I recently wrote an article praising the use of Windows Home Server as a backup device for small businesses. Shortly after that, Microsoft put up a web page about using Windows Home Server in small offices. I can’t prove that Microsoft was reacting to my article but I think we all can draw the obvious conclusion.
Setting up a WHS device for backups couldn’t be simpler – the software installs like a dream on the first computer from the CD, the device spends a few minutes getting updates and settling down, and bang, it’s done. Once the server is set up, the software can be installed without the CD on the other computers by browsing to the server (e.g., \hpserversoftware) and running setup.exe from the Home Server Connector Software folder.
It goes better if one person has responsibility for keeping tabs on the WHS device. On the other computers, right-click the WHS icon and uncheck Display Network Health Notifications. The server has a tendency to decide that network health is *CRITICAL* for trivial reasons; not everyone needs to be part of that process.
A Windows Home Server device is certainly able to be used for remote access, file storage, and all the media tasks that are listed on the box, but that adds one more housekeeping chore: those things won’t work smoothly unless the user account names and passwords are manually kept in sync on the PCs and on the server. There is no effective way to automate the process and normal people are baffled if password prompts appear to get into a shared folder. It’s seamless if the account names and passwords match.
There’s one more password wrinkle: Windows Home Server has a browser interface for accessing shared files remotely and starting a remote desktop session with your desktop computer, but only if your user account has a complex password – the mixture of upper case, lower case, letters/numbers/symbols that no one likes.
The remote access features require ports 80 and 443 to be forwarded through the office router. The server tries to do configure the router automatically, which I think is just precious. It never works but it’s really adorable of it to try.
None of that applies if you use WHS only for backups. I recommend it in offices with 2-10 workstations!