From time to time, people ask the home server team how and why we made certain decisions for the initial release of WIndows Home Server. Currently, you can define 10 user accounts in the Windows Home Server Console and you can install the Windows Home Server Connector software on up to 10 home computers running Windows XP or Windows Vista.
In all of the secondary research that we reviewed and primary research that we did for home server as part of the product planning process, it was very rare to find broadband connected households and home-based businesses with more than 10 people and with more than 10 home computers. Additionally, Microsoft offers a great product, Windows Small Business Server, that scales well beyond 10 users for more sophisticated home-based businesses or small businesses that plan on growing. You can read about the upcoming release of Windows Small Business Server 2008 on the microsoft web site.
We didn't want to build a consumer product that used CALs (Client Access Licenses) as we really didn't think consumers wanted to deal with managing licenses for their home PCs and sometimes when you say CAL, people hear "cow" and respond that they live in the city not on a ranch and don't really have a need for cattle.
However, we knew that there would be rare cases where someone had 11 computers or 12 or 17 or ? in their home. So, long ago we made the decision that a user could have 2 home servers, where a given home computer would only be "joined" or "connected" to one for the purpose of the daily automatic image-based backups and centralized health reporting through the Windows Home Server Console.
The home server team is very customer focused and continues to listen to feedback through Microsoft Connect. A few people have submitted suggestions that we should allow for more than 10 users and/or more than 10 computers. We resolved one of these early suggestions as "Won't Fix" for the initial release of Windows Home Server. But people sometimes resubmit this as a suggestion - the latest one is here (you need a Windows Live ID to access the suggestions on the Windows Home Server Connect site)
So, now we are back in the product planning phase and culling through all of these suggestions. What if we had 2 versions of Windows Home Server - one for the "basic" household and one for the more "advanced" household. What should we think about using as limits for the number of users and computers for a "basic" version and for an "advanced" version?
I am interested in your thoughts and feedback.
t. (aka "todd the product planner")
I have no problem with the 10 user limit, but I'm already over the 10 computer limit with just me and my wife.
The thing I'd really like to see in an "advanced" version is Exchange "Lite" email for my personal domain. I'm currently running SBS and it's way more than complicated than I want, but it's the only thing that gets us push email to our Windows Mobile phones.
I doubt we're the only people that want to have a *simple* way to do our personal e-mail to our phones and via OWA.
Email like this is a feature that I think would justify an advanced version. Unless you are adding big features like that just let us buy extra licenses.
I am against having multiple versions of WHS. As everyone else has said:
1. Allow "advanced" users to buy more client licenses.
2. Disable advanced functionality, and let an advanced user RDP in to enable them.
I am a case were the 10 computers are enough but I would like more users. Granted only a couple of the users will be connected at one time. I would like to give various family members access to the remote access portions, so they can get the family photos and videos.
So why not make it easy for me to buy additional licenses thought the WHS console. Click a button (Add Users/Computers) that take me to a web site to purchase users seats/computers (CAL's), then D/L a file that the servers uses to add the actual CAL's. The end user does not need to know what CAL's are they just need to know that they bought access for x number of users or computers.
While I am commenting; I really feel that some version of AD is needed in WHS. I have several computers around my home and they are all configured so that any member of the household can use them. With AD I should be able to restrict access, and set parental controls across all computers in the house. Right now if I need to limit the access time for one of the kids, I have to do it on every machine which is a little time consuming in addition to being really annoying.
I agree completely with everyone here -- NO MORE SKUs! Vista's SKU list is a mess and often the question I get asked during the day as a Network Admin is "What version of Vista should I get on my new PC at home?" Please don't fracture WHS.
Aside from just upping the limit to 20 or 25, I *LOVE* the one guy's idea of just having a button for "buy more Access Licenses". When you press that button, I see an Continue/Cancel box popping up that explains "Each computer that you want to back up needs to have a license for Windows Home Server. Windows Home Server comes with 10 Access Licenses by default and each additional one is $14."
Functionally, two things should happen once the user puts their credit card information in: 1. WHS automatically adds the license to its list so that the user doesn't have to type a 25-digit key. 2. Each License should have a key (hopefully less than 25 digits, haha) that is e-mailed to the user once the transaction is complete so that the user can add one again in case they have to reinstall their WHS.
