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Just what exactly is this supposed to be? RRS feed

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  • Hi all,
    I've installed WHS and kept looking at it for a while asking myself why is this piece of software so limited.
    I see It's basically a 3-features software: shared storage, backup server, RDP gateway. That's it.

    I came to this forum to read other people's opinions and saw many of you thinking my same thoughts. I believe the purpose of WHS is some way missed under many aspects...

    Why did Windows SBS have such a wide success? Because a single box could address ALL the customer needs.
    Now WHS should not be a stripped down Small Business Server, but rather an Enhanced Family Server... the feature set must be complete or Microsoft will miss the customer satisfaction objective.
    I understand that WHS can't be a business server replacement but it's a mistake thinking the needs of a home network are limited to what WHS is going to offer.

    In a small network environment (3 to 10 machines) you'll anyway have to address these basic needs:

    1. Provisioning: home users need to a have a seamless environment across all home computers, so a centralized user directory and roaming profiles are a must. A family might not need an Active Directory environment as in SBS, but I guess an ADAM kind of functionality is really needed. WHS will leave the home network admin phisically roaming across the house to manully sync users, passwords and profiles. That's no good when you have a server in place.
    2. Centralized Internet Access: this server is useless in this area, I understand ISA would be too much, but at least a hassle free NAT configuration is the minimum required. This functionality might be put into place for the bits are actually on the Windows Server, but it might not be as easy as Microsoft wants it to be for a home user although he is an admin.
    3. Media Center Server: people buying WHS might expect that it is able to record and share TV to all others media centers pcs and extenders in the house. Once again this is not addressed, so home admins will be left with a single pc configuration experience. If they want to stream TV to the entre house they'll need to configure a Media Center PC in the house as a server (another?!) with its not-redundant and expensive local storage... they why buy WHS?
      I'll tell you more WHS should add Media Center Extender funtionality to all home pcs through the connector (I mean even if MCE is not present on these clients).
    4. (This might be me not yet understanding). It's great to have this new storage management to redundantly replicate WHS content across its drives... but what happens if the system disk fails? Am I going to lose it all? If I will be able to restore the whole box, how easy will it be to restore and rebuild all the storage (both system and data)? I'm afraid disater recovery won't be that easy...
    5. How about deployng clients systems and client software through WHS? Windows 2000 is able to do this, why shouldn't WHS?
    6. Now I have kids... I need Parental Control and I have 5 pcs in the house. I'd be upset to have a home server that can't centralize this configuration... I'd be left once again walking up and down the house manually replicating a single configuration to each manually replicated user.

    There might be more of these... The whole point of this post anyway is that WHS to me is quite disappointing beacuse I just does NOT address many BASIC home network needs. To date, WHS is just another box to configure in the house... it offers some unique and very useful features, but it leaves a lot of them behind.

    I believe that generally this piece of software will be bought by experienced power users longing to solve the above (and others) configuration issues they always had in the house.
    In a more extreme interpretation (I'm provoking here), WHS (at the point it is now) could become a further configuration hassle for the house.

    In the end I've always been a great fan of a WHS kind of box since my first home network configuration. I believe it's a great idea and the software is at a very good starting point...
    Just don't waste this chance and do not leave key features not implemented for future versions... Make it REALLY a complete solution for the house from version 1.0

    Regards,
    Giuseppe Pellegrino

    Saturday, March 3, 2007 8:14 AM

All replies

  • Welcome to the beta program, Giuseppe!

    I think your points are all good ones, but I think you're starting with bad assumptions. You seem to be assuming that WHS is primarily going to be sold as a standalone product,where users buy the OS on DVD and install it on their own hardware. The press, and several interviews with members of the WHS team, make it pretty clear to me that WHS is primarily going to be sold through the OEM channel, on headless appliances like the HP MediaSmart Server. Charlie Kindel, in one interview, has said that it will also be available in the retail channel, but who knows when, or even if, that will really happen?

