Windows Home Server – the story so far…

 

As my regular reader πŸ™‚ will know, I was invited to the WHS Beta last week.

To say I was excited would be a bit of an understatemnt, I’ve been want ing to play with this technology ever since Charlie‘s team announced it at CES! I immediately downloaded the software and documentation, requested my license key and burnt my discs.

The install process has been documented extensively by others who were invited to the party earlier, so I’ll skim over it – suffice to say it was a breeze on an old desktop machine that’s been gathering dust for 18 months – a P4? 1.7Ghz Compaq with ~700Mb RAM and a 120Gb Hard Drive – real bleeding edge stuff 5 years ago!! The only addition was a cheap “e-bay special” Firewire / USB card – no driver issues at all πŸ™‚ The firewire ports are required to connect my additional drives in their external enclosure….. When WHS goes gold I might step up to the 8 bay version :-))

The process of adding disks was very smooth, I managed to clear a lot of data from one of my disks (removing old backups etc.) and moved the remaining data to other drives temporarily – probably the slowest part of the entire process… then I plugges the array into the server and the “issues” began……….

The server saw all the disks – that’s fine, but it re-labels them – so I couldn’t tell which disk was the “blank one” πŸ™   So, I disconnected the drives again, and pulled the caddies that had “data storing” disks. Then, after a quick re-connect, I could add my blank drive to the shared pool. This done, I reseated the “full” disks one at a time, and moved data  around accordingly.

  • It’s probably worth pointing out at this stage a few little “features” of WHS and adding storage to the pool.

    1.   Disks must be formatted before they can be added to the pool.

    2.   Once a disk is added to the pool – drive letters in the conventional sense do not exist – they all form part of a big pot

  • 3.  In the console, the individual disks are “visible” (see the screen-shot below) but only for a status readout.

 

 This leads me to the biggest “issue” I’ve found so far (and at time of writing) the 2nd most highly rated piece of feedback on the Connect site (raised by yours truly!!) – the face that I cannot re-label my disks within WHS.  e.g. I’d like to be able to number my disks from 1-4 for the external disks – top to bottom in the external array. That way, if a disk goes “bad” – and it’s bound to happen – then I can identify it easily without having to pull the drive one at a time to see when the error goes away.

I see this as a VITAL faeture for the finished product – especially if Microsoft want this to become popular with non-techies – at the moment it’s in danger of falling through the cracks between enthusiasts (by not being feature-rich enough) and the “normal” home-user (because it’s too tricky to do the “easy” stuff). Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE this product, and it’s not going to be disconnected from my home LAN any time in the forseeable future – but it’s a way off being recommended to my parents for them to backup their digital photos etc!!

 There’s a very good write-up here from computerworld, and the reviewer seems to be of the same mindset as me when he sums it up with “For my part, now that Home Server is installed on my network, it’s not going to be unplugged”

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