There are companies like Tranquil who are selling WHS 2011 boxes ready made but I wanted to have a go at building my own box so I took Andrew’s advice and purchased a HP Microserver. The server is a small box not much bigger than the old HP Mediasmart, is powered by an Athlon II Neo processor and comes with a 160GB drive and 1GB for RAM. I added an extra 2GB of ram and a 250GB drive and I plan to add more storage at a later date. As Windows Home Server is an you can’t actually go out an buy the software like you can buy Windows 7 but there are other ways of getting it such as via OEM re-resellers or Technet/MSDN subscriptions (which is how I got the OS) The first job is to add the extra memory, the front panel opens up and then you can to slide the main board out and insert the memory. It was actually pretty easy to add the memory once I disconnected the connectors.
There is no DVD drive on the server so you can either install from a USB drive or use an external drive which is what I did
Installing WHS 2011 is very simple, very much like a Windows 7 install. Just follow the wizard and away it goes.
Once Windows Home Server is installed you can install the connector software on the client PCs but before I did that I added an extra 250GB drive in to the server and moved the backup folder from the small system drive to the bigger new hard drive. This is one area where Windows Home Server 2011 differs from the v1 product, in the original version you could add drives to the drive pool and you didn’t need to worry about drive letters but in WHS 2011 the drive extender technology has been removed so you do need to think about drive letter and plan where you are going to locate the backup and shared data but actually moving the folders over is very simple
On the client PCs via the browser you connect to the server and download the connector software and there is a simple installer.
The Windows connector adds a shortcut to the Home Server console which has a makeover since version 1, it looks a lot cleaner in this version but has just about the same functionality. I like the Launchpad window that has quick launch buttons and a count showing the number of outstanding issues on the network (including updates pending)
There is also a connector for the Mac which at first I thought great I can backup my Mac to WHS but alas that is not the case, the application called Launchpad enables access to the shared folders on the server and has a Backup button that doesn’t do a backup to Windows Home Server instead it launches Time Machine backup application for the Mac. I think its a real missed opportunity by Microsoft missing out on the Mac integration, it would have really made WHS a central part of my network as it is at least having the access to the shared folders is nice and saves you having to setup network shares on the Mac.
Back to the Windows connector, there is no Windows Media Center compontent to install as there was with the old version of WHS, the Media Center addin is built in to the connector software but its missing the server monitor of the old version but I have to say I didn’t really use it that much anyway.
So far I am impressed with WHS 2011, it certainly not the enthusiasts product many of us envisioned during Vail’s development processes but as a backup and storage device is does the job very well and I have’t touched any of the 3rd party addins available. Yes it could be more feature rich, it could have been my Media Center server, Mac backup device and may more things but for a backup server its a great product.
In the next post I am going to look at the new remote access and media streaming features of Windows Home Server 2011
The HP Mediasmart server on the left with the new HP Microserver on the right