A long time ago, I was in the Windows Home Server beta. It was a useful solution for backing up my network and I enjoyed testing it out immensely. However, there were a few things that I wished it could do. At the end of the beta, I stopped participating, except occasionally looking at what they offered for us to test. Now, I’m getting back into the swing of things.
Windows Home Server (if you’re not familiar with the product) is based on Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003. It has been reconfigured for what Microsoft deems a home user’s needs. It provides you with a centralized backup system for all of your network computers (up to 10) and monitors certain factors of the network (antivirus installed, updates needed, and whatever the security center provides). You also have the option of web-based access to your files, music, pictures, and video from any computer that can access the server.
You’re given a web-link to yoursitename.homeserver.com which will provide the web access. And you’re not limited to the computers in your network when it comes to accessing and downloading from your server. Anyone who has a username and password can use any computer (as long as it will run the necessary ActiveX controls) to access the server. Best part is, you can use Remote Desktop from the server to any computer inside of your network (which is capable of receiving the connections)—all from outside of your network via a browser.
I’ve set up an evaluation copy of Home Server, and am in the process of tweaking things. And I intend to move it to another computer in the near future. Some of the things that I’ve ran into include the following…
- If you have your network cable connected during the initial installation, you will run into a problem where any name you put in for the server triggers an error message “The name you have chosen is already in use on your network.” The fix is simple, unplug the cable and try the name again.
- If you have an IP address in the 192.168.x.x range, then you need to do three things. 1) Create a static IP on the server. 2) Make sure that UPnP is enabled on your modem or router before you start the configuration of Remote Access on Windows Home Server. 3) Configure your router or modem to forward the following ports to that IP: 80 (HTTP ), 443 (SSL or SSH access), and 4125. You’ll want to cover your bases and choose “Both” in the TCP/UDP options.
The latest beta (PowerPack 3) is supposed to allow Windows Home Server to automatically pull your Recorded TV shows into the storage. Prior to this, you had to do that manually. Record them on your Media Center PC and then copy them over. I’m not entirely sure what all of the advancements are, but that one alone seems great.
One unfortunate thing about Home Server is, you have to purchase antivirus programs that are geared towards it (or towards servers in general). There are a few “free” programs, and some of the others are low-cost. Hopefully the Antivirus that you have installed on your personal computers will have a family pack that works on Home Server. Otherwise, Avast, AVG, BitDefender, F-Secure, and NOD32 are probably the chepest options. But, you’ll want to check into this yourself.
As I play more, I’ll post about my experiences. Currently, I’m on the 120 day evaluation. Which is nice, because it gives me 4 months to decide if I want to spend $99.00 on a copy, $399.00 on a low-end system, or scrap the entire thing.
Have a great day:)