    You're also assuming that the average user of WHS will be a technically sophisticated user. In the same interview mentioned above, Charlie Kindel discussed the two personas (user types) Microsoft looked at as WHS customers. One is basically an Excel jockey; he's got several PCs at home and wants to make some aspects of managing data and storage easier, but he's not very savvy. The other is a technically sophisticated enthusiast/developer who will get under the hood to tweak almost anything. A glance at the feature set, and interface, makes it pretty clear to me that WHS is targeted for the Excel jockey, not the savvy user.

    This beta test is, of course, almost totally savvy users, not Excel jockeys, so there's a bit of a conflict. There are advanced features that I wish WHS had, too (Active Directory, for example), but I try to look at the product as a member of the main target audience, not a tweaker.

    Your general point about WHS being limited is true. I would think the reason for that is that Microsoft has a target shipping date, and "shipping is a feature too." The way to meet a fixed release date is to either lower the quality bar (bad idea!) or reduce the feature set. So we get the features that Microsoft feels they can adequately test and debug in the time available before the product has to ship.

    Your points 1,2, and 5 have been discussed elsewhere, and I think the general conclusion is that the functionality you're looking for is already supplied by another Microsoft operating system, Small Business Server. People in a home environment aren't looking for those capabilities, and mostly wouldn't know how to use them if they had them. Your third point has been discussed elsewhere as well, and I think many people agree (I definitely do). Whether that will sway Microsoft to add additional media features to WHS I don't know.

    To answer your point 4: If the system disk fails, there is a way to repair your WHS without losing the data stored on your shares (assuming you had more than one disk to begin with; if all you have is the system disk, you're out of luck). You'll lose some settings, and may lose the backups of home PCs connected to WHS (some people have reported that they didn't lose backups after a repair), but your shares will be safe.

    Your last point is also a good one. I don't have children, but I understand the desire of parents to protect their kids, and think it's a good idea. There's a suggestion on Connect that this be added. It's marked as postponed, so I doubt we will see this in the initial release of WHS, but you should go there and vote to let Microsoft know how the user community feels about the issue.
    Saturday, March 3, 2007 3:32 PM
    Moderator
  • I would really love to have MediaCenter functionality too (my WHS is next to the TV). This would increase the market of WHS by alot in my opinion, because it'll change the backup/sharing server to a Media Server which sounds pretty attractive.(I don't think this'll be too hard to to integrate since MediaCenter works like a stand alone program on Vista for instance.)

    Parental Control as the one implemented in Vista would be a great addition too!

     

    I hope these suggestions get some attention.

    Saturday, March 3, 2007 6:57 PM

  •  Ken Warren wrote:
    Welcome to the beta program, Giuseppe!

    Thank you Ken!
    You seem to be assuming that WHS is primarily going to be sold as a standalone product (...)

    I knew WHS was intended to be primarily an appliance and maybe a standalone software product... I was anyway talking about the software functonality in whatever circumstance.
    Charlie Kindel discussed the two personas (user types) Microsoft looked at as WHS customers. One is basically an Excel jockey; he's got several PCs at home and wants to make some aspects of managing data and storage easier, but he's not very savvy. The other is a technically sophisticated enthusiast/developer who will get under the hood to tweak almost anything. A glance at the feature set, and interface, makes it pretty clear to me that WHS is targeted for the Excel jockey, not the savvy user.

    I agree, but don't you think that the "Excel jockey" has already faced the annoying (for him) issue of having all his home PCs connected via Internet Connection Sharing? Didn't he struggle with permissions when trying to access other PCs data with the same replicated user accounts (generally Administrator)? These problems are not solved for him with WHS as it is now. I think the "How do I have them all connected to the internet?" and "How do I access...?" are the first problems that a non-savvy user faces when trying to set up his "integrated" home network environment.
    This beta test is, of course, almost totally savvy users, not Excel jockeys, so there's a bit of a conflict. There are advanced features that I wish WHS had, too (Active Directory, for example), but I try to look at the product as a member of the main target audience, not a tweaker.

    I don't know where I might stand actually... I'm a multi-certified Windows professional... so I'm a bit more than a tweaker :)
    I guess WHS is not for me (I have 3 Server 2003 boxes in my home: one for connectivity, one for Directory Services and storage sharing, the last is an application server for management products)... anyway all I said before was thoguht out as an "Excel jockey"
    Your general point about WHS being limited is true. I would think the reason for that is that Microsoft has a target shipping date, and "shipping is a feature too." The way to meet a fixed release date is to either lower the quality bar (bad idea!) or reduce the feature set. So we get the features that Microsoft feels they can adequately test and debug in the time available before the product has to ship.

