WHS: Don’t you just love it when stuff just works as advertised?

Thursday, January 24, 2008 12:24 AM

We’ve got your typical geek household: two Media Centers, a server which acts as a DC-file share-virtual machine host, another older tower used as the home PC, a laptop or two and my wife’s work laptop. She’s got an iPod, I’ve got my Zune. I’ve been paranoid about losing my data as I’ve had it happen twice over the last ten years. Even more so, since we ripped all our CD’s to MP3’s, buy most of our music online and more importantly, all the pictures and videos of our son… all that stuff lives on two machines for fault tolerance. Course that causes me a bit of a headache having to remember to put my pictures/vidoes/music on two servers (not to mention having to subject my wife to remembering it as well). My backup solution has been to burn stuff to double layer DVDs every three months and drop them off in our safe deposit box. I’ve just about enough of it… I am tired of having to remember where everything is, where to put it, to keep backing stuff up and still not having the comfortable feeling I was “safe.” No more…

As a treat to myself this year I picked up one of the new HP MediaSmart Servers running the new Windows Home Server (WHS). Specifically I picked up the 500GB version that only had one disk in it, but I added a 2nd 500GB disk for fault tolerance. I’m amazed at how well this little box works. First, it now has all our music, videos and pictures… and they are duplicated across multiple disks on the WHS. There’s my fault tolerance!

What surprised me is how everything was just aware of the WHS after I installed the client on each one… they all saw the media. In fact, I booted up my Mac and iTunes automatically found the entire library. It even found my wife’s iTunes library and backed it up to the server… and iTunes on my Mac saw it automatically. Now THAT was slick!

Now, get this. The backup process is absolutely flawless. I configured each machine on my network to backup nightly to the WHS (except the server… wish there was a Win2k3 client for WHS). So on day one, I triggered manual backups during the day, but held off on my laptop so I wouldn’t be subjected to the slowdown. While it was scheduled to run nightly, I just figured I’d have to leave my machine on during the night so I said to myself “I’ll run a backup every week manually.” But the next day I woke up and booted my laptop up and checked WHS… it said my laptop was backed up! Sure enough, the event viewer in Vista showed it came out of sleep for a few minutes around 2:30a and went back to sleep. HOLY CRAP… that rocks! You woke yourself up, ran a backup, and went back to sleep?

I know.. this is how it should work. I’m just shocked at how easy this was. Only thing that’s left is for me to move the rest of the files that need to be preserved off the server over to the WHS and to create a process that copies and retains the last X days of my personal SharePoint site collection backups.

Could there be cheaper options? Sure… but spending the money on the HP MediaSmart Server to get the peace of mind is WELL worth it, not to mention the fact how much time it would normally take to set this all up (and have faith in your process). I highly recommend this little gem.

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