In speaking with a colleague today, I realized that I had not blogged about Windows Home Server. So, here is my much belated post….

The problem…

About a year ago, I decided that I was tired of the hassle and headache of personal data backup. I have pictures, videos, music, documents, etc. Copying this to a CDR doesn’t work. Even a DVD is too small. Backing up to a second hard drive is an option, but still requires my attention.

I had tried some “cloud” storage services (like XDrive before AOL bought it and dumped it… grrrr!). These were kind of nice, but the network latency with larger files made it less than ideal for use at home. is great, but it’s not a good solution for a complete backup of my data. It is however, a no hassle way to make my stuff accessible everywhere. I like that! A lot!

What to do?

A friend had been singing the praises of Windows Home Server:

  • Simple, easy, automated, complete backups
  • Data redundancy thanks to software mirroring (software RAID)
  • Access my files, sitting on my home machine, from anywhere
  • RDP to my home machine
  • Central storage of my stuff at home

So, I took an older desktop machine that I had lying around the house, bought an external drive, and installed Home Server Trial. Installation was simple, as was the install of the client on my home machines. I used the wizard to setup backups of my desktop and my wife’s laptop. I setup the remote access, and moved my pictures to the server.

When my trial expired, I purchased the OEM install for WHS so that I could have a licensed copy on the machine. I was a little nervous because the OEM disk said that it had to reinstall WHS over top, but would retain all my data. With a bit of fear and trembling, I proceeded. A couple hours later, I was back up an running. If I had the choice, I think I’d just buy an off the shelf WHS (machine with WHS installed), but it all turned out ok in the end.

Conclusion… I <3 WHS

My friend was right. WHS is great!

My backups run nightly, automatically. I don’t have to worry about loosing all of our pictures (or anything) any more! I have had a couple of occasions where I needed to go back and get something from an older backup. Even the restore experience was nice. WHS mounts the backup as something that looks like an external hard drive. Then, you just browse for the files that you want and copy them to your machine. If you need to restore your whole machine, you just pop in the WHS restore CD and restore the entire machine from backup. (My friend does this somewhat regularly, just for kicks).

Now, when I import pictures from my camera, I have Windows Live Photo Gallery save them straight to the server. It doesn’t matter whether I transfer them, or my wife transfers them, they all end up in the same central spot.

The remote access feature is also nice. I can get to my files from anywhere. I’ve used this a couple times to pull some MP3s that I wanted, but didn’t have with me at the time.

I can also remote desktop into my home machines as needed. Sometimes, as a developer, this is a nice way to test how my company’s web site behaves when accessed from the outside. If you’ve needed to do this before, you know what I mean.

All in all, I think WHS is great. I “heart” WHS.