    I undestand that, I just came out of Windows Vista beta if you know what I mean :)
    Anyway there's no real competitor right now for this kind of product and it would be the first release as well... You could take your time to add a couple of icons to the WHS console. Besides, there's no new technology to implement, everything I'm talking about is already there... it would only mean testing a specific configuration. 
    I think the general conclusion is that the functionality you're looking for is already supplied by another Microsoft operating system, Small Business Server. People in a home environment aren't looking for those capabilities, and mostly wouldn't know how to use them if they had them.

    Yes and no... There's really something missing in the way WHS should define a home network... For what I can see, Windows clients only actuallt point to the WHS, they are not really joined to a managed network environment.
    Active directory could be brought to users through a simple user management interface in WHS (the home admin might not even know there's AD down there).
    It's true SBS have functionality that is not needed in a home environment (talking about SQL, ISA and Exchange here)... but at a close range there's really no SBS functionality integrated in the home server... I'm wondering why Microsoft is building the home Server off the SBS and not simply 2003 R2 when there's nothing more than sharing, terminal and backup implemented as a server service.
    Then one's migh say a functionality is not really needed or it can be postponed, but I have to insist sayin that users administration, internet access management (a simple NAT) and centralized parental control are the main purposes (apart from sharing which, I must stress, does not include TV recorded by the WHS itself because it can't) that a Home Server should be built for.
    To answer your point 4: If the system disk fails, there is a way to repair your WHS without losing the data stored on your shares (assuming you had more than one disk to begin with; if all you have is the system disk, you're out of luck). You'll lose some settings, and may lose the backups of home PCs connected to WHS (some people have reported that they didn't lose backups after a repair), but your shares will be safe.

    Sorry I'm afraid I don't understand... take this scenario: a WHS with 3 HDs, WHS system volume stays on a partition of the first HD, this first HD fails... how do I recover the system volume (and _then_ the data)? Certainly not reinstalling (the installation process wipes out all the volumes)... are you telling the "Excel jockey" to openup the box, unplug the drives, reinstall and plug them back?
    Your last point is also a good one. I don't have children, but I understand the desire of parents to protect their kids, and think it's a good idea. There's a suggestion on Connect that this be added. It's marked as postponed, so I doubt we will see this in the initial release of WHS, but you should go there and vote to let Microsoft know how the user community feels about the issue.

    Thank you for the hint, I voted and commented it. Unfortunately this is postponed already... Beta 2 is really a good starting point but no way enough or satisfatory for the "Excel jockey", not to talk about the savvy tweakers. Just my personal belief though.

    i(do)care

    Saturday, March 3, 2007 7:59 PM
  • (This might be me not yet understanding). It's great to have this new storage management to redundantly replicate WHS content across its drives... but what happens if the system disk fails? Am I going to lose it all? If I will be able to restore the whole box, how easy will it be to restore and rebuild all the storage (both system and data)? I'm afraid disater recovery won't be that easy...

    Yes that was me... I looked around and found this: http://forums.microsoft.com/WindowsHomeServer/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=1258811&SiteID=50 

    mea culpa :)

    Saturday, March 3, 2007 8:19 PM
  • WHS is not as stripped down as it looks, and yes I would love to see it function as a Domain controller rather than a storage server but it is what it is. But first off, 

    as far as #1, If it's your goal, Passwords can sync'd, roaming profiles are fully supported but remember, you must go to the PC you wish to log onto and point to that profile in order to use it. Just set the path for roaming profiles for each user to \\server\users\username and again even if you had a Domain controller you'd still have to manually set up accounts for all your users to begin with. But in my case my kids have there own computers, I dont want them to be able to come into my office and log onto mine. 

