Why I plan on using the new Windows Home Server 2011

Why I plan on using the new Windows Home Server 2011

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[Today's post comes to us courtesy of Sean Daniel, Senior Program Manager for the Home and Small Business Server Team]

I’m sure you have heard by now, that the Release Candidate of the new Windows Home Server 2011 is available for download.  It’s a huge milestone, and I can’t wait until the RTM.

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There has been a lot of negativity around upgrading the Windows Home Server (version 1) product, to Windows Home Server 2011 or even using it at all, all due to the Drive Extender removal.  I do understand the pain.  I do.  But I don’t understand why people instantly now hate WHS?? Yesterday, Paul Thurrott, also released an article on why he is betting on Windows Home Server 2011, and I wanted to take some time to explain my view.

Looking back, we remember that Drive Extender had some initial problems after the v1 release.  Some corner case of editing large files that lived on the server, in some rare cases, these large files were corrupt, people wanted to turn Drive Extender off, it scared them.  After Power Pack 1 came in to save the day, only then did people start to trust Drive Extender, and yes, they immediately fell in love with it.  Easy drive extension with a side benefit of duplicating files on multiple hard drives (“dup ‘em if you got ‘em!”). 

Removing DE was a very tough decision, but I ultimately agree with the decision given what I know.

But without drive extender, is the product not awesome? is your data not safe?  This blog post is intended to tell you why I think WHS 2011 is still awesome, and still keeps my data safe.  I am a new father (she’s 8 months old at the time of writing this) and I’m a hobbyist photographer.  My photos are probably the most important digital content to me, then my countless hours of work I’ve spent on my documents, then my e-mail, then all that other stuff, like ripped CDs and DVDs, and some HD DVDs.

Let’s start with the “Just Awesome” stuff… most of this bucket falls into the Remote Web Access site, so from the outside in we go!

Remote Access is just Awesome!

For one, right from the get-go you can customize the RWA about as much as you want:

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(This picture can be found on Sean's Photoblog here)

Remember, you also still get that free 3rd level web domain and matching trusted web certificate (from GoDaddy.com) on the home server.com domain name.  Did I mention free security?

You get remote access to computers behind your network, but this time it’s powered by RDS Gateway for Server 2008 R2!  Yes, that means you can get dual monitor support, and you can take advantage of better optimization for remote access to your PC and better security using that same web certificate for encryption!  Thus no longer using security protocols from 8 years ago.

Remote Silverlight Video Streaming

Yes, no more media chewing up your processor; now a built-in, secure, streaming engine based on Silverlight, with (if you have a fast enough processor) media transcoding:

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I also just *love* the photo slide shows.  Sending access to the folks and letting them just watch 1000s of photos via a slide show, priceless:

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A Silverlight Music Player that you can make, save and use playlists on, which you can quickly switch music around in.  I even use this player in my living room when I have get a get together.  People just understand how to use it:

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The ability to download files to my local machine, or to move files around without downloading.  Yes, that’s right, delete, copy, cut and paste things all over the shared folders without actually having to download it.

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That’s a pretty powerful remote access story, one you won’t find with add-ins that run this flawlessly on the WHS v1 product… oh wait, I’m not finished, check out the iPhone formatted remote access webpage:

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And it looks just as good on an Android and Windows Phone 7!

While we’re talking about media, let’s focus on the internal network. With full DLNA 2.0 compatible streaming, you can stream to your XBOX 360, PlayStation 3, DLNA capable TV, iPad (with application), Windows 7 PC (or slate!) or any other DLNA compliant device.  You can also configure which folders participate in the streaming, simply by adding them to the set of defaults.

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Now included in WHS 2011, is the Launchpad, which enables you to easily backup your PC, access your Remote Web Access site (without having to know the URL, even if it changes!), Shared folders, and if you’re an admin, the Dashboard.  It’s also completely extensible by the SDK, so developers can kick it up a notch and add more functionality:

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That’s a whole lot of awesome packed into one box!  I want to switch gears now and talk about how WHS 2011 protects my data, and why I think it’s safe.  To me, the leading cause of data loss is usually hardware failure, most often than not, it’s a hard drive failure.  Although there is the rare instance it can be a natural disaster, which happened to my uncle about this time last year.

Last but not least, is something you can’t see, that excites me the most.  The Windows Home Server 2011 SDK (still in beta) is HUGE compared to the v1 product.  Moreover, it’s SHARED with both Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials.  What does that mean? it means that things designed for business, can easily be used in the home (and vice versa).  That means lots and lots of add-ins! and high quality ones at that.  Nothing like developing for 3 platforms, instead of just one.

Data Protection, Why My Data is Safe on WHS 2011!

Data protection is all about having data on multiple drives.  Take a look at RAID configurations.  RAID5 is one of the most popular RAID configurations in the small and medium businesses, it’s probably sufficient for a home too, but sometimes it can be challenging to set up.  RAID5 is a drive configuration that exclusively uses up to 1 of a set of 3 or more drives to maintain “parity” bits.  These parity bits are used to rebuild data on a drive if it’s lost.  The system can run in limited capacity as soon as this drive dies without the end user knowing it.  All in all, it’s a sweet system, but loose that 2nd drive before you can rebuild the array, and your data is toast! RAID1, or mirroring can also be used (check out this video where we show it being setup for SBS 2011 Essentials, which is the same as for WHS 2011), and can be used by our more technical WHS owners.

