WHS Server Storage & Backup Manual: All You Need To Know RRS feed

  • Question

  • How much would you pay for this book?  If you call Microsoft for WHS support, one question will cost you $65.  They claim the EULA specifies this; the EULA I have, out of the paid version of WHS, says otherwise.

    In any case, a rhetorical question.  There is no such manual, as this forum amply testifies.  The problem is: what is Microsoft doing here, selling a product in which -- at one time -- they pictured "senior citizens" (like myself) using Home Server, and then using said Home Server to tell us to "check our clusters"?

    In tracking down an issue in the 10,000 threads posted here in the WHS forum, I came across the polite yet huge understatement by a user: "[This could] be a little confusing to the non-technical people at which this operating system is aimed."

    This has been a propblem inherent in the Mircrosoft corporate structure from the founding.  I heard the bottom line approximately 2 years ago when Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had a 20 minute public industry event chit-chat on stage, widely reported in the TV celeb news that day.

    During the repartee, Bill gushed (in his own way) over Steve's design abilites.  Yes! I yelled to my wife: the light bulb just went on!  Bill is the business genius, but Steve is the user genius, and the twain just met.   Only thing is, nothing happened, except Steve introduced the operating system of the next 50 years, the iPhone.

    This is what remains missing from the Microsoft "team" structure, genius in shaping the great ideas into average user comphrenesion and, in turn, advanced accessiblity.  I want to find a contact in Outlook by first name or last name,  I want to always select a file by latest date, without four additional organizational clicks.  WHS Team, I don't want to see even the physical box, as you, indeed, have advertised as sitting in a closet!  Ask any of the 50,000 people who have posted here if they can imagine using WHS without a keyboard and monitor, as you proclaim.

    MY QUESTION TODAY:  Please tell me everything I need to know about disks & storage on WHS?  Everything.  With no acronyms or technical terms, unless defined clearly.  And as the great Jerry Pournelle used to demand of manuals, three examples of each problem.

    How do I back up WHS?  There are several different types of storage on WHS, how do I back up each?  How might I back up the backups to Live SkyLine (SkyDrive; whatever), to Amazon, to Mozy?  Yes....discuss products other than MS. 

    Whay aren't there at least as many "Add-ins" as there are iPhone Apps, proportionate to user base??  Spread the green around?

    If I have to remove a disk ANY disk, what are ALL of the consequnces?  How do I prevent these consequences, i.e., lost backups?

    How do I remove drives ?  Any and all, eSATA, STATA, SCSI, IDE?  Root drive (C:) and all others, internal & external. Have you fixed the "size" problem?  Forget telling people to put the largest drive at the beginning.  This is not real world...or else physcially prevent the user from doing this.  I have a stack of old HDD's here ranging from 40 to 250 GB; a couple of months ago 1T "green" (WD) SATA drives started selling for $130 , yet my old Dell server won't boot from a SATA drive .  So I'm leaving my 140 IDE as the WHS boot drive & adding a SATA card for the green drives.  After all, I've installed and had WHS fail 8 times now.  Don't want to do it any more.

    What internal porcesses affect backup,  such as "balancing".  How does it work?

    What happens when I install a large new drive and I want to split it between the apparently 2 different types of backup or shares?

    Explain "shares" completely, and WHY CAN I NOT CONSISTENTLY ACCESS them from other computers on the network; this a Windows problem of over 10 years!  This situation, by the way, is definitively & reliably solved by a free progam called Network Magic", owned by Cisco.  Why can't Windows Home Server solve this?  This is incomphrensible.

    OK.  When you get that set of problems and the 30 pages or so of text written up, I'll help out by proofing your first really user useful manual.  Then I have another set of questions for the next chapter.

    Thank you.
    30 year (CPM) computer novice.
    Friday, February 20, 2009 5:34 PM

All replies

  • Windows Home Server is available in only two forms: preinstalled on hardware by vendors such as e.g. Hewlett-Packard, or in a "system builder" package. It's not available as retail software (shelfware). When you purchase OEM software in a system builder package, which you must do to install WHS yourself on your own hardware, you become a system builder yourself. The EULA for the system builder software is quite clear that there is no free support (other than online user communities like this one) for the software. The system builder is expected to support his or her clients. In a "self built" situation, you are both the client and the builder, so you are your own support. This is an unfortunate reality. If you have an MSDN or Technet subscription, or other support agreement with Microsoft, I assume you can use your paid support incidents for WHS-related questions as well...

