Random geekery since 2005.

Husband, father, programmer, speaker, writer, blogger, podcaster, collector, traveler, golfer.

Today is the twenty-fourth day of Diduary. You can see links to all of the published articles in the series here.

What do you mean you don’t know what a Home Server is? About two years ago, Microsoft annouced a new consumer-focused server operating system called Windows Home Server.

Ultimately, it’s a layer on top of Windows Server 2003. But it takes all of the “techie” stuff out of the equation. Instead, you get a nice interface for managing a centralized repository of your data at home. In addition, it provides a dead-simple backup mechanism for your home machines. Let’s look at a few of the features:

Easy backups

Never have I had less fear about screwing up my machine than I do now. My machine automatically backs itself up to my Home Server each night (I keep the last 3 days’ worth), and it’s DEAD SIMPLE to restore it. In the screen below, you can see that I actually have the last 12 backup files stored:

Easy online file sharing

Also built into the Home Server is your own personal file sharing website. It is locked down with your server credentials, but you can add user accounts for your friends and family, so that they can look through the pictures of your most recent trip, or, in my case, of their grandkids. The site is easy to navigate, and requires no setup on your part. You store your files on the server, it takes care of getting that data on the website. Here’s a screenshot:

Xbox 360 integration

One of the coolest features I’ve found a love for is how it integrates with my Xbox 360. Even though my Xbox 360 is only connected to my home network via wireless, it still is aware of all of the machines on my network, including my Home Server. Since I keep all of my pictures, movies, and music on my server, I’m able to view those items, over the air, on my Xbox. This is absolutely killer when we’re sitting downstairs and someone asks us about a recent trip we took. We don’t have to huddle around a laptop, we can simply turn on the TV and look at them! It’s just awesome.

Grow your server capacity organically

One of the other amazing features of this little server is its ability to add drives. I specifically have the HP Mediasmart EX470, which was offered when Home Server first came out (I think they’ve since created new ones). It had a 500 GB hard drive, which was enough to get me started. But the server itself came with three more drive bays, and 4 USB ports. Since then, I have added two old hard drives via USB (~500GB each), and 3 1.5TB drives in the server bays. Summed up, that’s 6 TB of storage space in my house.

The coolest part was that I didn’t even need to shut the server down to add them. I simply added them “hot,” and it recognized, formatted, and added them to the total capacity. Just amazing.

Now, I’m not storing 6 TB of data on this server. I’m not really even over 2 TB yet. But since the server allows me to replicate my files across multiple drives, I have the peace of mind to know that if one of the drives goes bad, I didn’t really lose anything. Just a brilliant design, and incredibly consumer friendly.


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