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Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 25

There’s a burglar in the house!

Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 25

Feb 1, 2010 10:06 AM,
By Eric B. Rux

There’s a burglar in the house!

It’s our 25th edition of this column! Thank you to everyone that has emailed me their comments and questions and for the thoughts posted at the end of the articles. I really appreciate the feedback.

For this month’s column, I interviewed Mark Pendergrast, the senior product manager for Windows Home Server (WHS) and got his thoughts on Microsoft’s highly popular home networking product. We had a great discussion, tossed around some ideas, and had a few laughs (more on that burglar below).

When we talked, Mark had just come back from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This is the opportunity for companies to show off their latest electronic gear, and to get real world feedback. I asked Mark about the WHS booth and CES in general, and he had nothing but positive things to say. He said that that CES was “more crowded this year than last year, was very packed, and had a lot of energy”. In this economy, that is exactly what we need, for sure.

The WHS booth worked with the Windows Media Center team to showcase the new features that are included in Power Pack 3 (PP3), such as the ability to archive television and better connectivity with Windows 7. To say that the WHS booth was “a buzz” would be an understatement.

The discussion moved from CES to the current state of Windows Home Server and how things have changed in the past 24 months. Mark made it very clear, “Two years ago, people had a hard time grasping the concept of a server in the home. Now, people get it. It’s no longer a struggle to explain the benefits of a Home Server”.

It helps that we’re seeing a strong momentum around the base product. When Microsoft launched Windows Home Server, you had two basic choices: HP, or Roll Your Own (install on your own hardware). Mark told me that there are now a total of five OEM’s that offer turn-key Windows Home Server solutions.

One of those new OEM’s is Lacie. What sets this product apart from the other four OEM’s is a new feature called “Wuala” (don’t ask me to pronounce that). This built-in feature will allow you to back up your home server to a secure location on the Internet. Details are still sketchy, but I hope to get my hands on a demo unit soon.

After our informal discussion, I had some specific questions for Mark:

What has been the biggest surprise in your journey with Windows Home Server?
I think the biggest surprise is how consumers are using WHS. For example, the amount of storage that users are storing on their home server never ceases to amaze me. The applications have been written specifically for WHS are also very impressive. And, just how people are using it in their daily lives to make complex tasks easier—it’s just neat to see where the product is going.

Do you have an exciting or funny story about WHS that you’d like to share?
Well, we take the family on an annual trip to the East Coast to spend time with relatives. Everything was going fine until Christmas Day. We received a phone call from our home security company reporting that there was an alarm in our house back home, and that a door was open. This of course put us in a panic, ‘Was someone in the house?!’ We thought about waking up the neighbors and asking them to check up on the house until the police arrived, but then I remembered that hey, I have a home server! I logged in and took control of my dLink camera. With this WHS integrated device, I was able to pan the living room and kitchen and verify that nobody was in the house. There were no flashlights searching for jewelry, and no big screen televisions walking out the door. My wife sat in front of the monitor for two hours to verify that nobody was in the house. Eventually, the police showed up and reported that everything was secure. But, having the ability to look in my house immediately from the other coast was very reassuring, and allowed us to enjoy the rest of our time together.

How has the fact that small businesses are now using WHS going to affect the overall direction of the product? Can we expect more functionality centered on businesses?
That’s a great question. HP actually has a new product running Windows Home Server called the HP StorageWorks X510 Data Vaultthat they built specifically for businesses. The SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) is of great interest to us. I don’t have any specifics that I can share right now, but stay tuned.

As we wrapped up our conversation, I told Mark that I’m actually going to be reviewing the X510 very soon, and was excited to see the features for the SOHO. When I found out that HP would be sending me a Windows Home Server specifically built for small companies, I immediately told my wife about my conversation with the WHS Team two years ago. I told them that this would be a great product for the small business. My wife listened patiently as she always does whenever I start talking about technology. After a few minutes of listening to my rant about all of my great ideas for the product, she calmly said,
“Oh yeah? Well, Windows 7….that was my idea.”

Until next month, have fun with your Windows Home Server. Keep sending me you questions and ideas!

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