    Now, as to your questions: You should start with the documentation available through the Windows Home Server Support page. You should also read the Windows Home Server team blog. Those documents (and the blog) contain a wealth of technical information about the inner workings of the product. They don't give you nitty-gritty detail (those details are probably considered proprietary intellectual property by Microsoft, and are information that, honestly, end-users probably don't need). They do give a good overview of how the various components work, though.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Friday, February 20, 2009 6:22 PM
  • Ken,

    Thank you for the reply.  You sidestep my issue, which is that WHS doesn't work reliably.  Hence, an army of well-intentioned, expert & kindly volunteers, such as yourself, are required.

    To your specifics, I have a retail, plastic boxed version of WHS.  It does not make the "builder" or OEM distinctions you portray.  If you wish, I'll send you photos of the packaging and scans of the EULA.  Even if what you say is the general intention, I do not purchase a car and then have the dealer tell me it is electronic, and we only use wrenches here, sorry can't help you.  There is no excuse for purveying any faulty product, most especially a technical one for backup and "home" use.

    As to my questions, spending hours seaching and interpreting casually written, "geek" originated material (I use the term humorously.) is not an acceptable substitute for a good manual, for me or for any other "home" user, most especially those who don't have phone access to assistance.   

    I do not ask for, do not want "nitty-gritty".  I want any possible failure encountered in normal usage covered in plain English, and how to prevent such.  What I have found with extensive reading of the profuse manuals, "white papers", and forums, is usually either indecipherable or not precisely applicable to the numerous faliures I have experienced.  

    This software carries on the well-established Microsoft tradition in which details are ignored, reliablity acquired only after years of user testing, if then, and no extraordinary user interface is envisioned.   Inexcusable.  

    For eaxample --  again --  is the inability to access "share" folders from other computers on the network.  This represents astounding incompetence, particulary in light of the Cisco solution to same, proof that it is possible.  (And reason for this access as a "NetMagic" feature.)  Microsoft's corporate product standards are absurdly low, and it was my fervent hope that in creating a software category of such neeccssity and usefulness, a transformation would take place.  It didn't.


    30 year (CPM) computer novice.
    Friday, February 20, 2009 7:51 PM
  • "You sidestep my issue, which is that WHS doesn't work reliably."

    Nonsense, for every problem here there are hundreds or thousands of people with little to no problems. My WHS is rock solid. If you're looking for perfection you'll not find it in technology.

    "He who dares not offend cannot be honest." -- Thomas Paine
    Friday, February 20, 2009 9:49 PM
  • Douglas, the plastic boxed version of the software you have (this, whether purchased from Newegg, Amazon, or somewhere else) is a system builder package. There really is no retail version of Windows Home Server. I don't need to see the actual package to know that. :) I see in your forum profile that you consider yourself a "non technical" computer user. The unfortunate (for you) truth of the matter is that this does not make you a very good candidate for a system builder version of Windows Home Server. The system builder installation process assumes a fairly good level of technical knowledge and skill to begin with, and the lack of support directly from Microsoft for the product means that a self-installer will need to be resourceful and knowledgeable about a wide range of technical topics if issues arise.

    As for documentation, the standard practice in the industry is for the system builder/OEM to provide any documentation they feel is needed with a system they have built. (I suspect this requirement is honored more in the breach than the observance, at least on the system builder side...) Obviously a self-built system means that you are your own documentation. This is another reason why the non-technical user may not be a good candidate for self-installation.

    Regarding the rest of your issues, I don't find Windows Home Server to be "faulty" or "unreliable". I have been using it for over two years now (since early beta days), and it has been rock solid. Many others will say the same thing. While you see many issues mentioned here, the total number of people posting about them is really a very small fraction of all Windows Home Server users. So only a very small fraction of people are having any problems at all.

    Also regarding your issues, you don't appear to have posted much about them. Perhaps if you had posted more than a couple of times, people could have helped you with some of the other things that have been giving you problems? As a start, could you please post a thread asking about your shared folders issue?