What does Windows Home Server 2011 do?  It keeps the data you choose on a second hard drive.  Yep, the data on all your client computers is automatically backed up nightly to the Home Server.  That’s up to 10 PCs safely backed up, every night.  So now the data on your clients, is also on your server.  Even if you get a Facebook Virus, you can roll back to the day before.  This is exactly the same functionality as WHS v1, except it’s faster, and more robust.

What about the data on the server?  Server’s hold data, isn’t that data safe?  Yes of course it is.  You can backup that data to an internal, or better yet, external hard drive!  Unlike WHS v1, this has HUGE improvements.  First, the backup is automated.  Automated backups take the human error factor out, and the backup uses snapshots, so even open files are captured.  I think I remembered to backup my WHS v1 about once/month.  Now I’m getting 2x/day!  And you know what, I choose the defaults because the server on my data doesn’t change that often.  You can bump this up to as often as every 30 minutes.  That’s your data, on another hard drive, 30 minute window of possible loss, but if I can’t trust a hard drive for 30 minutes, I’ve got problems with all the data that DOES change on my client computers, because that backs up every 24 hours!  [And you can’t tell me that the purchase of an external hard drive isn’t worth your data backup,  With or Without Drive Extender]

And…. if you want to do RAID, you can do RAID, you can do RAID1, RAID5, or even RAID10!  If you want to do cloud backup (which I do because I’m too lazy to take the backup hard drive out of my house), you can do that, as a few providers are building add-ins.

So what did I really loose with Drive Extender being gone?

  • In the event of a hard drive failure, all my data isn’t still available until I put in a new hard drive and restore that drive back to its original state, if I didn’t configure RAID.
  • I can’t easily extend my storage when I have a disk that’s running out of space.
  • I can’t grow my share sizes past the size of all the hard drives in the system
  • My server storage responds faster because I’m not using DEMigrate.exe all the time

None of the above actually pertains to data loss.  It’s all convenience.  It was definitely nice to have in WHS v1, but I don’t think it’s absolutely needed in a server in the home.

Massive Data Collections

Let’s talk about Massive Data Collections quickly.  Because WHS v1 made it so easy to grow your data collections, far beyond the size of one disk, without having to worry, “have I locked myself in to only X amount of data?”. 

Let’s talk about my photo collection.  It’s 80GB right now.  That’s still not 1TB.  I’m an amateur photographer, one that shoots a lot of photos, with a Canon 5D Mark II (a 21mp camera).  I still have tones of space on a single 2TB drive to grow. 

What about Video collections?  My Canon 5D Mark II takes 1080p video.  I use it a lot, that’s probably what jumped my photo collection from 60-80G in a year… but I’m still within reason.  My video collection, is a rip of all my DVDs, and some HD-DVDs, and it’s still only 130GB, that’s still less than 1TB, and I still have all the DVDs in the closet, my music collection is 40GB… still have all the CDs.  But I agree these data collections can get quite huge.  This is probably the one place folks will actually miss Drive Extender.  I couldn’t agree more. 

… But maybe it’s time to take a hard look at what data you’re hording on your server.  Do you really need to be a digital hoarder and save everything?  People save a lot, and it costs money, but do you really need it all? The guys at TechCrunch say “I assure you that you will never print those 10,000 pictures you have stored in iPhoto. Never. Ever.”. 

If you absolutely *must* keep all that data, you should have a plan for it anyways.  It’s not like if you store magazines for comic books, you don’t put aside space in a closet for them.  With a plan, you can easily map out your storage needs, and growth.  In fact, a few people even have growth charts of their storage growth from WHS v1, so you *know* the storage you’re going to need!  I also suggest turning on File System Resource Manager and cataloging exactly which data is being used.  I bet after a year, you use less than 30% of it.

So bottom line, I stay trim with my data (rule #1 of becoming a better photographer is forcing yourself to throw away 70% of your photos), I feel like Windows Home Server 2011 is the right product for me, for simplified access to my data. Simplified Management of my network, and extremely safe data protection plans.  Moreover, because it’s Windows, it just works with other things in my house. 

I liked Drive Extender too, but the product isn’t dead, in fact, it’s still awesome!

31 Comments
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  • silicon_ghost

    "Continuing to create these "unicorns poop rainbows" posts when you know full well you screwed the pooch on WHS 2011 is insulting your customers."

    I find it hard to add anything new to the comments section when a single post concludes with a sentiment that exactly describes the situation in its entirety. And for the record, I too will not be upgrading thanks to MS shortsighted decision to rip out the heart of WHS.

  • Jeep
    0 Posts

    I never used WHS v1 so DE  was new to me in Vail.  Now running WHS 2011 and to me the advantage of no DE is that I should not need to recopy all of my data when the RTM comes out.

