 666 on 6/13/2007 1:59:32 PM , Rating: 2
Always wondered why WHS couldn't be used with a Xbox 360 instead of a PC based machine or have a special Xbox 360 - WHS edition.

Microsoft could sell an add-on license for existing consoles as well so most or all of WHS features can be used along with either larger main drive and/or large attached drive.


RE: I expect...
By BMFPitt on 6/13/2007 11:51:35 AM , Rating: 3
This is the first I've heard about this product, so I'm slim on details, but if an easier more elegant solution comes along, a power user will try it. Not to mention find it to be a better solution for setting up a non-power user in a configuration that they won't easily break.

From the brief description, this sounds like a much better solution than my current shared folders & FTP server setup. I'm going to sign up for the Beta.


RE: I expect...
By MonkeyPaw on 6/13/2007 5:49:25 PM , Rating: 2
I see this as the next step in the evolution of the PC. Now that people have multiple PCs in one home, information has become fragmented. I'm sure that most multi-PC households end up checking every PC in the house for things like their vacation photos or family videos. I'm sure quite a few people dread buying a new PC because they aren't sure how to move their old data over to their new PC. Then there are those who know that their notebook isn't a safe place to store valuable or sensitive information, but would still like easy access to it when they get home. A home server fixes all of these problems straight away. You know where everything is, and you have easy access to it.

I can see a time coming where you have a server in your house, with the remaining computers running all of their applications from it. Such a solution might allow parents to better monitor their children's internet activity. With the coming of online movie rentals and purchases, I could see HDTVs and home theater systems interfacing with the server as well. Maybe Zune 3.0 will connect directly to the home server for synchronization, too. When you think about it, a home server just might be the best solution for all this DRM junk. The server can hold the content and the DRM-rights, and every device connected internally to this server would get easy access to the content. Don't we all just want to press play and know it will work?

If I had multiple PCs in the house, I would be pretty interested in this one. This is something that people will become interested in once they understand the benefits. It just might take several years to get there. It might also drive PC sales again, since it makes each terminal more replaceable. It's all got to start somewhere. Solutions like Apple TV aren't enough, IMO, since they don't do enough. A flexible server is by far a better idea. Obviously, security matters if this really takes off.


RE: I expect...
By bkm32 on 6/13/2007 11:44:47 AM , Rating: 2
Keep in mind, MS is responsible for making the PC easily accessible to the public. This means that most people who use a PC don't have to necessarily understand "what's going on", and they like it that way. The PC is now like a hammer--a tool anyone can use.

This new product is no different. In fact, it's good to see MS getting back to their roots--making difficult technology easily accessible. I just hope it has some type of Media Center features like, DVR capability, web TV-tuner capable, video streaming to extenders, even a nice home security and automation functionality (turning on the lights while away on vacation and such).

That's the stuff people really need made easy for their home network, which right now is a small market that someone will have to grow. Apple is trying with their AppleTV, Tivo, even AT&T. This is a new and exciting market that has DSL-like growth potential.


RE: I expect...
By walk2k on 6/13/2007 12:31:46 PM , Rating: 2
How is this any different than file sharing? Or WMP11 media server sharing?

I mean, XP/Vista already has "special folders" called "Music" and "Photos" and sharing them on a home network is as simple as right click -> Share this folder...

Maybe I'm missing something, but I see absolutely no use for this.


RE: I expect...
By deeznuts on 6/13/2007 1:30:32 PM , Rating: 2
You're missing a lot. Not just something. Why not read the article?


RE: I expect...
By cochy on 6/13/2007 1:30:49 PM , Rating: 2
What this article didn't mention is that Windows Home Server can also be used as a pretty advanced backup tool for home networks. Also they way the volume management is taken care of makes it very easy to add more storage to your shared volumes. It's not so easy to do that on Windows.

All in all I'll stick with Solaris and ZFS for my storage/sharing need =)


I can't wait...
By colonelclaw on 6/13/07, Rating: -1
RE: I can't wait...
By imaheadcase on 6/13/2007 10:10:43 AM , Rating: 3
Look a cleverly disguised "I Hate MS post". Please move along.

