Windows Home Server 2011

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What is it? What can it do for me? Why do I need a server in my house?

All questions I asked myself when I saw the download available for it on TechNet.  Surely, in normal everyday house where everyone has access to a PC and the internet, what else could we possibly desire?

Techies at Microsoft are now suggesting we need a server at home to enable us to share files, backup, stream music/video using Microsoft Silver Light and finally web access to allow us to access all these features plus remote access to our desktops.
Ok so how does it work? The installation process is very similar to installing any operating system but there are essential specifications that must be met or else the installation will fail. The specifications are as below-
• 1.4 GHz x64 processor.
• 2 GB RAM
• At least one 160 GB hard drive.
• NTFS is the only supported file system.
• Supported Networking Configuration:
• Your server computer must be connected via a network cable to a router.
• The router should be an UPnP-certified device, but it is not required.
• The router should be in the 192.168.x.x subnet, but it is not required.

Once installed, a wizard will guide you through the process of configuring your router to allow HTTPS protocol through a standard home firewall on a router. Some branded routers will not require any manual configuration as Windows Home Server will do this automatically.

Honestly I was expecting to do lots and lots of configuration but within 45mins I had a running VM for Window Home Server 2011, which could be accessed from the internet using my external IP, without barely having to do anything other than clicking “Next”, “Next” and “ Next.”

At the stage when I was creating users using the very simple interface, I came to the realisation that- “I have a dynamic IP address provided by my internet provider; my IP will change regularly, just like most other home users. I will have to either purchase a Dynamic DNS or a pay £8 extra to my internet provider to get a static IP address.”

While configuring the Web access page, There was a small discrete button to use a free dynamic DNS provided by Microsoft. Hooray! That is impressive! Microsoft had actually got it right.

Connecting machines to the server couldn’t be easier; simply it is browsing to a webpage and following the wizard on screen. This process will guide you through setting up backups and mapping shared drives.

Techies at Microsoft genuinely thought this product through and thought about the average home user.  After using Home Server 2011 on a trial basis (30days without a key and activation), I am feeling inclined to actually purchase this product.

Window Home Server has a built in DNLA server, fantastic for streaming audio visual content to your network ready TV or even a Playstation3. Home server has the capability to stream audio video content over the internet by encoding the video to be viewed from any computer with Silverlight plug-in.

For under £50 you get 1 OEM license for the server and 10Cals for remote access, a real bargain considering the prices of OEM licenses of Small Business Server which has similar but more features. If you would like to purchase please contract Storm IT.

There are many third party add-in available online, such as home automation applications which would in theory allow one to switch on and off their home lights. Now that is something to fancy.

So back to my original questions-

What is it?

It’s a very basic server with features that allow users to share files, back up desktop data to the server, manage network shares and finally remote access to the all the said features.

What can it do for me?

Share file, backup desktops, DLNA server, Remote access and more depending on the add-in installed on the server.

Why do I need a Server in my house?

Not a real requirement, we have survived without home servers till now but having a home server has many benefits as described above.

The costs of setting up and running a home server for two years (24/7) are as below-

Costs                                        Year1 Year2
Server (HP MediaSmart 490)         £541 £0
Electricity (~52W idle single drive) £168 £168

After looking at the above figures, I am not sure whether it makes economical sense to have a home server just for the above features.

Now for the bottom line verdict on the Home Server 2011- Fantastic product, excellent pricing but somehow I don’t think every household will run out to buy it.

It is a must buy for anyone who wants access to their home files or remote access to computers over a secure connection.

Windows Home Server

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