    One thing I do not understand though is that you mention "You get remote access to computers behind your network" and yet with the HOME server W7 Home Premium is not supported.  I understand the whole remote desktop argument with W7 pro and higher, but why do I need W7 pro to access my home computer on my home network?  Back to LogMeIn...

  • I'm glad you're still planning on using it, though you may find yourself in small company.

    Those of us who truly bought in to the WHS vision knew that a single pool of storage that could be extended by just about anyone was absolutely key to success. We even defended it during the rare data loss bug in v1, it was teething issues and it'd get fixed. We believed in the idea and came along for the ride.

    No amount of spin changes the fact that WHS2011 falls desperately short of even what WHSv1 did in terms of solving peoples real world problems. A single pool of storage was the one thing that was vital to us, everything else was icing on the cake. And no matter how pretty the icing, it really doesn't taste so great if you take the cake away.

    Personally I'll stay on WHSv1 for now and contemplate going back to the 'old way' of a standard PC with shared folders going forward. It offers the same core functionality, but coupled with more flexible functionality like Media Center.

    It's deeply sad that WHS as a 'Home' product is effectively dead. I had such high hopes that we might see some killer features in Vail, like maybe the ability to back up my xbox 360 save games so that I don't lose them all again the next time my 360 drive dies. Still, maybe I didn't need 70% of them anyway, eh?

  • I've been a user of WHS 1.0 for 2-3 years now.  It was an investment in migrating to an easier methodology of drive storage and backup from my then 3-4 year old RAID server.  I have built and setup WHS servers for friends after being a proud supported of this "easy to setup and use" OS (and as a commercial tech that works in business environments on all of the business server OSs).  

    Unfortunately, your decision to plead ignorance to your highly technical computer user base that chose WHS because it doesn't require us to be highly technical is a deal killer.  No matter how much you go out of your way to explain and justify what is already done, you are doing so from a position of "no other option but to justify".  It's not like you left DE in there but suggested the use of alternatives - and this article is intended to make that case.  

    I'm sorry to say that I haven't been following all of the press over the choice to eliminate DE until my server had a power supply problem and I did some quick research to see if I wanted to consider 2011 during the repair process.  I will continue to use V1 until the day you choose to force us from that, too, now that you've demonstrated the ability to plead ignorance.  

    I chose WHS early on and while I had the WHS blogs go into a folder I'd occasionally look at, I was always amazed at the techno-crats that joined the WHS bandwagon and the number of developers, good or bad, that chose to make WHS apps.  Thought it was getting a life of it's own on the APP market playing field of sorts.  I can only guess that they and everyone else will now take pause when considering the investment of their own time and $$ to add benefit to your product.  Whomever made the "Go/No Go" decision with DE is obviously sticking to their decision at any cost - which will likely save their job in the short term but kill the product in the process.  You will continue to plead ignorance because that is your job, but  I will join those that do follow all of the moves in saying "it sucks" and that WHS v1 was a great product - someday to be *yet another* great software business case study if you continue down the current path.  Too bad - for a while with this product you acted like a small aggressive software company trying to help the home users demystify having a server in the home.

  • Kratzie
    0 Posts

    Nice try at selling this product.

    "There has been a lot of negativity around upgrading the Windows Home Server (version 1) product, to Windows Home Server 2011 or even using it at all, all due to the Drive Extender removal."

    Did you ever stop to think you guys and girls at microsoft created this.

    Now, as for the software in question, im still in two minds about it. yes i have installed the rc version with out raid and intend to use it for the time being, i have been using the product for 15 days now and i dont feel like this is the edition for me. version 1 for me is as you say "Awesome", and version 2 is like "Meh" i can live with out it.

    so untill i am 100% convinced this is the product for me, ill be staying with version 1

  • I'm sorry Sean, but this post seems/sounds like more of a marketing post or a way to "convince" users that Vail actually is a good product.  Nothing wrong with that, but you guys (MS & the Vail team) still just "don't get it" of what end users want?!  Your listed of "what's like w/out DE" is EXACTLY what we WANT from WHS!!  Instead of "admitting" or understanding that your "list" of lost function of DE is exactly what the user wants from WHS, you seems like to try to tell us that what's the good stuffs left in Vail w/out DE.  Yes, the Vail's new streaming function sounds pretty cool.  But you are still "don't get it" from what people wants when they buying/building a WHS box to start with!!  Simple set & forget backup for whole house PC, and virtually unlimited storage space for a foreseeable future!!  And that last part is exactly what DE could give us!  Otherwise, why would I chose to build a WHS v1 box instead of a RAID (may be even Linux RAID) setup??  It's exactly because most end user don't want to deal with RAID, either it's setup or it's pre-defined space!!  

    I think and still believe one of (and probably only) the reason a WHS box is better than any NAS box is because of DE that give us virtually unlimited growth of data!  PC backup?  Contents streaming?  Remote access?  All those could easily to achieve by most/any NAS box!  Now, w/out DE, try to explain to us WHY do we want to get Vail over a NAS box or WHS v1??  

