Q. What can you tell me about the upcoming Windows Home Server from Microsoft? -William
A: High speed Internet, home networking and digital media (music, videos and pictures) have dramatically changed the needs of residential computer users over the past 10 years, and Microsoft is planning to introduce a new product to address these needs.
A typical household with children can easily have three or more computers, with important files and media scattered over all three systems. This makes locating and accessing the information as well as keeping it backed up more technical than most average users are capable of dealing with.
File sharing on a peer-to-peer basis has been the norm in home networks, but Microsoft feels that the time is right to introduce a product that is more like what most businesses have used to manage their networks: a server.
Windows Home Server (WHS) has been under development for a couple of years (code named Q or Quattro) with the intent of improving the home networking experience, specifically in the areas of sharing files, backing up everything on the network and accessing your information from anywhere inside or outside the home.
If you have two or more PCs in your house and they have important data on them, you will likely be interested in looking at Windows Home Server when it is released toward the end of 2007.
We all know how few of you are backing up your critical data, and many of you have experienced the frustration of sharing files on your home network. So Microsoft may be on the right track with this product.
Server platforms have always been very technical to set up and maintain (and are expensive), so the big task for Microsoft is to make Windows Home Server user friendly and cost effective.
Despite claims that it’s much easier to set up than a traditional Windows Server, the reality is that the average user isn’t interested in setting up a home server. So it really needs to address the needs of the semi-technical crowd. Really technical types will likely stick with the business class server software because of the limitations in the Home Server version.
WHS will be offered as an appliance (hardware and software ready to plug in) from major computer manufacturers or as software that can be installed on a computer that has at least a 1GHz processor, 512 Mb of RAM, an Ethernet port, a DVD ROM and a basic video card. Once you get it set up, you won’t need to have a keyboard, mouse or monitor plugged in because you can manage the server from any workstation or even remotely from the office.
Our initial tests with the software have been fairly impressive and we see some real potential, especially for technically challenged households that have a lot of computers. But we have a long way to go before we see what the final version will look like.
Anyone who wants to evaluate the current Release Candidate can download a copy at http://connect.microsoft.com/WindowsHomeServer, but it will only work for 30 days.
Keep your fingers crossed as this could be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to getting a handle on your home network.