Home Server Hits It's Stride

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Graham Jones (Surrey, British Columbia, IT Pro)

I have been enthused about WHS ever since it became available as a beta program. As an MVP we enjoy the privilege of MVP beta programs where, because we are under a NDA with Microsoft, we get a little closer to the “action” which perhaps adds some expectations but is kind of “cool”. At a VANTUG meeting back in November 2007 I asked how many people had heard of WHS and knew what it was. To my surprise it was very few. So I got to thinking about how could we do something about that. I saw great potential for WHS and knew that for the word to spread we had to get the technical community better informed. WHS is largely proffered as a consumer product (more on that later) and the typical consumer, when unsure about a product or what it does, will seek out someone that they know who is technically savvy to ask about it. So step one is to “get to” the technically savvy community and get them better informed and enthused about WHS.

Although there are MVP’s local to the Vancouver area, such as Charlie Russel and Dana Epp, who are very knowledgeable about WHS I figured that we needed to get Redmond involved. So I invited Kevin Beares (WHS Community Lead in Redmond) to come and make a presentation on WHS. To do that I obviously needed a “hook”. A product like WHS cuts right across a wide range of interests and so I approached all of the local MSFT UG’s about supporting and promoting such an event. I stuck my neck out and told Kevin that I figured that we could get an attendance of between 150 and 200 to make it worth his while. As it happens on Monday, February 4th we managed to get 220 people to turn out (300 were registered – a high % turnout rate), which I would like to think demonstrated the level of interest in WHS having applied a little promotional education leading up to the event. It turns out that one of the local computer hardware suppliers, NCIX.COM, is the largest OEM reseller of WHS in Canada. So I figured getting them involved might provide some sponsorship and potential future involvement in local WHS activities. Their Product Manager and one of their Directors attended the event.

So much for the background but what about the presentation itself. Kevin brought along what can only be described as a “super cool” WHS for his demos. He demoed the AOpen WHS which is about the size of a 5.25” drive bay in a desktop PC!

aopenwhs

WHS is a big topic to cover in a couple of hours especially when there are lots of questions, which showed a high level of interest. I expect to have Kevin’s slide deck in the near future and it will be posted on the VANTUG website. By way of demonstration he showed how to join the server from the client, how to backup a PC and how to backup the server, which is a feature of Power Pack 1 due out later this year as a free download. He also connected to his own family WHS, Charlie Russel’s WHS and mine via the internet to demonstrate the remote access features. He didn’t demonstrate the remote desktop feature which I find very useful when away from home. There is significant interest in learning more about how to write add-ins for WHS which I will be pursuing with Kevin and Medhat Elmasry who runs the .netBC UG. Other clear topics of interest are extensions to home entertainment and home automation capabilities. There is a lot of 3rd party activity in the background which cannot be announced just yet.

Earlier I mentioned WHS being a consumer product. Whilst that is true, and the simplicity of usage is designed around that, it is gaining considerable popularity in the small business world, either as a server for a few users and/or as a backup device for SBS (this feature is not currently officially supported) but is being used in a production environment in a number of places. Several people in the audience stated a clear intention to use it in the business environment and had attended with that purpose in mind. It is early days but the popularity of WHS would seem to be set to really take off for the consumer, and possibly small business, when the packaged products, such as the HP MediaSmart Server (just appeared locally), become more readily available and there is a clear understanding of what the “value proposition” is. For the enthusiast there is always the “roll your own” route and I am sure that will represent the majority in the near term. WHS is something of a unique product in that it has the potential to span a very wide range of technical interests. With that in mind the local community is discussing how best to follow-up on this very successful event.

For those of you would like to take a look at a few photos of the event (and the AOpen WHS) you can use the following link to my WHS: http://jonesfamily.homeserver.com/WHSVanEvent. Incidentally the photo gallery was put together using a great WHS ad-in called Whiist which won the Code2Fame first prize of $10K. It literally took me less than 15 seconds to put it together from photos stored in the Photos share on my WHS!

Since this was a multi-person effort I would like to thank Kevin Beares for having faith in us, Microsoft Canada, BCIT (event location) and NCIX for sponsoring the event, and the following UG Leaders for helping to promote the event: Medhat Elmasry (.netBC), Jasminder Rai (VanSBS), Richard Baumet (Vancouver PASS Chapter) and Christoph-Jan Sepp (CIPS Vancouver). Multi-UG events are particularly satisfying since it demonstrates how the community can come together for everyone to benefit.

Graham Jones

President, VANTUG

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  • Yes, Kevin is great. Very nice article!

  • :)

    Guess I should have bought Windows Home Server instead of that new Nikon... ;)

    Camera was Cool.  WHS sounds a LOT cooler... B)

    Mark that into next months budget.

  • Kevin Beares slide deck can be downloaded from: http://vantug.com/PublicDocuments/tabid/154/Default.aspx

  • It's much too late to ADD a Topic to the Hero's Tour but this little box should be promoted for most if not all homes and some small business oportunities like SOHO and up to 10 users that currently use a peer-to-peer Workgroup.  

    Great report Graham, now let's tell the rest of Canada.

    Bob

  • Graham,

    It was a pleasure. I truly enjoyed working with you on this event. Thanks for all you do for the community.

    Kevin