Yesterday I received my HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server in the mail. There's two versions, the 500gig and the 1TB. I've been using WHS since Beta2 and was ready to tidy up my Frankenserver, which was largely a DIY (Do It Yourself) and I'd been having some hard drives go belly up lately. Fortunately I hadn't lost any data, since Home Server makes copies, but I was getting nervous with my existing hardware.
You might remember that I did a Podcast with the Father of Windows Home Server, Charlie Kindel. I encourage you to check it out.
The Home Server is so pretty I took it out of the Wiring Closet and put it in the Home Office. I took one of my Western Digital My Book External Drives and use it as a Backup to the Backup.
The HP MediaSmart is REALLY small. Like maybe the size of 2 technical books. It's headless, meaning it has no VGA or DVI port. No monitor. You have to remote into it with the Home Server Software, which is really no big deal.
Here's some unboxing photos. The soda can is for size reference.
The tooling on the hard drive enclosures is brilliant. Mine came with bays 3 and 4 filled with two 500 gig Seagates, so I added some other SATA drives I had lying around. There were NO tools required and no cables. Just shutdown, seat the drives, push them in, boot up and tell the admin console that the drives are cool to use. Even better, the lights on the outside of the case turn Red if a drive is failing, Purple if there's a drive but it's not configured and Blue if it's configured, so I watch the lights go blue as I added each drive. It took all of ten minutes.
It defaults to the name "HPSERVER" and you get one opportunity to change it so I made it just "SERVER" so we've got \\server\software and \\server\users\scott, etc. It's very tidy. I robocopy'ed over about 70 gigs of data then backed up all the machines in the house. You're allowed ten machines. Then I installed SyncBackSE on the Home Server itself (you're not supposed to install stuff on it that wasn't written for it, but SyncBack was a natural thing to want on it and it works great as long as you only refer to your Home Server by UNC path like \\server\foo. Hm, I should make a SyncBack UI with the WHS SDK, or they should...) and set it to backup my blog and website.
Here's a screenshot of my setup showing 1.25 TB of space. I've redirected both our "My Documents" and "My Pictures" using mklink.exe so we're both writing to the server seamlessly. It doesn't run a domain, so we have to keep our password synchronized, but the Home Server Connector software warns you if they are out of sync and handles it.
The HP software adds another button as you can see above, with some additional features like an iTunes music server, so I have my iTunes protected music streaming from there to other instances of iTunes around the house, and my unprotected music streaming via Windows Media Connect to the Xboxes. That was an unexpected treat, as I didn't know it had iTunes integration.
You will have to install the HP software on at least one 32-bit machine in order to "bootstrap" the server the first time. However, there will apparently be a 64-bit Vista Connector for 64-bit folks (like some of my machines) available as on Windows Update in the near future.
Check out We Got Served, the best Home Server Community site I've seen, especially their list of Home Server Add-Ins. Also, here's the WHS team blog and their pretty clever advertising campaign about Stay At Home Servers.
So far I'm very happy with Windows Home Server. Now I'm just waiting for Mozy to include support for it. They had better pretty soon or I'll jump ship.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.