    #2 Centralized internet access should be provided through your router. but have you experimented? It's not a supported scenario but WHS supports Load balancing and ICS is enabled by default. so what if you installed a 2nd network card and ran WHS in between the Internet connection and the router? Then you could run your favorite Firewall on the Server to gain a central point of control/policy for all of the clients Internet access.

    #3 start the Home Server Console, click on the icon between the version number and the help icon in the upper right corner. choose folders in the left column. Here you you can set the shares to stream media to other network devices like X-Box, MCE pc's or other media enabled devices etc..

    #4 I dont know But WHS should also be backing up it self when not backing up clients

    #5 It does, that is what the software share is for, It can be accessed from a client through windows explorer by browsing the network shares even if the client connector is not installed. It would be great thou to have some kind of "Push" mechanism that could be initiated by setup to install client software.

    Theres plenty you can do to tailor WHS to your needs, I Have Share Point 3.0 running on the Webserver where I publish a "Family Calendar" I have the IIS FTP server running so I have access to utilities I might need while working on customers PC's while I'm away from home. (you cant bring all your tools to a customers, you inevitably forget something.) I have a very old and small program running on the server that reads Caller Id Information from the modem and transmits this Via network messages using the Messenger service.

    I have been able to remove all modems, printer ports and serial ports from the Client pc's to reduce overhead/save resources. I have removed all Client shared folders in favor of using those on the Server (which also reduces backup times) But Even so, this may all change by RTM so I could lose things I'm beggining to love. But right now I'm finding this to be a very capable solution.. I've never done a backup in my life cause it was too hard and I've lost it all several times. One care Live just ate my blank cds and I skipped scheduled backups most of the time because I was too busy.. Now it gets done for me.

     

    Sunday, March 4, 2007 1:26 AM
  •  Rex Geissinger wrote:

    #2 Centralized internet access should be provided through your router. but have you experimented? It's not a supported scenario but WHS supports Load balancing and ICS is enabled by default. so what if you installed a 2nd network card and ran WHS in between the Internet connection and the router? Then you could run your favorite Firewall on the Server to gain a central point of control/policy for all of the clients Internet access.



    Actually, though I can't find it at the moment, I've seen a posting saying that WHS doesn't support 2 NICs in the same machine.
    Sunday, March 4, 2007 2:53 AM
    Moderator
  • I'm not sure I follow why you'd want to run ICS through WHS? I feel more secure with my fileserver inside my firewall and not acting as my firewall. Hardware firewall solutions are inexpensive and it's pretty simple to roll your own if you want. The best part is, you aren't depending on Microsoft's firewall to keep you safe. I'm a One Care subscriber but after seeing the test results of their antivirus and spyware over the past couple of weeks I'm going with something else.
    Sunday, March 4, 2007 6:10 AM
  • I've read elsewhere and I saw a video that hinted that WHS is not a cut-down server, but one which simply hides features from non-tecchie users. Which suggests that all the network admins here should be able to find virtually all their favourite features shoudl they look hard enough.

    So I have a question. Is there a clear, unambiguous list anywhere of exactly what is available and what is not, compared to SBS or other server versions? I'm still gathering together my hardware ( 1 Tb of storage one the way) to finish building my server, so I'm not in a position to install and find out for myself  :-)

     

    Sunday, March 4, 2007 5:40 PM
  •  Ken Warren wrote:


    Actually, though I can't find it at the moment, I've seen a posting saying that WHS doesn't support 2 NICs in the same machine.

    It's in th FAQ

    http://forums.microsoft.com/WindowsHomeServer/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=1214370&SiteID=50

    Sunday, March 4, 2007 8:10 PM
  • Yes I've read the same posts, It says it is an "unsupported Scenario" that could yield unpredictable results. But if you want to know if WHS can be run in this configuration Try it, Experimentation was also encouraged..

    I would not run my server in this manner I would rather let my router do the work I was just responding to another comment from some one who wanted to know if they could, It's quite likely possible...

     

    Rex

    Sunday, March 4, 2007 8:41 PM
  • Yes I've read the same posts, It says it is an "unsupported Scenario" that could yield unpredictable results. But if you want to know if WHS can be run in this configuration Try it, Experimentation was also encouraged..

     

    Rex

    Monday, March 5, 2007 2:05 AM