One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Yes, this is yet another grumbling post about how the current Windows Home Server team just don’t seem to understand what the word “Home” means in the name of the product.

I decided that I’d take a closer look at the Release Candidate for Windows Home Server 2011. So, I’ve wiped out the Windows 7 installation on my HP TX2000 laptop, and installed the WHS 2011 RC on it. On the plus side, I appreciated the way in which the installation process recognised hardware that had been developed since the days of Windows Server 2003 (that WHS V1 was based on). The installation process was painless.

On the other hand, there are some losses if I compare what I would have with WHS 2011 versus what I had with the first version of WHS.

The major difference is of course the removal of the Drive Extender technology. Now, this has been done to death (but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important), however, let’s look beyond that.

I approach Windows Home Server from the perspective of a consumer who has computers in their home. I’m someone who wants to have two things:

  1. backup to a centralised server of all the data in the individual computers, such that, in the event of a failure of any individual computer, I can quickly restore that computer to a running state with the most recent data and,
  2. to have digital media (music, pictures, videos, movies) available throughout my home from the same centralised server, with connected devices sharing media as simply, and as directly, as possible.

And I want that centralised server to be easy to manage, with regular offsite backups being made to ensure that the integrity of that server for both shared media and the data of client computers is preserved.

All this must be done as simply as possible. I really don’t want to carry on being the IT guy in my household. If I fell under a bus tomorrow, I would want my nearest and dearest to be able to carry on without any special knowledge.

And there’s the rub. While WHS V1 was certainly not perfect in this respect, it seems to me to be light-years ahead of the retrograde step of WHS 2011.

As I said, let’s ignore the elephant in the room, the Drive Extender technology, for the moment. Let’s just look at managing storage on WHS 2011.

In WHS V1, you could look at the shared folders to see how much space they currently took up. Here’s an example from my WHS V1 system:

WHS Storage 2

And here’s the equivalent screenshot from WHS 2011:

WHS2011 1

Er, where’s the “used space” column? Well, surprise! It isn’t there. Instead, you have a “Free space” column that represents the space available on an individual drive. Nowhere near as useful. Because drive extender has been removed, the support person has to start thinking in terms of individual drives, not in terms of the total amount of storage as in WHS V1.

This mode of thinking in terms of individual drives, instead of the total storage pool is also reflected when considering backups. WHS 2011 is unable to deal with backups (or discs) larger than 2TB.

Frankly, if I were designing the follow-on product from WHS V1, then it would seem to me to be essential that I would handle the situation where discs and backups would be larger than 2TB. After all, if I’m going to claim that:

Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy [sic] accessible. Since customers looking to buy Windows Home Server solutons [sic] from OEM’s will now have the ability to include larger drives, this will reduce the need for Drive Extender functionality.

…then I would make sure that a 2TB limit did not exist in my product. Not so with WHS 2011.

I really do wonder who the team are designing the product for. Certainly not home users.

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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One Response to One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

  1. Pingback: Backups in Windows Home Server 2011 | Geoff Coupe's Blog

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