Lengthy but Painless WHS Upgrade

whsMy own copy of the full release of Windows Home Server (WHS) System Builder arrived this week. It cost about $235 from Eyo Technologies and came in 2 business days which was excellent service. 

I have been on the private then public beta programmes since the start of the year when I bought a dedicated box to run WHS. Three major rebuilds of betas 1 and 2 and RC1 became easier over time but nevertheless painful especially RC1. So it was a surprise that the upgrade to the full RTM version was so smooth even though it took 4 hours in total. At least this time it was not necessary to backup my 100 GB of data shares although I did this as a precaution.

The great benefit of the upgrade was the retention of 8 or 9 machine backups spanning the last 3 months. WHS allows you to restore a whole machine image from any of the backups or just extract selected files – this is one of the really cool features of WHS. Of particular value to me are the backups of a couple of boxes that are currently repurposed. The image backups means I can revert to previous uses very easily.

Of course the file shares, which have RAID-like duplication across multiple physical drives, have always been useful for the everyday sharing of valuable data across the 7 active machines on my home network. I also have the last decade and a half of my personal files archived on the shares. Another great benefit of the WHS common disk storage is that you can attach non-matched drives which RAID does not allow. I have just put on three external USB drives from various manufacturers and together with my internal drives I have storage of about 1.4 TB which is only about 30% full even with all the machine backups and the duplicated data files. The extremely clever storage algorithms only store common disk blocks across the various machines once which dramatically reduces storage size.

Only recently have I fully appreciated the remote storage capabilities of WHS. You get an SSL certificate and a domain name with each copy of WHS. This allows me for example to remotely access my server as https://mrees.homeserver.com even on the dynamic IP of my cable service. Logging in at that page provides remote searching and access to all files on my home server. Even more usefully via that same web site I can also login remotely to any of my home machines and the server where I have allowed that.

Only about 3 months ago Microsoft released the plugin architecture for WHS and we are starting to see a range of free plugins. Those that automatically sync your images with Flickr and videos with YouTube sound interesting.

Very soon we will see the main target of WHS starting to become available – the compact, silent, headless server machines that run WHS that you store in a cupboard and where you just switch on and leave alone. 1 TB versions are expected to retail for about $1,000 in Australia which is just more than my own machine cost.

WHS has given me such peace of mind over the last 9 months. My network file sharing, machine backup and remote access problems are solved. Wonderful!


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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