I sometimes get asked the question: "What is the difference between a home server and a network attached storage (NAS) device?"
First off, Microsoft is focused on the development of a feature rich and powerful home server software solution, where most NAS vendors are primarily hardware companies that throw in some software. Secondly, I figured I would put together a table (or checklist of items) that explains some of the unique features and functionality that we believe every home server offering should include, above and beyond the basic features of being a file server or offering "shared storage". Windows Home Server was primarily developed to improve the experiences of households and home-based businesses with 2 or more PCs, however we have seen single PC households and some small businesses install the solution based on the collection of features that come with the product.
A short description that I use to describe a home server is: "A smart, extensible, always available device that provides services within the home and while away from home." One reviewer called Windows Home Server a "NAS device with a brain." A more detailed checklist outlining the features of a home server would include:
Questions to Ask
(That is incredibly easy to use and understand without any need for drive letters ... C:, D:, E:, etc.)
Windows Home Server Drive Extender is a revolutionary new technology that enables users to easily grow the amount of storage in their home servers simply by adding more hard drives. Users can selectively pick which shared folders should be duplicated across 2 hard drives to protect them from a single hard drive failure.
For more info: How many hard drives do you have in your home server? and Why RAID is not a consumer technology blog posts, and Drive Extender Technical Brief
· How many hard drives can be added to the solution?
· Does the storage solution provide redundancy without having users learn a new language?
· Can a user repurpose / reuse USB and FireWire hard drives as additional storage?
· Can a user use all of the available space on hard drives of different sizes and also take advantage of the redundancy features?
Automated Image-based Backup of your PCs
(with single instance storage for all of these backups)
All of your PCs are backed up every day without any user intervention. And the backups of all of your PCs are stored in a single-instance storage solution to take up as little disk space as possible on your home server.
For more info: Home Computer Backup blog post, and Home Computer Backup Technical Brief
· How often do you backup of your PCs today?
· Does the solution offer file-based backup or image-based backup?
· Does the user have to spend time configuring what they want to backup on each PC, or does the solution offer “Zero button backup”?
· How much disk space do 10 backup images from 3 different PCs take up on the solution?
Simple Restore Capabilities so you can restore an entire PC, one or more hard drives or individual files and folders
Backup solutions are only as good as the restore experiences. Early users of Windows Home Server have realized that they can also use the backup/restore capabilities to upgrade the size of the hard drive in their PCs.
For more info: Image-based Backup blog post, and Home Computer Backup Technical Brief
· Can you restore an entire PC or individual files or both?
· How many steps does it take to restore an entire PC?
Automated Indexing of your files to enable Full-text Search
A home server should automatically index all of the files stored in the shared folders, so you can do full-text search queries to quickly find a file on your home server when you forget where you stored the file.
For more info: Full-Text Search and Automatic Indexing blog post
· Does the solution create full-text search indices automatically?
· Can a user take advantage of the full-text search capabilities from both inside and outside of the home?
Remote Access with a Personalized Domain Name
A home server solution should enable you to remotely connect to your home so that you can securely and easily access files while away from home.
Additionally, you should be able to select a memorable name for connecting to your home server while away from home.
For more info: Remote Access to Files and PCs, HomeServer.com and November 27, 2007 Update blog posts and Remote Access Technical Brief
· Does the solution provide remote access capabilities?
· Do you get a personalized domain name?
· Does the product come with built-in Dynamic DNS capabilities and a free SSL certificate?
Family or Home-Based Business Web Site
A home server solution should enable you to create one or more users and set permissions to enable friends and family, or home-based business customers, to easily browse, upload and download files, photos, and videos.
For more info: Remote Access to Files and PCs and Code2Fame Challenge Winners blog posts, and User Accounts and Shared Folders Technical Brief
· What is the file size limit that you can send via e-mail?
· How do you share your photos with your friends and family?
Remote Access to PCs
In addition to being able to access files on your home server, sometimes you may want to connect to a home PC so that you can run an application (e.g. Microsoft Outlook) while away from home.
For more info: Remote Access Technical Brief
· Can you remotely connect to one or more home PCs while away from home?
· Does this feature incur a monthly or yearly service charge, or does the product include this feature for free?
A home server solution should enable you to stream content to your PCs and other media devices so that you can centrally store your media and listen to it and watch it on multiple devices throughout your home.
For more info: Media Sharing Technical Brief
· Can you stream music from the solution to your old home stereo?
· Can you access your media stored on your home server from your Xbox 360 that is connected to your large screen television?
Health Monitoring of PCs
A home server solution should provide centralized health monitoring of your home PCs, so that you don’t need to go look at each PC to see if the firewall is enabled, and your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are up-to-date and working properly.
For more info: Windows Home Server Reviewer’s Guide
· Does the solution provide any centralized health monitoring capabilities for your PCs?
Extensible Platform for 3rd Party Solutions
A home server solution should be easily extensible to incorporate additional functionality. The product should have a published software development kit (SDK) so that 3rd party developers can develop interesting add-ins for the product.
See Code2Fame Challenge Winners Annouced!, listing of most popular 3rd Party Add-ins, and MSDN site for more information
· Is the device extensible or is an “appliance”?
· How many 3rd party solutions have been developed for the device?
· Is there 1 or more online backup solutions for the device?
· Can you add home automation capabilities to the device?
PingBack from http://www.ditii.com/2008/12/09/windows-home-server-checklist/
Nice list :D
Can you also write a side-by-side comparison kinda like what the office team did here:
Nice table but the entries mainly mention additional things that WHS can do beside being NAS.
The two Real issues concerning NAS usage per-se are Not mentioned.
1. As oppose to WHS, almost all stand alone NAS' Hard Drives can not use NTFS format.
2. WHS with Optimized Giga Network card is much faster than any of the comparable priced NAS' even if they are rated Giga.
Congratulations to Hewlett Packard in being selected as a winner of MacWorld's annual "Best of Show"
The Windows Home Server team is excited to see the progress and excitement around the public beta release