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Friday, February 20, 2009 11:23 PM
  • Ken,

    Thank you for the invitation to start a thread on my issues, that I will do.  Please keep an eye out for it, but don't hold your breath.  Fixing MS is not a priority; it has stolen too much of my life already at this point.  All I want to do now in my senior years is complain!  I don't post because I generally don't have the time to repair and perfect products other than those of my company.  Actually, unlike Microsoft, my company doesn't make products requiring repair.  We sell to the most demanding customers in the world, at the so-called "ultra-luxury" level, as much as as $1500 per ounce (fragrance).  In 20 years we have never had a return or complaint...once one of our containers, purchased at the number one retalier for such in the US, opened in a customers suitcase...bad news for any liquid manufacturor, even if it was the lid not screwed down. What was the customer's demand to the manager of the store:  I want another bottle!

    This is defintely not the case with MS; they don't smell good, to start with.  The basic demise of WHS  -- and so much of Mircorsoft in general -- is of a PROFUSE lack of attention to detail and refinement of function.  Nothing more than the old cliches of comparing Apple & Google products to MS tells us this.  MS is a core of original thinking, paradoxically banked on unlmited assets, no less, yet cloaked in profuse carelessness.  

    I am happy for the select of you -- as above --who  have found  "perfection" in your installations, but aside from the many, many books written on MS problems (Check Outlook, for example; entire books not on "how to use", but only how to deal with the problems!  Consider this site alone, ignoring the profusion of complaints on WHS blogs..  For the purpose of arguement  -- and Thomas Paine aside -- let's say there are 100,000 entries here, probably give or take 20,000.  Let us suppose the original posting is only for a problem, and let us be generous and say that, as here, problem replies to questions number 4 to 1.  Thereore -- ona really loose suppostion -- we have 25,000 WHS problems strong enough to make a person write about it.  It doesn't matter that matter that these are probably heavily duplicated -- my data is gone! -- it is a disturbing incident to a person to whom it should not have happened at all.  A car with a factory leak in the brake line.

    As many software packages prove, the ancient Symantec Fax, NEO Pro for Outlook, X-1, Evernote, Picasa, there is both genius design and functionality -- sorely lacking in Microsoft -- and utter reliablity.  The very general industry standard for manufactured goods -- my field -- is .04% error.  In aircraft it is even lower, if not zero tolerence.  Let us generously assume that one million copies of WHS are in use.  First asking how many real "home", non-technical, users are running it, then turning back to the sophisticated crowd that knows what a technical forum is, and that this one exists for reference...lets divide problems here by users and get an absolutely horrendous Quilty Index!  

    With reference to your position that this is a limited distribution preduct for "system builders"...this is a defensive figment of some MS executive nerd employee to justify his job against the impact of the numbers and nature of the complaints.  Go read for yourself the Amazon ad for WHS.  It says nothing other than the glorious benefits of using it. And in any case, whatever its theoretical status may be at the presetn, it is actively disseminated on the Microsoft site as the ultimate product for home user data protection.

    I have installed WHS 8-10 times.  I have lost data about six of those times.  There is a WHS team members blog -- perhaps erased by now -- where he swears, after destroying his wife's photo collection -- he will never use it again.  WHS does not secure its own data, to start with, nor does Outlook, with huge, totally vulnerable data. files.  I now have four computers (my nuclear physcist wife thankfully uses Apple) on our server network.  Two of those computers will not connect with WHS.  One just sits with the backup meter at 0%, the other says "Remote Active Desktop" has a problem.  NONE of the four computers can access the WHS server's "shared files", a "permission" problem.  "Contact your administrator."  Unmitigated you know what on a "home" server!  This instance is simply absurd.  What a disappointing shock to find this on Microsoft's newest retail software, morever intended for "grandma" to use.

    I have been struggling with Windows for a decade or more now to keep a open pathway between my computers.  I have purchased every device and software which promises to overcome Microsoft's own inability to make this promised facility function.  Now we have software whose sole working purpose isbased on network interconnectiblity...and it fails flatly.  As to the above gentleman who says I am seeking perfection, this is nonsense: I memerly seek minimal functionality, and such ablity exists, in this case with Cisco's "Network Magic". Once it opens a directory or drive on another network computer, it NEVER shuts the door again.

    Caveat emporer.  

    30 year (CPM) computer novice.
    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 3:56 PM