WHS is a excellent product, it fills the void in home server market nicely. It has been getting good reviews all over the web. It will be a good money maker from MS.


RE: I can't wait...
By Cobra Commander on 6/13/2007 12:07:25 PM , Rating: 2
...and it wasn't even all that clever.

I just don't yet understand how this is better for any individual with either a great lean towards IT or significant-enough knowledge where they've been effectively 'doing this' for a while?

I presume this simplifies that for the Average Joe?


RE: I can't wait...
By wien on 6/13/2007 10:00:42 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the drive pooling is enough to make me want it.

I currently have a Linux server serving my files (samba), but it's a bit of a mess since the file system is spread out over 5 separate disks which I must manage space on separately. I don't really have any redundancy in case a drive fails either (for the non-important data). Adding drives is also a bit tricky since I have to mount them into the existing directory tree and move files around to take advantage of it.

Now, I know I could setup a system similar to WHS in Linux using software RAID (not really as flexible) or maybe a different filesystem (ZFS when that arrives), but I just can't be arsed to do the required research to setup and maintain a solution like that. Especially not if I can buy exactly what I need in a nice user friendly box from Microsoft.

If it wasn't for all the other services I have on my Linux server, it would be running WHS right now. I will probably switch eventually, and just virtualize my existing Linux box on top of WHS since there's nothing performance critical running there. Best of both worlds. :)


RE: I can't wait...
By Mitch101 on 6/13/2007 10:38:14 AM , Rating: 3
BlueScreen LOL. That has become the gayest comment since it rarely happens any more. I have seen it twice on my windows XP machine in the last what 5 years?

Anyone making that comment should get a etch a sketch instead of a PC.


RE: I can't wait...
By rushfan2006 on 6/13/2007 11:00:33 AM , Rating: 3
I'd have to agree with you there. Sometimes I think people who still "think" that Windows Blue Screens left and right are either : A) Really don't even know much about computers or technology at all but hey, the times we live in - it's far more "hip" to bash than to praise so they just follow suit, B) They are avid Apple fans...'nuff said, or C) They are just being silly or stupid - ie little kids playing around on the 'net, someone just bored, etc.

In all sincerity - I just call what I see...I've blasted MS plenty of times and I still think some of their software truly bites the big one, their licensing model and pricing causes me to bust out laughing all the time, etc. HOWEVER - In several years of ownership and use of XP both on multiple computers at home and at work - I can count on one hand how many BSoD's I've seen in XP (the actual count is about 3 btw).

The most severe case of BSOD was on a work laptop - in BSOD all the time, but we came to discover it had little to do with the OS at all - it was the version of the security software it was running, after that was fixed - it never blue screened again.


RE: I can't wait...
By Mitch101 on 6/13/2007 11:42:16 AM , Rating: 2
Mine was an overclock taken a bit too far and the second some X-10 software which made a mess.

Both were my own doing.


RE: I can't wait...
By HaZaRd2K6 on 6/13/2007 1:30:16 PM , Rating: 2
The only BSoD I've had on this machine (ever) was once when I moved it to a LAN party and the SATA cable came loose during a game. Windows tried to do a memory dump but failed so I knew immediately what it was. Nothing Microsoft could do about that, really. Although I'll never buy a Silverstone cable again...


RE: I can't wait...
By djc208 on 6/13/2007 1:59:47 PM , Rating: 2
Had it happen once, on my HTPC, ended up being the Nvidia drivers I was using (from their web site). Went to the older drivers on the disk and all was fine. Honestly had more problems with their drivers than I ever did with ATI/AMD.


RE: I can't wait...
By sapiens74 on 6/13/2007 5:09:01 PM , Rating: 2
all my BSOD are from me trying to push my CPU too far. Rarely do I get any BSOD, at home or at work where I manage over 250 boxes.

Its usually hardware related like heat, or poor drivers.


RE: I can't wait...
By jacarte8 on 6/14/2007 9:06:21 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, it's most of the time driver-related. I've had more kernel panics on my Ubuntu install than on my XP machine (Vista on the other hand...)


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates











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