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  • General discussion

  • I am a huge proponent of the Home Server concept; however, to be successful, I believe that it will take quite a bit of convincing for people to fork over bucks for the new hardware and another box taking up room in their house.  Believe me, my wife uses her Laptop every day, but the last think she wants in our house is another big "ugly" PC Box.  The hard-core PC people will not have a problem, but that is the few.  There will have to be strong motivation to convince people to make the investment and historically, backup strategies have never been much of a selling point for most people... not until "after" they loose there data.  I believe the biggest value-add (and maybe the only way the solution will survive) will be with tight integration of existing Microsoft products, modified to take advantage of the Home Server technology.  Once vendors see that Microsoft has invested its own Development teams in the technology, they will jump on the bandwagon (big-time).  Imagine if there was a MS Office suite (Home Server version) available.  There would be all kinds of other vendors creating Home Server versions of their products.  Today most Software products are not designed to be run across a network or to serve multiple users within a family unit.  Very few people would spend the money for an elaborate backup machine.  If they want backup, they can get a NAS device much cheaper.  Add-ins would need to be overwhelmingly impressive for the general populace to be so motivated that they spend the money on this Home Server solution.

    Here are a few suggestions:


    MS Integration - This would be a huge win:


    Microsoft needs to provide a simulated Exchange environment.  In this new Home Server environment, my whole family should be able to access their email, contacts, calendar, etc from their respective computers, but the data should be centralized.  I want to have one centralized set of contact information that we all use.  I also want to be able to go to any PC in my house, log-in and use it as if it is my own box so the server should know each of our profiles.  Today, since we all have our own "Outlook.pst" files, creating a simple Christmas mailing list becomes a chore because you have to consolidate all the contact data from all the individual machines first.  From a Calendar perspective, I want to be able to have the family view each other's calendars too.  That way, I know when Soccer practice is and they know when I have a work event.  Basically, Microsoft needs to provide a simulated Exchange environment.  This would be huge for most families.  (This is probably the number-one biggest selling point that I could use with my wife).


    Windows File system Transparency:

    One problem currently impacting any user in today's Windows environment is the problem/confusion with having a local "My documents" and "My Sharing Folders." With Windows Home Server, you will also have a separate set of Share Folders on the Home Server.  In the end, it is too confusing for most family members and they just use what ever is easiest for them... probably, "My documents."  There needs to be a way to link these folders so they are transparent to the user. In addition, the information can reside on both (as an option) yet be transparent. For example, I wouldn't want my 9 year old to have to remember to put certain files in "My Documents" and other files like Pictures only on the Server.  It just won't happen and you end up with files all over the place.  Desktop PCs really doesn't need to have a copy of all files mirrored to it, but my wife's laptop does for when she disconnects.  There should be an automated transparent sync mechanism for when she re-connects.


    Software Updates:

    If you have multiple PCs in your house, you should be able to have the server auto download the latest virus files, windows update files, etc., and all PCs on that network should be able to get their updates quickly and directly from the main server.  This has obvious advantages on many fronts.  It reduces internet traffic, speeds up the update process for the user, Vendor's servers don't get impacted as greatly, and a host of other benefits.  This is because only one of the many PCs is going out to get the information.  Today, every time I have to update software in my house, I have to do the same thing 5 times. 



    There is a huge opportunity to use this as a massive DVR and storage device for all TV shows, etc.  Since I love my TiVo, I want to be able to run TiVo's Desktop software to automatically schedule the Home Server to download my shows from the TiVo Box.  Then the Server would use its CPU (and not my Desktop's) to convert the file to iPod format so I can download it from iTunes.  (This is actually what I do today).  This saves me time because the CPU-intensive process is not using my desktop's CPU to do the conversion.  I would feel comfortable buying a huge hard-disk for this box and could keep everything I wanted there.  Then, I could watch it on my iPod, or from any computer or TV in the house.


    I would like to see a Home Server solution for a PC-based HD TV tuner which could function as a DVR and do this without the need for paying the monthly service TiVo or Comcast fee.  If the TV guide was downloaded to the Server, access would be very fast due to not having to go out over the internet. 


    Google or MSN Desktop Search:

    I would be great to have a high performance centralized Search engine that would have an index of every document from every computer in the house.  That way, I have the option of finding that lost document that actually may reside on another machine. 


    Virus / Spyware CPU hogs:

    I bought a new box and it was extremely fast.  However, by the time I loaded all the Virus protection, Firewall, Phishing protection, Spyware protection, etc.... It ran like a snail. 

    There has got to be a better way.  I would like to see the Home Server run those background processes and scan all the machines on the network on a regular basis.  You may still need to run something locally, but I think there needs to be a way to take the load of the local User's box and shift the heavy lifting to the server.


    Installing Software:

    Today when I buy a piece of software that provides multiple licenses per household, I have to install it over and over again on each PC.  Then when they provide an update to the software, I have to update each PC one at a time.  There has got to be a better way.  Why not install software one time on the Home Server and enable each PC to use it.  The licensing can be built in to restrict concurrent users and it saves me time from having to do multiple installs and updates.  In addition, certain applications tend to be used across multiple PCs and benefit greatly from have the code centralized.  For example, having a centralized Encyclopedia that is updated regularly would be a great benefit to all the students in the family.



    Wednesday, June 20, 2007 11:20 PM