    Also, I too am a hobbyist photographer (www.flickr.com/.../garyngo) and have tens thousands of photos.  Rule #1 to become a better photographer is forcing yourself to "throw away" 70% of your photos??  I think you put it the other way around or explain it wrong my friend!!  Instead of "throw away" 70% (or more like 90%) of your photos, it's more like to only accept 70% (90%) of your photos as a good photo!  But that DOES NOT mean you should delete those photos at all!!  Ask any photographer who would delete even their "failed/no good" photos???  I doubt you'll find much, if any!!  Seriously, photography is just a snapshot of our memory, whether it's good or bad, you just don't want to "throw it away", don't you??  

    And you seems like to telling us that nowaday, the "future" is to "trim" our data??  With the price of the hard drive keep dropping, the drive itself keep growing, and you are trying to tell the world that "trimming" our data is the way to go??  It's hardly convincing to anyone too!!  

    Honestly, correct me if I'm wrong, I think taking out DE from Vail is mainly because DE is so good and has becoming a competitive product to other (future?) MS (business sector?  Cloud storage?) product that might give MS a bigger profit instead!  So, instead of competing to yourself on a high profit margin product, why not just take it off from the consumer market, and make way for a future business oriented packaging that could make more $$ out of it.  

    p.s. I think I'm going to get a couple more keys of WHS v1 via my MSDS subscription before Vail will be out for the future!!  

    p.p.s. Btw in case you would've ask, my WHS currently has 9.5TB of storage, and has used up to 6TB of space already.  I'm a big movie fan, and I back up all of my movies (DVD & Blurays) in it's original quality, store them in my WHS box, and access them via 3 HTPC in my house so I can watch them anytime, on any TV in my house.  And the WHS box also back up 6 PC/laptops for my home too.  Thank you for making such a great product to ease my life at home!

    Sincerely,

    A faithful WHS user since beta day!!

  • So, essentially, you're saying to the people who are upset: "Deal with it, you hoarders." To me, that's insulting. Who are you to tell me what I should and should not be backing up? If I want to save a copy of every single digital file I create, then I can and I will. And while Windows Home Server v1 was the solution that I loved and worked best for me, WHS2011 is not, and I will not be upgrading.

    And, what's better? It's not like my WHSv1 will stop working when Vail comes out. Even if MS eventually pulls the plug on the domain name tie-in, I'll just use something like dyndns. I'm going to use my WHSv1 as long as I can because it IS a great product. Even when there was the drive corruption issue, I kept using it because I still felt like my data was safe.

    I like being able to extend my hard drive space on a whim. I guess it's still possible in 2011, so long as I forgo the backup features of v1. I don't want to set up RAIDs at home; I don't want to have to worry about backing up to external disks.

    You're saying that backing up of the WHS "rarely" happens, but you're wrong: It happens /all the time/. Folder duplication ensures my data is ALWAYS on two hard drives. This proved critical to me earlier this year: My WHSv1 OS drive died, but all of my data was still safe. I backed it all up from the drives in my WHS, I rebuilt my WHS, and I copied my files back. It took a little while, I will admit, but I did not lose a single file. I didn't have a RAID and all of my data was safe. THAT, to me, is the power of WHSv1.

    Nice post and all, but it honestly felt kind of insulting.

  • Sorry but I don't have the money to buy a new home server OS + new harddrives + an expensive RAID card. This new version is no home server anymore, why do you guys at MS still call it that way? Why doesn't MS listen to the WHS community? This makes me very sad.

  • Once again it seems like you guys just don't get it

    If V2 is ever going to be supported by a main stream vender (HP) it MUST offer ease of use and upgrade

    just think about all the HP boxes that were sold how many of those users can manage, upgrade or recover a RAID???

    The convienience factor was the big selling point if I want just simple back ups I can get a dedicated NAS box that does nothing else for less. If I want remote acess to date I can rent cloud storage etc.. But if I want EASE OF USE for both and media streaming and data security in my home not somewhere in timbuktu' server farm then WHS was a pretty nice option since I could expand it at will.

    I started with an HP box (425 I think) but was using it too hard kept overheating slow transcodes etc so I took the plunge looked up some guides on the web and built my own WHS box which has 14 TB of storage now 2/3 full when I want to watch one of my movis I don't have to find the dvd or the VHS (I collect vintage SciFi movies and some have not been transfered to dvd) I turn on my PS3 find it on WHS and play it  no mess no cursing that I forgot to get the disk back from a friend etc full access to my data when and where I want.

    I have built 2 more WHS boxes for friends that liked the set up and these guys (RN's) don't know a PSU from a CPU but they can still do their own disk upgrades thanks to DE

    So I will be sticking with V1 and I won't upgrade to what another user here has rightfully called the VISTA of WHS

    JohnG

  • AlexD77
    9 Posts

    after watching this video (www.youtube.com/watch) i think WHS2011 is pretty okay. Do not see any difficults in managing of drive spaces. At least, there is no more lying about how much spaces left (as it was before with DE)

  • W.Wolf
    3 Posts

    I just want to say to the entire windows home server team.  For the love of god drop the word "home" from this.  This is not a home server, you removed the one thing that made it so dead simple that my grandfather could use it.  In fact it was easier than regular old windows, so simple that I thought for sure DE would show up in Windows 8 as the ultimate in easy backup.  Every tower would come with two hard drives and DE running, if one dies you just pop it out and replace it, this could have solved so many IT problems.  Now you're just trying to sell me a business server.  If I had to pay upfront for the amount of storage I now have in my server I never would have bought it because it would be to expensive for me.

