Dave’s Computer Tips: Why You Need Windows Home Server 2011?

by David Hartsock for Daves Computer Tips

If you’ve been with us for for any length of time you may have noticed we cover Windows Home Server from time to time. As a matter of fact I’ve been running Windows Home Server (WHS) version 1 here at DCT Central since it was released in late 2007. It has been a positive experience which has greatly simplified backups, file sharing, and media streaming here at DCT Central. It quietly sits in a back room humming along day-to-day providing backup and file sharing to the household with little or no user intervention, which is exactly what you want in a server!

In late 2009/early 2010 Microsoft announced development of the “next” version of Windows Home Server. The new version was to be based on Microsoft’s capable Server 2008 platform (version 1 was based on Server 2003) and promised an upgraded 64-bit architecture, streamlined interface, improved backup, and improved addin integration. Being the geek that I am I couldn’t wait! Rumors flourished and almost everyone had a hope or wish for the new server OS.

WHS 2011 was released to manufacturing (RTM in tech speak) in April. Some features that were in the want/hope category made it, but others did not. Some in the “community” felt that Microsoft missed the boat and dropped key features while others felt decisions were made that irreversibly affected WHS in a negative manner. In the next few articles I plan to discuss WHS 2011, its’ installation, setup, and backups. Beginning below I’ll start with my decision to move from WHS to WHS 2011 and the choices I’ve had to make. Hopefully you will follow along in the next several articles – I think you will find them interesting!

Why Move to WHS 2011 or Have a Home Server at all?

I’ll just say this up front; if you have more than one home computer, like to share media to your other computers or TV’s, or want a great and simple backup plan you really need a home server! The assurance that you always have an up to date backup should be reason enough, and the totality of the remaining features is icing on the cake. Microsoft has dropped the software price significantly and at the time this article was published
Windows Home Server 2011 can be had for as little as $59.99
! If you have an unused PC with a 64-bit 2GHz CPU, 2GB RAM, and at least 160GB hard drive you can be up and running in short order! If you don’t it won’t be hard to find an unused PC from a friend or family member that meets the minumum requirements and it doesn’t have to look pretty. If you are feeling adventurous you can build one for next to nothing!

Microsoft has a great product page where you can try out the WHS 2011 Dashboard online and gather a little more information about the features, but here is a short list of some great new or improved features over the previous version:

  • Improved client connector software – This is the software that resides on each computer in your home. The new connector provides direct access to the shared folders on the server, the remote website, and a one click manual backup. The connector includes improved notifications about server status and the overall health of each computer on your network. It is also expandable by third party developers, which is promising.
  • Remote file access through Silverlight – The ability to access files on the server from any computer using a webpage has been upgraded and uses Silverlight (MS software similar to Flash) to provide a smoother and more robust interface.
  • Remote streaming using Silverlight – You can now view or listen to media stored on the server directly from the remote web interface – watch a movie from your home server while on vacation!
  • On the fly transcoding – WHS 2011 now has the ability to change media formats on the fly for devices that do not support the original format.
  • DNLA compliant – Digital Living Network Alliance is a standard that allows sharing media easily with other DLNA devices, which currently number over 400 million.
  • Remote computer access – The ability to access your computers (Pro and Business OS’es only) and server dashboard directly through the web interface and use them as if you were sitting right in front of the computer.
  • Mac support – Yes, you read that right. WHS 2011 now easily shares files with Macs and backup computers made by the forbidden fruit company.
  • Backups – WHS 2011 now has an automated server backup function which can backup the server, including the OS, to internal or external hard drives on a set schedule.
  • HomeGroup – HomeGroup support for Windows 7 users.
  • Improved SDK – Software Development Kit is the method third party software authors use to write software. The WHS 2011 SDK has been improved to allow software authors greater flexibility and interaction with the operating system.
  • All in all these are pretty strong improvements, but WHS 2011 isn’t without controversy!

    Article continued here

    This excerpt is shared with permission from davescomputertips.com.

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