Windows Home Server

Now that Microsoft has released the Windows Home Server product, I went ahead and bought the OEM version to install on the computer that I use as a server in our home network. Overall, I’m fairly pleased with it, it does (mostly) what it says on the tin with a minimum of fuss. However, there’s one thing that continues to irk me: Microsoft’s marketing claims do not tell the whole story, they are being economical with the truth.

Microsoft claims that you can remote access “any home computer” using the product. For example, see this screenshot of the welcome page when I remotely log into my home server:

WHS Remote Access 3

Even on Microsoft’s product pages, their FAQ says that: “Windows Home Server … also allows you to connect remotely and use your home computers as if you were sitting in front of them”. See:

WHS Remote Access 2

Unfortunately, when Microsoft says “any home computer”, they don’t actually mean “any”. What they mean is their top-end operating systems: Windows XP Professional, Vista Business or Vista Ultimate. Those of us with Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium cannot remotely access their home PCs running those operating systems:

WHS - Remote Access

I really find this ridiculous. I’ve blogged about this before – I came across it while I was beta-testing the product. I had hoped that Microsoft would have remedied this with the final release of the product. But no, so I can reprise my rant:

Let me get this straight, the Windows Home Server product, the one that is supposed to be for ordinary mortals, not geeks, the one that is supposed to give you remote access to any computer in your home, won’t actually do this if you have Windows XP Home, Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium installed on your home computers? You actually have to have XP Professional, Vista Ultimate, Vista Business or, gawd help us, Vista Enterprise installed on your goddam home computers?
I’ve heard some nonsense in my time, but this takes some beating. The whole raison d’etre of Windows Home Server is being torpedoed by a product packaging decision… how stupid is that?
Well, of course most homes will have XP Home, Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium. Only geeks buy XP Professional or Vista Ultimate… What really irritates me is that I had Windows XP Professional at home on all our systems, but wanted to move to Vista Home Premium in an attempt to be less geeky. More fool me, I suppose.

I notice that none of the glowing reviews of Windows Home Server that I’ve seen (with the honourable exception of Paul Thurrott) has actually picked up on this shortcoming. Clearly, they’re all a bunch of geeks running Vista Ultimate, so this product hole goes straight over their heads. The rest of us mere mortals just fall straight into it.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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7 Responses to Windows Home Server

  1. Unknown says:

    This is how I’m guessing the conversation went:Marketing Dude/tte: Hey! The ability to access all your files on any PC would be GREAT for home users too! Music. Photos. All that stuff. Can we do this? Feature Program Manager: Great idea! No reason we couldn’t allow that change. We do it for all the Pro versions of the product. It would be a simple change in the validation. Marketing Dude/tte: That’s awesome! I’ll get the collateral going! This will be a GREAT feature for our home users. … later discussion in War Room … beating the drum to reach Release-to-Manufacturing …War Room: That’s a new feature. Feature PM: It’s a simple change!War Room: Yes. But it’s still a change. The functionality still exists. Home users with Pro editions will be able to do it. We aren’t changing ANYTHING. Only Severity 1 bugs now. – AND/OR – Windows Business Manager: Look. If we ALLOW Home editions to use this feature, then the entire PRICING matrix is useless. People might start using other editions in small and medium sized businesses that aren’t EA or Select customers. It will cut into the margins. If Home users really care about this feature they can buy the Pro editions like everyone else. It’s not like they make up that big a percentage of our revenue stream when you look at the numbers.

  2. Unknown says:

    Sorry. Live interface did something I wasn’t expecting. Didn’t get to finish :DIt would have been a great feature. But those hypothetical responses would have easily happened. Probably both. The first is because of the build fragility and predictability of a 60M line product. The second because of a short-sighted manager along the way. Like Jobs quipped about Leopard, "everybody gets the Ultimate edition and it sells for 129 bucks." I’ve been running Leopard for a week on my two year old G4 laptop. It’s all good. (It’s not that Leopard is perfect. But the nature of the flaws have been trivial compared to the XP SP2 systems still in the house.

  3. Unknown says:

    Sorry. Live interface did something I wasn’t expecting. Didn’t get to finish :DIt would have been a great feature. But those hypothetical responses would have easily happened. Probably both. The first is because of the build fragility and predictability of a 60M line product. The second because of a short-sighted manager along the way. Like Jobs quipped about Leopard, "everybody gets the Ultimate edition and it sells for 129 bucks." I’ve been running Leopard for a week on my two year old G4 laptop. It’s all good. (It’s not that Leopard is perfect. But the nature of the flaws have been trivial compared to the XP SP2 systems still in the house.

  4. Geoff says:

    Hi Stephe, yep, you’re probably right about those conversations. After all, you’ve had the pleasure (;-)) of actually working in Redmond. But however they went, the end result still has me banging my head on the table… Sigh. Basically, WHS is pretty good for a first release, now all I want is a) remote access to all my computers, b) the ability to backup my WHS itself (would you believe that you can’t actually do this!? and c) the ability to be able to backup my WHS offsite.

  5. Allan says:

    Totally agree with your comments. I posted about this myself in the WHS forums http://forums.microsoft.com/WindowsHomeServer/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=2079252&SiteID=50
    I find it entirely misleading and unsatisfactory that the product made it to RTM with these same claims in place. It is extremely unlikely that Home users are going to be running anything other than Home OS version. My only consolation is discovering the hack to turn on Remote Desktop in Windows Home Premium http://www.missingremote.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1220&Itemid=224
     

  6. Geoff says:

    Allan, I also see from the Windows Home Server forum that a number of people haven’t discovered the fine print, and bought WHS expecting to be able to connect to "any home computer". For example, this poster. While I suppose that is their fault for not doing careful research, I entirely sympathise if they feel that Microsoft has been less than clear upfront about this issue.
     
    Thanks also for alerting me to the hack. While I don’t intend to install it myself, what it does tell me is that it would be perfectly possible for Microsoft to ship a supported equivalent as part of WHS and have it installed on client PCs along with the WHS Connector software.

  7. Pingback: The End is Nigh | Geoff Coupe's Blog

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