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Coming Home to Windows Server, Part 23

It’s time to tell Microsoft want you want in your Windows Home Server stocking this year.

Coming Home to Windows Server, Part 23

Dec 7, 2009 10:43 AM,
By Eric B. Rux

It’s almost Christmas, and it’s time to tell Microsoft want you want in your Windows Home Server (WHS) stocking this year.

There are a couple of things that I have yet to do with my home server. One is to successfully setup a RADIUS server to authenticate wireless connections. If you don’t know what a RADIUS server is, that’s OK. I’ll explain it to you if I ever get it working [smile].

In the meantime, I’d like to dream a little dream and ponder the possibilities that exist for our beloved little server at home. Microsoft has been busy crafting up new and exciting features (Power Pack 3 just came out last month), but I wonder what other features you would like to see. And, in the spirit of Christmas, I’d like to ask for these little stocking stuffers:

Printing: Wouldn’t it be cool if WHS took care of hosting all of the printers on your network? I know it has the capability to do it (WHS is built on top of Windows Server 2003, after all). But it is cumbersome at best, and not really supported at worst. I envision another tab on the Windows Home Server Console that allows you to easily add attached and even networked printers. The WHS Client that runs on each computer on your network would list the available printers, and using one would only be a click away. This would also require the printer manufactures to play nice with the Server operating system.

Online Backup: There are a couple of mantra’s that we use in the IT world: “Backups always work; Restores never do.” And of course: “It’s not a matter of if your hard drive will fail, but when.” Therefore, I have always been a supporter of the fact that Windows Home Server backs up every computer on the network every night around midnight. But what happens if your Home Server is lost due to fire, theft, or flood? Power Pack 1 plugged a huge gap and allowed the Home Server to be backed up to an external drive. Of course, you need to remember to perform the backup, and then remember to take the external drive offsite. A useful solution would be to perform online backups from your Windows Home Server to a remote location—all over the Internet. These solutions are available already, but I think that by using Microsoft’s de-duplication technology, they could provide the service at a much cheaper rate. Another twist to this idea would be to allow families to back up their WHS to each other over the Internet.

Parental Controls: It’s no secret that the Internet can be a nasty place. As a parent of curious boys, I want to make sure that they are protected from seeing content that simply isn’t meant for their young minds. I envision an add-on that helps filter out the garbage that children don’t need to see. Each PC would then use the Home Server as a proxy instead of going to the Internet directly. (Proxy functionality is already built into all versions of Internet Explorer.) As the administrator of the Windows Home Server, you could then review the browsing activity of each family member—even remotely!

RADIUS: I know I told you that I would explain this in a future article, but here’s a quick explanation: RADIUS allows dissimilar equipment (network gear, Wi-Fi access points, VoIP phones, etc.) to authenticate to a centralized database (a Windows server, for example). I’ve set these up to allow employees to use their Windows username and password when remotely accessing the corporate network via a virtual private network (VPN). Wouldn’t it be cool if WHS could help us authenticate our Wi-Fi connections? Maybe someday this will be built-in functionality.

In writing about my wish list, I noticed that my ideas really center on my personal experiences. I work with servers every day, and have small children. But your experiences are probably much different than mine. What kind of wild and crazy features can you think of? You probably won’t get any of them this Christmas, but it’s nice to dream.

Leave a comment telling me what you want to see Windows Home Server do next. Please have a happy and safe Christmas and New Year’s celebration. See you next year.

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