    But what really bugs me is you guys didn't just add an option at the beginning of the setup where it would ask "Do you want to use a DE setup or a RAID setup?'  Boom, everyone who had a problem with DE could skip it and use RAID, everyone else (home users) could stick with DE.

    But since you guys seem to have chosen your course no matter how wrong I think it is.  Could you at least release the code for DE so that maybe the great people of the internet might figure out a way the shoehorn it back in to windows server or other storage devices?

    Oh in case you're keeping track I cancelled my plans to upgrade when I found out you killed DE.  Might as well just buy a NAS device at this point :(

  • farina
    0 Posts

    I'm not certain how you can tell me that "In the event of a hard drive failure, all my data isn’t still available until I put in a new hard drive and restore that drive back to its original state, if I didn’t configure RAID." is a convenience feature.

    Four times, FOUR times in the last 2 years I've been on the road, accessing my WHS data, only to have a hard disk fail. Sure, that is unusually bad luck in terms of disk failures...but this really happened. When this happened, my online WHS manager told me of the failure, and let me remove the drive...period...no downtime, no data loss, no problem. To me, as a personal and small business user, this data is mission critical.

    I assume with Vail Microsoft expects me to call home to my fiancée and talk her through the hard drive replacement steps necessary to get back to my data? "Oh wait honey, just grab a spare 1TB drive from the drive closet and do these 30 things over the coarse of the next hour to get me back online."

    Ya, that sounds efficient.

    Taking away these "convenience features" takes away the usefulness of the product to a small business or personal user. A mid-sized business with a 24-hour IT department wouldn't have any issue swapping a drive on the fly, or building out a full RAID 5 or 10. It makes sense at that level...but I also tend to think you wouldn't want Windows Home Server.  

    I appreciate the hard work you've done with the latest version, and the feedback you've been giving us. I really do. But I think that the team really struck gold with the DE concept and it should have either been improved upon or mirrored in Vail. I do not appreciate the idea of you telling me my data isn't worth keeping because I won't use it, or that the 99.9% uptime that my current WHS affords me is a convenience feature.

    I REALLY want to use the latest version, but I won't because I cannot live without the "convenience" I'm currently afforded.

  • Sean, I'm glad that you don't live a very digital life.  I have 2.5TB in my video folder already and it continues to grow.  This allows me to stream content to my TV without dealing with my piles of DVDs and BluRays.  DE wasn't a "like".  It was the number 1 reason I have a WHS v1 box.  #2 was backups.

    You tout Remote Access.  WHS v1 does that.  You mention Silverlight video streaming but I yawn.

    Data protection: so you want me to buy a RAID card and configure it.  Then when I get another hard drive, WIPE ALL MY FRIGGIN DATA and start over when I have to rebuild the RAID array.  Wow, I already could do that in WinXP.  What progress after 10 years of OS development!!!  

    The same chuckleheads at Microsoft who "don't get the power of DE" are the same idiots that released a NEW server OS that can't deal with a partition bigger than 2TB.  Ummm.... HELLO!!! It's a good thing Microsoft made billions last year.  Give it to your shareholders because you certainly don't know how to invest it in a modern server OS. I'm guessing WHS2011 backups probably can't back up any client partitions bigger than 2TB either.

    Your major partner (HP) pulled out completely after you announced that you had castrated WHS 2011.  Man up and admit your company has the wisdom of a 10 year old after eating a box of sugar.  You can't deliver consistently.  WHS v1 was a good first version.  WHS 2011 is an abortion for the target market.  Vista was a flaming pile of dung for years and you couldn't get folks to upgrade to it en masse.  WHS 2011 is the "Vista edition" of WHS.  When you get a clue and come out with the "Win7 edition" of WHS, you will have done well for its target market.

    Continuing to create these "unicorns poop rainbows" posts when you know full well you screwed the pooch on WHS 2011 is insulting your customers.

  • sean.e
    8 Posts

    So now that DE is gone, does that mean I can add my 350GB music drive without it being formatted for WHS use (skipping the backup/restore hoops that would have been required by WHSv1)?  

    And to repeat an earlier question, can you control where the server puts backups of computers?

  • "So what did I really lose with Drive Extender being gone?

    • In the event of a hard drive failure, all my data isn’t still available until I put in a new hard drive and restore that drive back to its original state, if I didn’t configure RAID.

    • I can’t easily extend my storage when I have a disk that’s running out of space.

    • I can’t grow my share sizes past the size of all the hard drives in the system"

    Yeap, pretty much sums it up.

    Its suprising to me that MS has ignored the community totaly in regard to DE and WHS. Outside of MS, I have seen no one say that DE is optional.

    How amny people do you know in the non-tech sector that can set up a RAID?  I bet a lot of people in the tech sector can't do it either.  Listen to you users; ms normaly does a good job here, but this time your falling flat on your face.

