Windows Home Server deserves more recognition. It had a nasty bug that took too long to cure but that’s over now and it’s back to being the helpful tool that I described a year ago. It offers safe storage of your files and photos,  easy ways to share your photos and other files, and remote access to your computers from anywhere. The best devices – like the HP MediaSmart EX475 – are attractive and easy to set up.

One of the best tricks for Windows Home Server is the way it backs up computers on your home or small business network. Every night, WHS does a backup of each computer in a technically marvelous way that uses a very small amount of storage space. By default, it keeps 3 months of monthly backups, 3 weeks of weekly and 3 days of daily. That gives you a lot of power to recover a file that is accidentally deleted.

The real magic happens if a hard drive fails on one of the computers backed up by the Windows Home Server. This article explains how a marriage was saved by WHS when the blogger’s wife had a laptop failure. Here’s what he describes:

  • A CD is provided with WHS (or downloaded from Microsoft) that can be used to start the computer after the bad hard drive is replaced with a brand new one.
  • The software on the CD starts the networking on the failed computer and locates the Windows Home Server.
  • The WHS identifies which computer is connecting (probably by the MAC address) and offers to restore the computer.
  • The backup image is able to be copied to the computer very quickly, and the computer is immediately usable when the restore is finished – it is literally identical to its state at the time of the backup.

According to the blogger, his wife’s laptop was operational 11 minutes after he gave the command to perform the restore.

That’s just cool stuff. Vista Business has a similar process called “Complete PC Backup & Restore” but it can’t be automated – almost no one knows it’s there. Windows Home Server doesn’t ask any questions or require any knowledge – it just does the right thing.

You might want a server for your home. We might talk about it for your small offices. There’s some good technology here.

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