Windows Home Server, it is awesome!

So I have been using a NAS to store my pictues/music/video and misc shared data for the last year. I am aware of what a network attached storage device needs to perform for the home PC user. Further I have a non-techie (Nicole) in my home to let me know if things don’t just work like they should. So I installed the HP MediaSmartServer over a week ago to perform backups, share folders and provide remote access to my home network. How does it work? I will explain

The setup was beyond ridiculously easy

I literally took it out of the box, plugged in power and a network cable and pushed on. One load of a cd in each PC to install the connecter software (which is fast to install, and very low overhead) and I was up and running. Further about 1 week in I added an addtional 1TB drive to the 500MB drive that came with it. The new hard drive was inserted into a hot swappable bay and I just told the server to add it to the pooled storage and it was done, no reboot, no lengthy setup, it just works!

The backups were for the most part seamless

Once you load the connect software on a PC and tell it to include the PC in the automatic backup it makes a complete image of the hard drive nightly. Not only is it a full image but it does this every night, so you can go back to any day and recover a file or restore the PC to a known working environment. I know what you are thinking full images take up huge space. Well I have three PC’s backed up daily since I got the server and the entire backup file is only 54GB (2 30gb laptops and one 130GB desktop). It automatically keeps the latest three  daily, weekly and monthly backups. Further you can go in and mark certain backups as protected to keep until further notice, this is good to mark a point in time before major changes or software installs. Also after the intial backup most of the nightly backups take about 5-10 minutes depending on if they were wireless or wired. the space savings uses SIS to help reduce the backups, and seems to be working great. The only thing that hasn’t worked is the wake computer to backup, which I understand is an issue with my laptops (possible bios setting, or ability). I have read that it should alert me after several days of missing backups (because computer was turned off, or out of the network) so I will just wait and see.

the restore was perfect (tried against Acronis TrueImage)

I have been using Acronis TrueImage for hard disk imaging and have been pleased with the results. So I decided it was time to try my windows home server. I made a full image of nicoles PC to the home server on saturday night (also with Acronis true image, just incase). then proceded to delete entire sections of the registry, surf nefarious internet sites with no virus scanner active, delete *.* from the command line (which actually skips pretty much any important file, come on when else do you get the chance to try it), format c: (also is not allowed). So after all of that the machine would barely boot, couldn’t do much of anything. I then booted from the WHS boot cd and told it which PC to restore from and from which date and in just 15 short minutes the PC was booted and running like before. So then I did a restore of a known bare install of the laptop (probably the last time I use Acronis TrueImage, sorry) and got it setup and let WHS do a fresh image. At any time you can mount  a backup image and access it like a network shared folder. Note to self when reimaging a PC be aware that microsofts lovely [:(] little breifcase sync tool gives you fits, make sure that users have synced their thumbdrives with the PC prior to this or it can lead to a lot of headaches. further note to self wine on the laptop keyboard doesn’t seem work well either…don’t ask.

Overall I am very happy with my homeserver and think it will have a place in my home for a long time.  I have only had to reboot it a few times doing upgrades and installing some add-ins but other than that it has been a solid performer.