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Windows Home Server – Home Central (The Missing Application).

September 16, 2009

Windows Home Server is a wonderful product and I would not part with my server for all the tea in china, I honestly can’t see how the family would manage without it, yes not just me but my wife and children have become reliant on it.

mediasmart-server_190x170 I purchased the HP Media Smartserver which is basically a 1.8GHZ Semptron with 512Mb ram with 500gb Storage and a 1GB network card, which has been upgraded to 2GB ram with 6.3TB of Storage And 1.5TB server backup storage.

The server uses a customised version of windows server 2003 but for the everyday user this is hidden and the administrator accesses the system via a console on any of the local PC’s (also Mac’s now) which is very intuitive and simple but it is worth noting that the manufacturer of the hardware also customizes the console window and supplies software of its own so the HP software will differ from say Microsoft’s OEM or another manufactures (or the administrator can remote desktop into the server).

Now I know a lot of people would wonder what would you do with such a unit and why would you need something like this?

Our home server looks after backing up all the family PC’s for example the media centre PC, The Main PC and the laptops it does this automatically once a day or on demand takes a full image of the PC in question thus allowing a full bare metal restore or a more granular file by file approach. Now it’s worth noting that depending on capacity the server can hold daily, weekly and monthly backups and it can do it for up to 10 clients. And to be honest I have not seen a more elegant solution even taking Norton ghost in to account (it has saved my life a few times, ever seen a daughter who lost all her home work?).

console

Ok so we have backups what else well the server stores and distributes to all the pc’s, laptops and media streamers and even the PS3 or entire media collection now this includes all the family photo’s and home videos we also store all our music and videos on the server so no matter where we are we can watch listen to any music or film on the server. We also keep images documents the list is endless and all are protected by folder duplication (a very clever software analog to raid mirroring without the exotic hardware).

Another great feature is I can access anything on the server (after setting adequate security which again the software does quite elegantly) and no matter where I am in the world as long as I have a web browser and internet connection I no longer carry a thumb drive, everything is a web address and a login away,

We can also add other programs (addin’s) which is a great feature for example a media server software or disk management software from both professional and the enthusiast community.

However there is one big omission that i believe Microsoft made especially when you look at the target customer i.e. you and me!

Take a look at the marketplace for the home server and look at how it’s sold. Just to clarify I see it being primarily a domestic product (but it is worth noting that there are applications within the SOHO market, but that is another post) with the key tasks being

· Central storage point

· Central to your media streaming needs

· Central backup solution.

So the Home Server sits at the center of the home network but where the missing application is I call Home Central.

Home central does a few key tasks and just to illustrate my point most of this functionality that filter would be in Home Central is technology already available (both free and paid for) from Microsoft but needs customized to suit Home server the first component is as follows

  1. WebCentral (Proxy Server) – We Should be able to configure windows so that all traffic goes through the server for managing sites where children visit (white or black or adaptive filtering depending on parents choice) and when they can visit for example time of day, also for logging and this could also ensure that all traffic must route through a form of anti-virus software, this functionality is available in one form or another in Vista or can be downloaded from Windows Live so how hard would this be to modify for Home Server?
  2. InfoCentral – Home server runs a version of IIS which is an integral part of the setup but where the functionality of the home intranet is or the web facing home website/blog (Use an older free version of FrontPage, probably would not break the bank to implement).
  3. SheduleCentral – this one would require more work possibly but the key points area. We should be able to store our own diaries privately and have a family diary
    that can be accessed by all the family.

b. We should be able to store our own address book privately and have a family
address book that can be accessed by all the family.

c. We should have a central email storage where we can access from a PC or
possibly a Web interface on IIS (a Basic email server that would also let
us communicate internally)

All this functionality should be accessible by the basic windows OS i.e. on vista this would be Mail & Calendar or in XP Outlook express or any version of outlook or via an intranet in the server.

When you think about it these are quite important features and I am surprised that they were never included in the basic set-up so if you ever read this Microsoft you may use applicationCentral name for the mere copy of the suite when completed,

Please let me know your thoughts or if I am missing any other features.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 18, 2009 6:25 pm

    Hi there,
    Cool site, I just found it and I am already a fan.

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