  • Terablock
    13 Posts

    I really like all the new media features, the Silverlight features look great. But without DE its a mute point for me, unless I can start buying 4TB drives that are affordable. I have 6 total TB's in the bays of my Acer WHS, thats 4 drives. Then I have three 2TB external hard drives connected with DE. My media takes up 4.3TB of data. My photos take almost another TB. I back up 7 pc's daily, and one of them is my render box for all my development(big files). I have a lot of great plugins for my home automation and security system as well, all my security feeds record to my WHS as well. I use my WHS to its full capacity. I could not accomplish this all with the new build. I use it to backup all my recorded television shows as well. These are 3-6GB files that reoccur every other day. I have a lot of data that my WHS takes care of without me doing anything, and for me Drive Extender is the only option when you start to take on more data.  I guess "delete"  would be another option, but who deletes things anymore?

    Most people tell me that I just need to build a SBS, but WHS does everything I currently need it to do. This new WHS build would be a downgrade for me. But for a lot of people I can see this being a great product for people that do not live in a totally digital world.

    But I will most likely purchase or build one of the new WHS's just to try out the media features. I guess nothing is wrong with having two WHS's. :-)

  • The problem is that for a lot of us, this software upgrade has gotten expensive, because it requires we buy new disks.  RAID requires you to use the same size disks.  My home server has a 300G drive, two 500G drives, and a 1 TB drive.  In this scenario, my options are to drop my server down to RAID 1 and use my two 500G drives for a total of 500G of space (and not use my other two drives), or to use software raid and setup a RAID 5 stripe across my two 500G drives, and a third partition on half of my 1 TB drive, for a total of 1TB of usable space.  

    I primarily use WHS as a backup system, NAS, and for media streaming to my xbox/ps3.  This new version of WHS is going to make me buy more hard drives (when I feel I already have enough space), and it doesn't make my life any easier with the streaming of media to the living room because of the inherant lack of media streaming goodness.  This version doesn't seem to give me anything that I didn't already have in some capacity.  If you've got an HP server, you can already share out photo albums, or you can do it *easily* via other 3rd party applications (MS Live, picasa, etc).  Twonky on the other hand, is not the most friendly application.  I know I'm not the only one who feels that MS dropped the ball on this one, because there is no killer app here.  There is nothing new in this version that most people will simply have to have, no void that this product will suddenly fill that the last version didn't, and that doesn't make for a compelling case that I should upgrade.

  • I have been running WHS11 RC since its announcement and for me the jury is still out...

    The Good

    1. Windows Server 2008 R2 base OS - a needed improvement versus WS2003/32.

    2. Ability to Install and Share Ceton InfiniTV Tuners - outside of core WHS capabilties - but provides some options for whole house solutions

    3. Remote Access improvements and WP7 support.

    The Bad

    1. TV Archive Media Center Add-in performance is horrible and an after-thought

    2. Client Alerts regarding Windows Update are not coordinated with the actual Windows Upate schedule of the client devices - so alerts are generated for updates before the client has even checked.

    3. DLNA is average - especially when compared to 3rd party tools like Mezzmo. - not a huge fan of DLNA anyway due to poor User experience with most TVs, Blu-Rays, etc.

    4. Homegroup support - causes some networking wierdness around shares and access  

    The Ugly

    1. Limited Hardware Vendor EcoSystem support - With WHS being an OEM product - the lack of platform announcements from major players like HP & Dell to me relegate WHS to a niche solution at best and potentially go the way of Media Center Extenders

    2. Simialrly with major Content players like Hulu, Pandora, Slacker, Netflix, etc.    The hope that most WHS customers have had is that they can centralize their media sources - and then share it across their homes using Media Center or Extenders - without the support of these vendors, the end-result with be a level of fragmentation at the end-point that limits the value of investing in these types of solutions.

    Without a cost effective platform that can support 8 - 12TB of storage - I can easily see existing customers looking to very competetive NAS solutions.  

    Most WHS users I know have extensive music, movie and TV libraries - so capabilities like ShadowCopy have very limited value to static content.   Yes the scheduled server back is nice - but to get effective throughput you need to really be adding an iSCSI supported NAS device anyway when talking about backing up 6 or 10TB.  

    MS has a great opportunity to increase marketshare with Lviing Room 2.0 and it would be great to see in this forum some vision and roadmap announcements that would allow customers to see how WHS fits.

  • I am still on the fence with WHS 2011. I do love the ease of use that Drive Extender brings to WHS V1 and  will surely miss it if I switch.  I too am a “hobbyist photographer” with 2 young kids and this is where Sean Daniel loses some credibility.

    I don’t understand how he can follow up, “I am a new father (she’s 8 months old at the time of writing this) and I’m a hobbyist photographer.  My photos are probably the most important digital content to me...” and “I also just *love* the photo slide shows.  Sending access to the folks and letting them just watch 1000s of photos via a slide show, priceless” with this comment “People save a lot, and it costs money, but do you really need it all? The guys at TechCrunch say “I assure you that you will never print those 10,000 pictures you have stored in iPhoto. Never. Ever.”.

