Fait Accompli

After much vacillation and associated teeth gnashing, we’ve decided to stick with Window Home Server (WHS) for the 118 Henry Street network. When our Small Business Server (SBS) crashed, we hastily built a WHS out of spare parts, presuming that we would go back to SBS soon. 


TIME OUT!”, you scream.


Question: Why are we reading about computer stuff again!?! The reason I read this blog is for the house-repair/house&garden/family information, not indecipherable acronyms of geekspeak.

Answer: Our computers with internet access are as much a part of the daily life and lifestyle of 118 Henry Street as any other home system or appliance. Good or bad, our network is central to our family communication, education, finances and entertainment. It is the repository for the accumulated history of 118 Henry Street. Combined with internet access, it is the source of almost all the knowledge about house restoration you see synthesized and regurgitated on this blog. Without computers, servers, email, networks, and other techno-accouterments, there would be no 118 Henry Street.


Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…


The best parts of SBS were hosting our own email and the centralized control over the Henry Street workstations. With SBS, we could push out Windows updates, virus definitions, etc. from the server and see the status of those updates at anytime. Our pesky Henry Street users couldn’t avoid getting the update medicine all computers need on a regular basis.

The biggest downside was the power hungry nature of the server hardware required to run SBS. Since turning off the Dell PowerEdge 1800 and ISA servers, our electricity bill has decreased 15-20% per month. WHS is designed to run on lower end, workstation based hardware, with correspondingly less power consumption. Some WHS boxes only consume 30-50 watts of power (the Dell PowerEdge had a 650 watt power supply).

Undoubtedly the best feature of WHS is complete, disaster recovery backup of all the workstations. If a hard drive dies on a workstation, put in a new hard disk, boot to the WHS recovery CD and very quickly the machine is online again with NO (that’s nada, zero, zip) loss of data or settings.

The next best feature is WHS allows us to access our home data and home computers from anywhere on the internet. Using a web browser, we can access the files we have stored on the server and even do a remote desktop to our computers at the house.

Finally, WHS also has built-in streaming of multimedia content such as movies/music to the XBOX 360. I never could get this to work with SBS even with Vista Ultimate on a couple of our computers.

For our WHS, we built a “FrankenServer”, geekspeak for a computer built out of parts from multiple sources. For a knowledge base, we used Philip Churchill’s MSWHS.com blog as our primary resource.

The pictorial result:

Fewer power supplies, much less heat

Compare with this.

You may qualify for a Windows Home Server if:

   1) your family has 2 or more computers (even Apple Mac’s),

   2) you have a bunch of digital pictures/music/other data to share,

   3) you spent more than $500 on your last TV.

Certainly if you have a home based business, consider a WHS.

Most WHS, such as the HP MediaSmart, come pre-built and mostly configured. So they are easy to set up on your home network.

Here is the new network diagram:

Click for a larger, legible view

On a related note, we added Philip Churchill’s WHS blog to our Recommended Resources.