BusinessWeek posted a good story about the rapidly growing home server category, led by Windows Home Server and the HP MediaSmart Server.
The goal of Home Server products is to keep things simple. The devices come with two cables—one for power and the other to connect to the home computer system. Consumers need to slip a disc into their PC, answer five questions, then they’re up and running, with their files backed up automatically every day. “We’ve stripped away the complexity,” says VanRoekel.
Or, you can do what I did and build your own.
I just noticed a search for “best motherboard for Windows Home Server” had led to this site. I would say from my experience: one that supports SATA 300 (sometimes called SATA II). Makes life easier when installing the big new hard drive(s) you are going to want.
On another WHS note: installing the connection software on a network computer automatically creates a shortcut to the shared drives on the server. However, does not automatically map those drives. Mapping must be done manually. Once a drive is mapped, I recommend a program like Microsoft SyncToy 2.0 beta or Replicator from Karen’s Power Tools. Both free tools do an excellent job of keeping files synced between local computer and mapped drive on the home server.
Once installed, all Home Server operations are performed remotely using the Windows Home Server Control Panel. The install preconfigures shared folders for Music, Photos, and Videos. Each new user is automatically assigned a personal folder. Screenshot here.
All of the initial setup is very user friendly. If you want web access to your files and even remote access/control of any defined computer on your network you need to open the necessary ports on your router. If your router supports UPnP as most new ones do, WHS can configure the router. If your router does not have that support, you will need to do this manually.
I have been running my server for just about a week now and so far no issues. I have not tried any of the add-on’s, there seem to be very few available at this point. I suspect many more are in the works and hope to try a few soon. Overall, I am very pleased with my decision to build this server.