    After I delete all the photos not worth saving I still have tons of pictures “not worth printing” but they are still nice to see. They are great conversation pieces when I stream them to one of the 5 tv’s in my house or send them via share access to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Who, by the way, will not print them either but enjoy seeing them none the less.   These non printable pictures show true emotion and convey the different stages of life my children go through and in no way will I delete them. I store and back them up on a product I purchased that I can easily add storage to when my needs deem necessary.

    I just wish that the developers of WHS 2011 would have truly listened (like they said they did) to the HOME users and kept DE in WHS 2011. It is what we wanted when we purchased the original product.

    I deal with business class servers at work every day, I really don’t want to deal with them at home also!

  • And still nobody cares. WHS2011 is lipstick on a pig.

  • Melonir
    0 Posts

    You are not getting the point of complains. You had the convenience that others didn't had.

    1. Data protection.

    Every person that has a computer for mare that 3 years have a lot of components at home (suggest that an average user changes computer once a 3-5Y). Next time I change my, I will have a full working, fine HDD I can't use anywhere else (most computers at shop are mini-towers). After a while I need to change the computer again and then I will have another free HDD.

    Right now I have a 80, 2x320, +smth like 300 Gb HDD's at home.

    Naturally, I want to use them in a home server to share photos, videos and other things like printer, because the volume is still OK.

    Now, I can't really build a RAID on these disks. Or I get a HUGE amount of unused space. And I still want data secured. And, I Do want to combine their volumes together, because a single hdd may not be enough.

    What you are suggesting, is that I should get a 4x 2Tb disks that I don't even need.

    Other manufactures are actually leaving the classic raid. Look at these links.

    forum.synology.com/.../What_is_Synology_Hybrid_RAID%3F

    www.youtube.com/watch

    BTW, what happens if your hardware fails? It's hard to rebuild the raid without the computer.

    2. Massive Data Collections

    a) You are not targeting "a better photographer", you are targeting a families with kids that doesn't have a lot of free time to walk through pictures and will keep ALL their pictures, simple because you can't visit the past (like Paris) and make them again.

    With kids in a house you newer know where you things are (specially dvds). They can be gone in a second. The keys of a huge video collection on the NAS is ability to find and play anything you have very fast.

    And once you have kind the amounts of data you store increases many times. And you GF's camera. And your friends pictures from their camera.

    b) Well, the second point of huge collections is to change a running computer to  low-power  NAS and put it to sleep.

    Place all common information there, make it quiet. And replace computer HDD with SSD.

  • a688
    27 Posts

    You forgot something else that makes WHS 2011 awesome. Limiting partitions to 2tbs. We all know having one >2tb partition is LESS awesome than forcing people to have something like a 2tb partition and a 1tb partition on a 3tb hard drive.

  • Yeah, sorry Sean, but I have to disagree.  And this is from my personal experience...  I too have an extensive (a) photo, (b) video, (c) software, and (d) music collection.  I use my WHS v1 to backup my main desktop and two laptops.  I also use it to stream to my PS3 in my living room through DLNA.  All in all, it works great.

    Not having DE was a dealbreaker for me.  I upgraded over last weekend to the 2011 RC and immediately liked the slick, Windows 7-like installer and interface.  I even bought new hardware (an MSI Wind Box "net top" with a 1TB internal drive, along with an external SATA enclosure housing dual 650GBs for a total of 1TB + 650GB + 650GB = 2.3TB of storage).  This should be great, right?

    Um, no.  Not having DE meant using the 1TB internal drive for the WHS installation and *most* of my server folders.  I had to move my videos folder off to one of my external drives.  The problem is, when you set up an external drive as your server backup, you lose access to the *entire* drive, no matter how big or small that drive is, no matter how much of that drive you're actually using.  Plus, when I tried adding another drive I had lying around, it just shows up as another discrete set of storage.

    You don't realize how good you have something until you lose it.  So I reverted back to WHS v1, set everything up the way I liked it, have drive duplication turned on for everything except my Videos folder, and am back rocking again.  Don't get me wrong, all the features you list above are great...  but from an end-user standpoint, DE is just too good and convenient to give up.  I can replicate most - if not all - of the above features through WHS or third-party add-ins and software...  sure it won't be as pretty or easy, but I'm pretty techie and I'll still have DE.

    Data safety is important of course, and WHS 2011 is technically "safer", but I'm willing to bet my main storage (workstation + 2 laptops) and my WHS won't both crash at the same time.  P.S. why did you guys gimp VPN server from WHS 2011 too?

  • jhandel
    0 Posts

    Sean Daniel,

     Nice post, but as with the thousands of people that have voted on connect or posted blog posts or commented on other blogs, no DE means no WHS upgrade..  Home server in 99% of the environments I have seen it use (including mine) does 2 things... 1) back up home machines 2) provide for brain dead virtually limitless storage that even my Mom can upgrade.. Tieing end users to specific hardware/harddrive paths for upgrade (the likes of which RAID imposes) is a deal killer.. Currently my WHS runs off 5 different older harddrives ranging from 300 GB to 1TB).. There are no WHS 2011 solutions that actually make this product less than worse for its two primary uses (unlimited storage, which it no longer does with the lost of DE and machine backups, which hasn't change demonstrably enough to warrant an upgrade)..

