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Windows Home Server – My New Toy

Current Affairs, Web/Tech

I know i haven’t written in quite a bit, but I think I may have to start back up as I don’t see as many people as I used to, and I like to be the person who informs others of interesting articles or other findings.

My latest toy is my new Windows Home Server. Last week Newegg had a deal where you could get the HP Mediasmart LX195 Home Server for $199, which is half the MSRP. I talked to Sarah and she approved my purchase so I was off. I ordered it and it shipped from Memphis so it was here the next day. It took all of 10 minutes to install and since it was so small, I simply have it sitting behind some DVD’s on my entertainment center. It doesn’t use a monitor or mouse, simply a power cord and an ethernet cable and it is up and running.  You can see from the picture below, that i retrieved off of another website for scale, just how small the server actually is. It’s not much bigger than a couple of hardback books.

This device does all sorts of very cool things that are typically only done by either spending a lot of money or in big corporations. Here are the items that I find the most useful.

  • Media Collection – It actually goes out to all of our house computers and grabs all of the music, videos, and pictures and puts them in the appropriate shared folder on the server so we have a central shared repository for all of our media. Instead of saying ” is that on the desktop or the laptop?”, we just have to go to the server and grab the file.
  • Full Backups – It does full backups of all of the computers in the background. So if anything goes wrong on a computer, I just put in the connector boot CD and boot off of it and it pulls all of the information off of the server. So I don’t have to try to figure out how to get all of the information back, and don’t have to think about getting drivers or keeping the install cd’s.  Spyware doesn’t have to be a problem anymore.
  • Plugins – It has these things called add-ins that are additional programs that add functionality like publishing to Tivo so that i can watch TV or listen to music directly from tivo without thinking about it. There are also plugins for things like iTunes that will publish the entire music collection to the home sharing tab in iTunes. So no more finding what song is on which computer either.
  • Home Website – The home website that it serves up automatically and is viewable from anywhere has links for being able to get to files on the server from anywhere, as well as photo sharing, and remote desktop built in. So I can get to all of my stuff from anywhere and even listen to music from wherever I am.
  • Folder Duplication – In IT, there is a practice called RAID, which is when you take a bunch of hard drives and put the same data on all of them so that if one hard drive dies, you still have all of your information. But it is kind of hard to administer and over the heads of most laymen. WHS has a feature called duplication that allows you to add another hard drive through USB or internally that holds a copy of your most precious information so that if the server goes down, you still have all of your information on the other hard drive. Or if the house is burning down and you need all of your pictures, just grab the external hard drive, and you have everything you need. It is an amazing feature that all homes should have.
  • Search – You can even search across your home server and get all of the files that meet certain criteria. So if you are looking for that John Mayer song, you can search for it on the server and find it easily.

So as you can see, it does quite a bit, and these are just the big ones. It has a lot of other capabilities that I don’t even want to get into cause most people won’t care. But I am absolutely loving this thing. It is quiet, small, and does a whole lot of fun stuff that I have wanted to do for a long time. It is great for our home, and would be extremely good for a small office of 10 or less machines as it would do all of the backups, and have all of the file shares that a lot of companies use Small business server for. Couple a WHS computer with something like Google apps for email and other business critical apps, and you would be all set for so much cheaper than your typical business, and you would have a lot more functionality as well.

These are the things that I do for fun. Most of you will turn your noses up and think, this is so boring, and the rest will think it’s pretty cool. Either way, wouldn’t you love if your home network was as well organized as your work network and you didn’t have to think about spyware and adware?

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