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Hobbyhorse Post: WHS Doesn't Suck, Actually!

Download page for WHS 2011 RC Beta at MS Connect

Download page for WHS 2011 RC Beta at MS Connect

I’ve written about the HP MediaSmart Server (MSS) repeatedly over the past three years: several times for Tom’s Guide and Tom’s Hardware, and several times in this very blog. I was really bummed upon learning in December that Microsoft was planning to eliminate Drive Extender technology  from the upcoming Windows Home Server 2011 software, but have just run across a recent article by Paul Thurrott that gives me some comfort I’ll be able to keep using that technology for some time to come. You can check out the original, lengthy February 20 story entited “I’m Betting On Windows Home Server 2011” if you like, but I’ll summarize the key points here:

  • Microsoft is keeping the centralized backup feature in WHS and extending the server backup process so it will also backup the individual machine backups (this lets users like me configure the box to duplicate backups on another drive, so if one goes bad, another remains available). Better yet, MS is extending the WHS 2011 server to enable remote Internet backups as well, so you can keep another copy in the cloud. This removes most of my objections to MS dropping Drive Extender (and Mr. Thurrott’s as well, curiously enough! ;-).
  • The next version of WHS 2011 will be completely DLNA compatible (the Digital Living Network Alliance is an industry consortium of software and hardware vendors with an emphasis on home/digital media networking, sharing, and device integration). This means WHS itself will handle and share media better, instead of requiring sometimes wonky…er I mean Twonky…media extender add-ins.
  • A Silverlight version of remote access will replace the current terminal services implementation, and users will be able to instruct their WHS 2011 box to stream media to them across the Internet (another frequent impetus for add-ins or additional equipment acquisitions no longer needed).
  • Windows Phone 7 support will be delivered via an add-in, which should be great for those who buy into Windows Phone 7. It is supposed to deliver media streaming, phone-to-server photo upload support, and alert monitoring on the phone. Too bad I’m still planning to buy the 4G iPhone from Verizon as and when it becomes available…but maybe there’ll be an app for that, too.
  • WHS 2011 will support Macs running OS X, so they too can be backed up on the server, run LaunchPad on connected Macs, and do the remote access thing from a Mac, too.

I now completely understand why HP decided to get out of the MSS business (it announced it was vacating this market last year, too, and at the time that announcement took me by surprise). With all the new built-in functionality, HPs value-add was pretty much gone, gone, gone. I’ll still have fun converting my latest MSS box to run the new version when it becomes available, though, and it’s nice to know there’ s some life in the Windows Home Server software still! And because MS is calling it WHS 2011, I’m pretty sure that means we’ll see a final commercial release before the end of this year. As far as I’m concerned: the sooner, the better! If you want to get started sooner than that, the RC beta is available for download from Microsoft Connect.

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