Windows Home Server comes with a pre-defined set of shared folders: Photos, Music, Videos, Software and Public to enable families to share and access their favorite stuff from any PC in the house. And after installing the Windows Home Server Connector software on each PC, a shortcut named "Shared Folders on Server" is added to the desktop of each of your PCs.
After installing my home server, I copied all of my photos and music from my PCs up to my home server. It was a manual operation (i.e. "drag and drop"), but it gave me time to organize and clean up all of my media files. Now I can access my photo collection from any PC in the house. I gave myself "Read/Write" access to all of the shared folders, and everybody else in the house has "Read/Only" access. I also changed the default location on Windows Media Player so as I rip a new music CD - it gets stored in the "Music" shared folder on my home server.
Also, as I download new photos from my digital camera, they are now stored in the "Photos" folder on my home server. I also took the time to peruse through my photo collection, and created a folder called "Favorites" and stored a copy of some of my favorite photos in this folder. I set the default screensaver to "Photos" on my wife's PC and changed the Settings ... to "Use pictures and videos from :" \\SERVER\Photos\Favorites So when her PC is not in use, it is shuffling through some of our favorite photos.
I have created a few of my own Shared Folders on my home server. I have a folder called "Finance" that I use to store important financial documents and data and I created another folder called "Documents" that currently contains a random mish-mash of stuff that that I need to clean-up and organize. I have Folder Duplication enabled on my Shared folders so that there are 2 copies of my music, photos and other important stuff automatically stored on separate hard drives.
The features being explored all sound fantastic, but we really haven't gotten much more information than the we received at CES yet.
I really hope we will get some answers soon to some important recurring questions. The most important to me personally (in decreasing order of importance) are:
(1) Will remote users be allowed for backup purposes? Sure, I have 3 PCs at my house and the server makes sense for them. But my mother only has one PC; same with my father. I would love to be able to give them a user on my server and allow them to "send their backups in" remotely. Obviously this might require the initial backup to be performed with a physical connection. These people probably modify 1-2MB of files a week, but they are important to them and should be backed up. It would be a God-send to be able to restore their PCs back to a certain date on a moment's notice. As an aside, it would also be nice to be able to backup while not at home myself. This is easily my most anticipated feature, and I hope MS doesn't criplle WHS in anticipation of selling everyone one of these boxes (they just don't make sense for many users out there with only one PC and a light use of data... but I have plenty of friends that live away from their parents but are still responsible for maintaining their computers, and this would be the only reason for them to buy into WHS).
(2) Will there be an easy method to back the server up to an external drive? This probably would make the most sense from a client given the headless nature of the server (I love not having to buy another KVM switch!). While it's great to get all this information on one box with redundancy, one lightning strike will take out all the drives and I will be left with nothing.
(3) What happens if the server goes down? How does one repair/restore a headless server whose OS drive crashes?
(4) Will there be a method for upgrading to another WHS? Maybe a year down the line I want something more powerful and buy a faster, easier-to-expand WHS. How can I migrate the users and files from the first to the second? Can I have both active simultaneously working in tandem?
1) it is possible with WPN. Just install Hamachi (VPN software) on every remote computer & in the WHS and you will be able to connect to your home server as if it was on the same local area network. I'm using it right now and it work nicely. The only problem
is bandwidth and the fact that is the link is broken during the initial backup you have to start from scratch (it does not save the backup state).
3 & 4) been answered in the WHS forum :
What about storing vista's public folders? They are identical to your list. Is an end user with a home server going to be faced with three "official" places to put a picture? Pictures, Public Pictures (vista), and Public Pictures (WHS)?
(I put this as a suggestion on connect somewhere)
How does MEDIA CENTER integrate into all this?
Your Folder Duplication link above takes you to the edit post control panel, not to the post itself.
I've been using the WHS beta for a while now, and while it's a great product so far and a great start, it sure seems un-polished and buggy for a beta 2 release. I've been submitting bugs and feedback (using Connect) about how to make the product better, but given what I've seen from other Microsoft betas, at this stage nothing but the most drastic of bugs will be fixed, and no new features or tweaks will be added. I sure hope I'm wrong, because I don't feel like this is ready to go to market unless HP adds some MAJOR secret sauce.
Some quick things off the top of my head:
1) Folder duplication isn't turned on by default for each folder, nor is there any way to have it be activated by default when a new folder is created. Folder Duplication is the ONLY way to project your data from loss if it only exists on the server, so why not have it turned on by default?
2) The media sharing features are still dysfunctional. I added some music to the music folder, turned on sharing, and my music showed up on another PC with WMP11. Good. I then added more music (73 GB) to the server Music folder and none of it showed up in any connected client. It's like it wasn't there, but it was definitely taking up space on the server. I wiped out my WHS install, started over, and things got even worse: now the WMP11 client on Vista is stuck on "Connecting to Remote Library" endlessly. And the library doesn't even show up on XP-based machines running WMP11!
3) There should be a wizard of some sort with the client install that helps migrate their data up to the server. Drag and drop is cool for me and you, but organizing data that way is for geeks only.
4) There should be a way to re-direct applications to look for content on the server (Windows Media Player, Windows Photo Gallery, etc.). The average home user isn't going to understand network drive mapping and other such things.
5) There are glitches with the master drive running out of space and causing all sorts of errors even when 500 GB of storage is attached and not being used.
You're off to a GREAT start, but I don't feel like this is ready - it feels more like an alpha release, not a beta 2 release.
Your post is very interresting but it would be WAY more usefull if it where posted in the right place.
1) directly on Connect :
2) on the WHS forum :
Posting here won't have nearly the same impact.
1)You can debate over this ... I know many people that would be pissed of if after moving 200GB of MP3/Movies/pictures, the WHS tell them that their 250GB HDD is not enought. Yet I understand your point.
=> file a suggestion
2) file a bug
3 file a suggestion
4) WHS target is not the "average" home user ... I don't know many home user that don't know what a network is and have more than 2 PC at home ... yet, file a suggestion.
5) there is a thread about it on the forum, it is a limitation of Beta2.
Finally. I've been wondering for years why a product like Home Server wasn't available. It makes perfect sense!
Can't wait to hook-up my 6+ PC homenetwork and start sharing things with the rest of my family in an easy way.
Last year I visited the home of the future on the Redmond Campus. Looks like we're making a small step in that direction with Home Server.
I wonder however how Home Server handles sharing and integration with Media Center en Media Center Extensions like XBOX 360. I'm anxious to find out!
Great information, thanks again for sharing this with us! I'd definitely like to read more in the future on how WHS integrates with Vista's Media Centre and Extenders to help shuffle music and video around the home...
atomusk, please re-read my original post where I said:
"I've been submitting bugs and feedback (using Connect) about how to make the product better"
Everything I mentioned above has been submitted to Connect in one form or another, except perhaps part of #2.
I'm simply using this blog as another way to have my voice heard. :-)