    In short, your killing of DE to make the features sets only additive between WHS and SBS is a huge mistake, it has lost site that people at home don't want to be IT.. Home server should be brainlessly easy to admin and upgrade.. it no longer is and there for has failed.. Sure streaming media is a nice to have.. But when was the last time someone said " sure that car had its tires and wheels removed, but I'll still buy it because the seats are so comfy"

    Nice article, but you have not sold me from continuing to tell everyone I know to get your WHS's now before Vail releases...  

    I guess the upside is you guys will get a bump in WHS sells between now in the release of Vail.. The downside is Vail is probably in store for a fail of BOB like proportions... Which is sad, because WHS v1 was, and still is, a wonderful product..

    Who knows, maybe you guys need a Vista like event, to shape up and actually listen to your user base and do what is right for the product. That is unless the impending failure makes the hire-ups at MS kill the product all together, which is possible due to the lack of marketing support that v1 had, and the now epically bad decision to remove DE will have on v2.

    Anyways best of luck from this big time v1 fan and sad Vail skipper.

  • PhilS
    2 Posts

    If I backup now with WHS 2011 RC, will backups be compatible with the RTM version? Do I need to start over again?

  • I think the problem is that to a lot of people, DE *IS* Windows Home Server, so as far as they're concerned, WHS 2011 isn't a successor to the product that they love, which is why they don't love the new version. Add to that the fact that people see the removal of DE as a betrayal by Microsoft by ignoring home users needs and only listening to business customers and perhaps you begin to understand where people are coming from.

    Another thing that won't help, is that since the removal of DE, the only positive press about WHS 2011 seems to be coming from Microsoft and it's partners, so it sounds a bit like propaganda.

  • CWG
    0 Posts

    I may be wrong but can't you extend a volume to include more than one drive/partition using the Disk Management facility?

    Also, you can set up shadowing of drives onto separate drives. Shadowing gives you multiple prior copies of files. Shadowing is very powerful - look up shadowing in the WHS help.

    These two features seem to address  the most lamented features "lost" by those who want to keep DE, But I think these features, by another name, do exist in WHS 2011.

  • Sean Daniel writes:

    "There has been a lot of negativity around upgrading the Windows Home Server (version 1) product, to Windows Home Server 2011 or even using it at all, all due to the Drive Extender removal.  I do understand the pain.  I do.  But I don’t understand why people instantly now hate WHS?? "

    Personally, I think the anger is directed at the (mis)handling of the issue by the Vail team, rather than the product.

    It seems clear, from Thurrott’s own account, that the current WHS team did not have a clue, at least in the beginning, that the decision to remove DE would have such a negative reaction.

    In effect, the team had just torn up the guiding principles for the product developed by Charlie Kindel and the original WHS V1 team – but they don’t seem to have appreciated that fact, or the likely reaction from customers who had bought V1 on the strength of those principles.

    The team then soldiered on with the decision – and I have to give them credit for their brass necks – and very probably have weathered the storm. But I really could have done without the disingenous posts on this blog telling us that they were only following feedback from their customers:

    There are some good things remaining in WHS 2011, but the heart of WHS V1 – its provision of consumer-friendly storage – has been surgically removed.

  • NateB2
    4 Posts

    So, in other words, the solution is that we're supposed to delete data we don't use? Wow, what fun - spending weeks going through hundreds and hundreds of folders, deciding which data to keep and what throw away, in order to make the folders fit on the hard drives.  Now I have something to keep me busy with my many, *many* hours of spare time!  Why hang out with friends, catch up on homework, pursue a hobby, or otherwise have a life when I can delete photos and videos from my server in my free time?  What fun!

    /sarcasm

    I keep *all* my pictures/video for archival purposes - storage is cheap, and I don't know when I'll need those photos/videos.  I *bought* WHS for DE -so I wouldn't have to worry about RAID, managing hard drive letters, juggling folders around, deleting data, etc.  I just want something where I can plug in more storage, it automatically recognizes it and expand the available storage, or when I replace a smaller hard drive with a larger one, I can do so by clicking "remove drive" and "add drive".  I don't want to have to worry about backup drives becoming full (which they most certainly will - currently I'm running easily over 2TB in PC image backups alone), I don't want to have to juggle folders around when I remove a hard drive and add another one - I just want it to all work transparently.  DE did this. (F)ail does not.

    The media streaming stuff is nice and all, and I like the front-end updates and all the nicities that have been added to remote access, but without DE, it simply doesn't let me do what I need my home server to do.

    In summary, great job at spinning the massive loss DE was to WHS, but I'm not buying it (literally or figuratively).

  • Been debating about switching.

    The lack of Drive Extender is one of the problems I have. My main question is if you can control where there server puts backups of computers. If you can then the only problem I really have left is the fact that my current machine is 32 bit only, but that's not to huge.

    As a side question, is there any way to migrate from v1 to v2? (Like moving computer backups?)

  • Blaine
    23 Posts

    Great article though you have a couple places where you used *loose* where you mean *lose*.