Finally, Licenses should be available in blocks of 5 and maybe 10 (with the ability of a SINGLE 25-digit key to be good for 5 or 10 licenses.) This way, a user could say "well, I need 20 licenses, so I'll just buy a block of 10. Look, I have one key to enter in case I have to set this up again. Wow, this is great software Microsoft!"
As for "Why Microsoft Limited WHS to 10 CALs In The First Place", I'm sure they did a ton of studies not just in how many computers people have, but the ability of the average WHS to handle the load of X computers backing up from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. At 10 computers all sending data upstream, I've got to imagine there's a lot of traffic straining a user's poor router, or maybe the write-ability of the WHS is limited by its "average" hardware... I'm sure the 10-computer limit actually makes sense, even if it does seem arbitrary and low for us power-user types. If this is the case, then there could be notes in the "buy license" dialogue about how much space the average computer takes up and a warning that a user might need to add more hard drives to their WHS or upgrade their home network. I run gigabit, but I'm pretty sure that's not the case for the General Populace. :)
I don't think home users need Active Directory or Exchange, although I totally see where people would want that. What do people gain from having a Domain at home? I'd rather have Fast User Switching, thanks. E-mail from my @homeserver.com URL would be nice, but with gmail/hotmail/etc., it's not necessary, I agree.
Finally, a feature I'd *really* like to see in Windows Home Server 20XX is the ability to back up my Xbox 360. I don't know what the failure rates of the hard drive in a 360 are, but I am dreading the day I boot up my 360 and hear "click click click" and find out all of my saved games are gone. If WHS could back it up, then I'd just go to the store, pick up whatever HDD off the shelf and restore the drive. Such a feature would require one hell of an effort from the 360 team combined with the WHS team, but it would be a pretty awesome feature. Then users wouldn't have to worry as much about license transfers and re-downloading in the event of a 360 HDD Failure. Again, though, I don't know if there's even a worry for this, but it'd be good to know my saved games are safe.
One thing I've always wondered is how WHS reacts in an environment where more than 1 exists. WHS seems to just scan whatever subnet it's on for a WHS and then prompt for a password. For multiple WHS' to coexist in a network that uses large subnets (like mine, haha), WHS would have to scan for ANY available WHS and then let the user choose which one they want to back up to. Something like this could work in terms of a "Windows Business Backup Server" (WBBS, heh) where multiple backup servers exist making them easy to build/deploy, though it would require more accounting.
I would not differentiate Home Server with different feature-set SKUs. Instead, keep it simple and make a 10-user SKU and a 20-user version (with perhaps a simple wizard to upgrade from the 10 to the 20 if the need arises). People will be able to understand what they need.
The Vista Feature-SKU explosion has really hurt the Windows community in terms of simplicity and clarity. Please don't do that to Home Server.
I would love advanced functionality (better media integration, an email server, IIS7), but for a market this young, you really shouldn't add more complexity to the purchasing decision.
Add the advanced features and simply leave them off by default. This way "mom and pop" can easily get HS up and running performing its core competency -- backup. Advanced users can then turn on the extra features they want.
WHS is a lovely product, especially being so young and light. I have 4 physical computers and a lot (around 15) VMs. I really don't like the limit at all. I think you should keep it simple, ditch the limit altogether, microsoft doesn't lose anything and people will love it. Please don't turn it into a sad confusing cash cow... Also, I'm all for making it powerful, AD, IIS, maybe even support for running SQL server...
Ditto WHS should be WHS. Don't balkanize the functionality. If you feel compelled to support users with 100 nodes on their "home" server (yah, right…) then some scheme for an SKU add-on license quantity seems like the best solution. A one client user should get all the function.
IMO (since you asked :)) --
If there *were* 2 versions of WHS --
the "Basic" would be well suited, like the existing product, to ~10 clients.
An "Advanced"-type product should start with 15, out-of-the-box, with the option to purchase/expand more at a reasonable expense. A lot to create, including payments, etc. but allows for more scenarios.
