Rock-solid performance and loads of backup and other network features make this one Windows OS we can enthusiastically support.
Not available at retail.
We’ve long encouraged our readers to embrace the power of a dedicated home server—we love the flexibility an always-on rig provides to host media, important documents, and other vital data. But, it’s not a simple proposition—XP isn’t particularly well suited to server duties, and setting up and maintaining Linux can be a challenge. That’s where Windows Home Server steps in.
Microsoft started with the solid base of Windows Server 2003, then stripped out everything but the necessities. From that bare-bones base, the Home Server team added crucial functionality for home users: Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) media sharing, an automated backup solution, rig health monitoring, and an innovative disk management scheme. The result is a rock-solid piece of software that is outstanding today and hints at even more amazing functionality to come.
Naturally, Home Server includes basic file-sharing functionality, shipping with default shares for music, photos, and video. You can configure per-user permissions for each share and create custom shares for specific purposes. Additionally, you can stream content to an Xbox 360 or other UPnP-compatible client directly from the shares.
Home Server’s sexiest feature is Server Storage, which essentially accumulates all the available space on all the hard drives in your system into one massive volume. If you have more than one drive in your system, you can even configure individual shares so that data is automatically stored on more than one hard drive. Configuring a new drive or removing an older drive is a simple procedure.
Once you’ve installed the included Home Server Connector software on your PCs, it will notify you of any potential problems, like out of date antivirus software or machines that have missed updates. Best of all, Home Server includes everything you need to do automatic backups of up to 10 machines connected to your home network. Restoring those backups is as simple as booting off of the included CD and selecting the backup you want to restore.
While Home Server won’t be available from retailers, power users will be able to purchase an OEM bundle from sites like Newegg.com. It’s a great piece of software, and it absolutely blows lesser-featured NAS boxes out of the water.