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My Suggestions for the Windows Home Server (Great Add-in Ideas someone please build) RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • First let me start by saying I have only had Windows Home Server for a day and I haven't read all posts in the forum so these may be duplicate suggestions and/or functionality that I just haven't figured out how to enable.

     

    1. Remote Access

    • The remote access to home PCs is a great idea. I love the concept of being able to remote into my computers while I'm away without having to pay a $19.95 a month 'Go to my pc' subscription fee. The problem with this feature is that people have to remember to leave their computers on, and if they do and there is a power outage while they are away (on vacation or a business trip) they are pretty much out of luck. It would be nice to have an option to wake-up computers that are turned off. I'm pretty sure most built-in NIC cards support a wake feature. Since the WHS is Windows 2003 Small Business does it support auto shutdown programs that ship with UPS devices?
    • I would like to be able to see a log of website traffic. This would allow me to know who is logging into my home pc and when. I'm pretty sure you can view a log if you actually log into the home server machine and log at the security events, but this should be exposed in the WHS console interface.
    • Let’s face it the number one version of Windows Vista for home uses is Vista Home Premium (VHP). The one feature that this OS is missing to fully integrate into the Windows Home Server is Remote Desktop. It just doesn't appear that the Vista product team was working with the WHS product team when they created the requirements for VHP. A full version of Remote Desktop should be included as part of the Home Server Connector Software install.

    2. Network Backups

    • Backing up my computers daily is a great idea; unfortunately I have 10 computers in my house. Considering that a backup of an 80gb hard drive takes about an hour to backup I would suggest that the WHS be able to backup multiple computers at the same time, at least for the initial backup.
    • It would appear that full access to the backups is limited to the actual Windows Home Server Console. It would be great if an end user could go the WHS website and access the backups. I know you can use the website to remote into the console, but only if you know the server password. I can see a family scenario where the parents hold the admin password and simply give their kids access to the shared folders.
    •  I know that Windows 2003 and Vista offer Shadow copies, I'm not sure if by default WHS has shadow copies turned on. I would be nice if there was an option on the shared folders screen to turn this on for specific folders. Once enabled the end users should be able to access prior versions of documents directly through the web and windows interfaces
    • I know that the WHS will backup my computers every night (if they are turned on) but since I can't remotely access these versions of the backups it would be great if the local 'Users' folders (Contacts, Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Favorites, Links, Music, Pictures, Saved Games and Video) were synchronized with the 'User' folder on the WHS. This would ensure that if I put a picture in the Pictures folder on my pc that I will be able to get to it when I turn off my computer and leave my house and access my WHS website. To make this happen the WHS console application would need to monitor the local folders for changes and instantly update the WHS with the files after they are saved.
    • I like the concept of having pictures, music and video shared on the server, but the fundamental problem with this is that you actually have to ignore your local folders, which are tightly integrated with windows, and put your files on the server which is less integrated. The WHS console should monitor these folders and actively manage all local pictures, music and video folders to synchronize them with the server's pictures, music and video folders. Either that or offer the ability to re-map the pictures, music and video folders to the server when the console is installed.

    3. Console Interface

    • Computers & Backups
      • Allow end user to choose an icon for each computer (Tower, Desktop, Laptop, Smart Panel Display, Etc), maybe even include some different color choices
      • Remote access to my computers from this screen
      • Computer Information
        • Processor/Ram Stats
        • Hard Drive Stats (Size, Free, Used)
        • Windows Update Status (Give the ability to push updates to the PC)
        • Who is currently logged on (has there been user activity in the last 5 minutes)
        • What programs are running (Not services, but actual programs that are in the task bar)
    • User Accounts
      • Allow the end user to choose an icon for each user (Boy, Girl, Man, Woman, Old Man, Old Woman, system account, Etc), maybe even include some different race choices
      • Show which computers the user is logged into
    • Shared Folders
      • This screen is great; I made a suggestion about Shadow Copies earlier in this post.
    • Server Storage
      • Hard drives are named with the manufacturer name. WHS should allow end users to actually name these as Drive 1, Drive 2, Etc. The WHS install DVD kit should include some labels that users can actually stick to their hard drives, this way when drive 4 fails two years down the road I don't have to guess which of the identical looking drives it actually is.
    • Network Health
      • I don't this should be a pop-up window. I feel that this should be a flat screen just like the other main screens. The security alerts should be listed just like the drives are on the 'Server Storage' screen and the shield color should be displayed on the right just like the 'Storage pie chart'.

    4. Other suggestions

    • WHS appears to be very concerned about virus protection; if this is the case then it should ship with a whole house license of Live One Care, or at least the Virus Protection component. Live one care currently protects 3 computers for around $50 a year, if they just upped the license to $80 a year and let the home server manage the renewal then every PC (no matter the number) could be protected.
    • Windows and Microsoft Updates. The WHS should be used to download and distribute security and other downloads from windowsupdate.microsoft.com. This eliminates the need for each PC to download the updates which would save Microsoft money because you would only have one PC connecting to their servers and downloading the updates instead of multiple per house.
    • I can't stress this enough. WHS should support 64bit versions of Windows. I have spend over 3k on my hardware (including a qx6700, 4gb of ram, 8800GTX just bragging) and another $400 on Vista Ultimate, I would hope that I could back it up using WHS instead of using the Ultimate backup manually, assuming I even I remember.
    Saturday, June 16, 2007 2:56 PM

All replies

  • I only have a couple of comments.