Myself -- I have only ~3 computers for backup, but need LOTS of users. More users would be good. Especially a remote-file-synchronization feature. So someone, remotely, could sync/backup data to the server. (a'la WebFolders4WHS)
What I'm trying to say is... that I'd pay (more) for an Advanced version, depending on the feature set, even if it had too-many-seats...
I signed up only to say:
NO NO NO NO NO ! Has Microsoft learned nothing from Vista ? NO MORE SKUs ! This is NOT the way to go !
If people really need more than 10 users, then allow them to buy a 2nd license of WHS. Enter the license, 10 more CALs suddenly available.
Sheesh ! Fire the person who thought that 7 Vista SKUs was a good idea and brainwash the concept out of anyone working at Microsoft !
(Yes, I'm incensed. Way too much of my time as a sysadmin is taken up dealing with licenses, CALs, Enterprise vs Standard vs Datacenter and which feature is in which edition. Don't make me suffer at home too !)
Not to spam, but now that I've vented and taken the time to actually read the other comments...
1) jrronimo's comment: print it, frame it, plan it for the next maintenance/power/service pack. :)
2) damirb: http://www.vmware.com/products/server/ or http://www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/virtualpc/default.mspx . Really !! (I'm teasing :)). By the way, I do run a couple of VMs on VMware server running on my WHS (vpn access, Nintendo DS access point, etc), and it is SO useful I could cry !
3) Media Center and WHS integration is the holy grail that's missing to make a good product great.
Personally I would love to have a "pro" version which officially allows you to use the 2003 part and perhaps also use more server roles and buy cals. In addition I think the connector should be able to work with more then one WHS.
As I stated on Connect, I don't feel many of these people are thinking this through. Microsoft should leave WHS just where it is. There should not be two versions, there should not be CALs.
There is already a "pro" version of WHS, it's called SBS.
If you are a common "home" and you have 20+ computers, you probably need some therapy, or at least throw out the old junkers that are essentially wasteful power-absorbing ancient computers and look at consolidation.
It is not uncommon for most home desktops and laptops to have acquired 50GB-100GB of in-use drive space including OS, for 20 PCs that's up to 2TB per backup set on WHS. Attempting to run standard WHS appliances with 10TB+ of storage is becoming unreasonable and beyond what anyone would sanely classify as "home" use.
And purchasing a WHS server such as from HP and connecting a pile of 500GB/1TB internal/USB drives to get 10-20TB is becoming unreasonable and overly costly and the entire venture should be reconsidered to use more suitable hardware/software for the task.
If you want other family members to "stay in contact", that's what email or messenger is for, and if they need remote access into the WHS then give one account per outside relative household or even for all relatives, each grown-up-and-moved-away-kid doesn't need their own individual separate account just to view your family photos.
Anyone who wants a version of WHS that has twice the capabilities can purchase SBS2003 at twice the price. If MS pushes WHS into the level of SBS, it will end up costing the same as SBS.
There is a reason why businesses and corporations who are running large 20+ user TB+ servers with SBS/Server 2003/8 have IT people. The average home user, which IS what WHS is designed for, does not have the needs or the skills to deploy and maintain an SBS level system in their home.
I agree with jadm, if people really need more than 10 user accounts, then allow them to buy another 10 user accounts.
As a WHS user, I would especially like to see a focus on reducing single computer setups and management regarding user accounts.
Like in a business, I would expect to be able to setup accounts with a user profile pointing directly on the server for mail, files and preferences (including parental control).
For now, everything is still managed through each individual computers and theres no way (for what I can see) that you can, for example, setup an account for a child that would keep the same favorites, the same parental control settings and other preferences on all computers connecting to the WHS with the built-in tools.
That would be a very useful way to use a home server!
Like others have said: NO to multiple versions... NO to 'cals' as such.. but YES to being able to just purchase additional lots of say license for 5 computers & 5 users - however, I see no reason for the limit on users even in with the initial WHS purchase - just have unlimited users - it is silly IMO to have equal numbers of computers and users when obviously many have several users for each computer.
So.. to recap.. initial purchase = license for 10 computers, unlimited users. Additional purchase = lots of licenses for 5 computers, still with unlimited users. There would have to be some way that when additional computers are purchased, the license limitation is adjusted internally.