Microsoft have just announced the launched the public beta of their next versions of Windows Home Server codename “Vail”. Home Server is a product aimed at people with 2 or more computers in their home who wish to securely store data centrally on the network and have a single console that can easily be used to manage the health of their PC’s.
In this version new version of Home Server Microsoft have focused on four main areas:
- Extending media streaming outside the home or office
- Improvements in multi-PC backup and restore
- Simplified setup and user experience
- Significantly expanded development and customization tools for partners
The feature the end users will notice most is that will be able to easily stream all their photos, music and video’s from their media library via the remote access web page. This is done by the server transcoding pretty much any type of media file on the server and streaming it using silverlight plug-in. This of course means that this remote access will work just as easily on Windows and OSX.
Vail is based on Windows Server 2008 R2 therefore one of the biggest changes is that it will only run on 64bit hardware. Therefore for people that are already running Windows Home server there is now way to perform an in place upgrade from their current home server to this new product. However as this is mainly sold as an OEM only option or it is used by people who are very IT savvy this is not really a major issues.
While the x64 is understandable it is disappointing as this means it will prevent anyone from re-using their existing Home Server hardware or most Intel Atom CPU based systems.
The system requirements for “Vail” are:
1.4 GHz x64 processor – Therefore the newer 64bit Intel Atom CPU’s are supported however Microsoft are recommending that you use a Dual core CPU as this will help with transcoding of media streams.
1 GB RAM – This is double the 512mb requirement of the original home server however which this is a significant bump of the previous version it is still very reasonable for system today. This bump in requirements will (hopefully) give owner the head room to run additional add-on on the server to augment its functionality. This was a problem with HP’s original home server (and other OEM’s) which only had 512mb which wherefore it was almost impossible to run any add-on’s without greatly slowing down the OS. As the OS is also 64bit this means that it will take advantage of +4gb ram configuration which are also quite common place today.
At least one 160 GB hard drive. – Again this is a very reasonable requirement and is the bare minimum specs for HDD on even the lowest end netbooks. A nice new feature of “Vail” is that you will be able to move the data stores off your system drive and thus improving system performance and preventing your from filling up your system drive.
Home Server v2 “Vail” supported client Operating System:
This time Microsoft are releasing native support for both 32bit and 64bit client operating systems out of the box, unlike home server v1 which did not originally support for 64bit clients until Power Pack 1 that was released much later.
The Windows 7 Operating System
- Windows 7 Home Basic (x86 and x64)
- Windows 7 Home Premium (x86 and x64)
- Windows 7 Professional (x86 and x64)
- Windows 7 Ultimate (x86 and x64)
- Windows 7 Enterprise (x86 and x64)
- Windows 7 Starter (x86)
The Windows Vista Operating System
- Windows Vista Home Basic with Service Pack 2 (SP2) (x86 x64)
- Windows Vista Home Premium with SP2 (x86 and x64)
- Windows Vista Business with SP2 (x86 and x64)
- Windows Vista Ultimate with SP2 (x86 and x64)
- Windows Vista Enterprise with SP2 (x86 and x64)
- Windows Vista Starter with SP2 (x86)
The Windows XP Operating System
- Windows XP Home with Service Pack 3 (SP3)
- Windows XP Professional with SP3
- Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 with SP3
Microsoft have also said that this time they will not be releasing “Power Packs” but instead they will be releasing “Roll-up packs” which is the same terminology used for Microsoft Exchange updates. They are also hoping that they will be releasing up to 4 rollup’s each year meaning newer features will be integrated with the server much more quickly.
Just like the previous version of home server you should not manage the server from the actual console and instead you should manage the server from the dashboard application.
To logon to the server via the dashboard simple enter the server password you entered during the install on the server. If you want to see the entire install process of the server and connector then check out my other post “ “. The dashboard like the previous version is a seamless remote desktop application that you run locally on your workstation which you can use to manage you home server.
The users tab is to manager the various users who have access to the server. This is especially useful if you have multiple people wanting to access the files on the computer.
Computer and Backup tab is used to manage all the computer in your home network.
Server Folders and Hard Drive is used to manage the shared folders on your server. Notice the “Exclude the hard drive from Server Storage” which is the option I talked about before which is used to move any data off you system drive to improve system performance.
Add-ins is used to manage the third-party extensions to the servers functionality.
A nice feature with setting up remote access to your server is that it now support various third-party domain providers for you buy a easy to remember domain to use for remote access to your server.
to After you have turned on the Remote Access feature you will be able to remotely access your home server from Internet using the URL you just configured. This page has been turned into a portal for the users where they can access all the files in the shared folder and remotely connect to you computer.
You can also stream any media files in your media library from the page by using the silverlight client. Here you can see a video that has started to screen with the on-screen controls. The controls will disappear when you move your mouse off the playing video much like Windows Media Player controls behave.
Seeing this is still beta software it is really impressive how well this software works. It has the feel of a finished products which can probably be attributed to the fact that it is built on the RTM version of Windows Server 2008 R2. Certainly this is a welcome upgrade to the original home server which is now starting to look a little dated due to its Windows Server 2003 heritage and having an improved extensibility will mean that any shortfall in the product can easily be made up with third party add-on’s. As per the previous version this is going to be an awesome addition to any home network and is certainly going to make anyone life who has to look after multiple computers a LOT easier…
You can also see my other post on how to install Home Server at How to install Windows Home Server “Vail