    1) Gotomypc is a rip off, you can do remote access, for free, with RealVNC.

    2) You can install WSUS on WHS (or any server) to centralize MS updates.

    Saturday, June 16, 2007 6:32 PM
  • Just hitting some of the high points:

    Wake on LAN: There are a couple of WoL add-ins for WHS now. Try them out. The reason WoL wasn't implemented in WHS is three-fold: WoL support is insufficiently universal, even when it's supported in hardware differing software (BIOS) implementations make it flaky, and (because it's built on UDP) it's inherently non-verifiable, except by sending the magic packets and then pinging the target for a while until it responds or you give up.

    Remote Desktop on home SKUs of XP/Vista: isn't going to happen, I'm pretty sure, because Microsoft wants to differentiate the business and home SKUs. And WHS wouldn't be able to install it. It would have to come as an "add-on" to XP or Vista, because supporting a Terminal Services connection requires low-level support in the OS, and there's no easy way to retrofit that.

    Backups: your initial backup takes a while, for the first PC or two. After that, a majority of the clusters on any new PC should already be in the backup database, so things should speed up quite a bit. And after every PC has been backed up once, backup volumes should taper off even more.

    I'm sure it would be possible to present backups through a web interface, but it isn't going to be easy. Backups aren't stored as files, they're stored as 4k clusters in a database.

    Synchronizing local folders with WHS folders sounds like a good idea, but personally I don't want to be able to do that. If you do, there are some options. You could use Sync Toy, or Robocopy. Or you could map every user's shell folders to folders on WHS using registry edits, TweakUI, or some other similar tool. I can think of some other options...

    WHS could care less about virus protection, as far as I can tell. Smile I use Symantec Corporate, because I have a spare license, but there are other options out there. There are a number of threads in the forums that discuss AV software. As for WSUS, Microsoft made a conscious decision not to implement that, or Exchange Lite, or several other low-end business class services, because most home users are perfectly happy with their current solutions, and after all, why reinvent the wheel?

    I am certain that Microsoft is working on 64 bit support. I would love to see someone from Microsoft make a statement about why it's not there yet, and maybe even give us an idea of when we could see it, but I am positive they are working on it just as hard as they can.
    Sunday, June 17, 2007 12:48 AM
    Moderator
  • A couple of points:

    I have between 6 and 8 computers available to play with, plus the server and I've found that after the 1st computer, which I chose as number 1 as it had the most info on it, the other computers were relatively quick. I guess because of the cluster checking, all subsequent backups have all been done in a few minutes for each computer.

    The point regarding identifying drives is a good one, I've wondered how, now we don't have drive letters associated with physical drives, we are to be able to point to the correct non-system drive when it's failed. I would think, like a lot of people and small system builders, we will use a few hard drives all of the same capacity, which will agrevate the identification.

    One of my servers is a Dell 1435 rack, which when plugged into the UPS, will degrade gracefully when power fails/runs out and will restart when power resumes.

    I'm with Ken on the syncronising folders, I don't want WHS to do it, the computers that I want that on, I use Synctoy.

    I don't want Microsoft involved in the Security aspect, I want to make my own selection of products that are compatible, also, OneCare isn't available in most areas and doesn't have that good a reputation.

    WSUS runs just fine on RC1, whether it will still do so in the RTM, we will see.

    On Windows XP. Tweakui works just fine to redirect users home folders to the shared folders on the server. I know it isn't available on Vista, but I'm sure someone will know how to do it.

    64-bit, if you read here, there is a couple of statements from the WHS team regarding this and the limited number of hours in a day available to them, plus the reasons why it is taking time.

     

    I think one thing we have to have in mind, is the market Microsoft is aiming for - mainly the 'off the shelf' plug and play puchaser.

     

    Colin

    Sunday, June 17, 2007 5:25 PM
  • I'm not yet familiar with WHS (I'm currently installing it) but based on my readings on the official site and some threads posted, I have a little idea of the features.

     

    I hope developers will be able to add the following functionality:

    • print server
    • media center server (i don't know how is sharing videos/music/pictures done with the current build)
    • remote access server
    • centralized user accounts (synchronized with the computers it is connected to) for easier management and have the ability to enable a user from the pool in a particular computer
    • be able to share live CCTV broadcasted on the network (my DVR is connected to home network but I don't know how will it be viewed from the internet outside the network) --- possibly be able to view it using the IP address assigned to that device and route it to the WHS.

    I'll add some more if I think any possible features.

     

    ----I would also like to ask if the family website Microsoft is telling in the official site is as is or can be recreated/customized using expression web or any web authoring software or it will just be a gateway for the shared files... sad. Will it be using IIS or Sharepoint?

     

    Can additional software be installed on it (just like the standard server OS)? I hope the developers will redesign it to match the vista GUI and not the older windows XP/server 2003 look.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007 11:31 AM
  • Can additional software be installed on it (just like the standard server OS)?

    Well, I'd not recommend it, but yes you can.  My Home Server doubles as my kids computer, and after nailing down some of the display drivers (ATI 8500DV), it is happily running Sims2 for the kiddos from the console .  I'm not real happy with the locked down explorer settings (but I do understand the reasons, and after the kids computer is upgraded, I'll probably have a HomeServer in some corner somewhere). 

    For now it seems to work.  The interface is Win2k, which can be upgraded to the XP look if you enable the Themes service.
    Tuesday, June 19, 2007 1:27 PM
  • I would like to see a shared outlook agenda. One personel and one shared.
    Wednesday, June 20, 2007 10:13 AM