What's the target market for Windows Home Server?

What's the target market for Windows Home Server?

Summary: Just who is Microsoft expecting to buy Windows Home Server?

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Just who is Microsoft expecting to buy Windows Home Server?

WhatÂ’s the target market for Windows Home Server?If you were to ask me for list of two words that don't go together, I'm pretty that "home" and "server" would be somewhere on my top 10.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm against the idea of a home server, in fact, given the huge volumes of data home users now seem to have, a home server is a logical idea.  Also, for homes that have more than one PC, having a centralized location for backups and having the ability for those backups to be created and updated regularly with little to no user involvement is a very sweet idea.  Without a doubt we've entered the era where a home server is a very desirable thing.  But ...

For home users, losing data is seen as inevitableIn theory, a home server is a good idea, and in practice it would, without a doubt, be a very useful tool, but the reality is that few people are ever going to get their hands on Windows Home Server.  First off, the name is a total turn off.  The only thing that your average Joe or Jane Public is going to hear of the name is that pleasant whizzing sound as the terms go flying above them off into oblivion.  While the name might (to the initiated) hold more meaning that "Home Basic," "Home Premium" and "Ultimate," to the average user it's nonsense.

But let's put the name on one side for now and consider a more important question - How much value does the average user place on their data?  $0.50?  $1?  $5?  $10?  $50?  $100?  $500?  $1,000?  In my experience home users place a pretty low value on their data, that is, up to the point that it's gone and then that data they couldn't be bothered burning onto a DVD or copying onto a USB flash drive suddenly becomes priceless.  My highly unscientific studies suggest that the average home users will spend about $30 protecting their data and they will usually spend this cash on some backup software which they'll use a couple of times (each time storing the backed-up data on the same drive as the original is on) before losing interest in backing up completely.  Even people who have already suffered serious data catastophes won't spend much to prevent future data loss.  For home users, losing data is seen as inevitable.  The idea that home users are going to blow $200 on Windows Home Server or $600+ on a pre-configured OEM solution is crazy.  If people really cared that much about their data and were willing to spend the money to look after it, we'd dual-drive PCs, external hard drives and NAS boxes as more of the norm than we do right now.  Right now I can think of dozens of small business owners who have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of data not backed up who could benefit from Windows Home Server but who wouldn't dream of spending that kind of money.  A serious data crisis would likely put many of these people out of business within a ninety days yet trying to get them to part with $600 for a system to take care of their worries would be near to impossible.

Another way to look at this is by looking at the type of user likely to invest in such a product.  If you have two or three PCs at home, spending $600 on a Home Server system is a lot of cash, especially for a system that does nothing but back up data.  The kinds of users more likely to spend money on backing up their data (home power users, tech enthusiasts, SOHO, that market) are those with five or more PCs.  But these folks are a tough sell because they're more likely to have an effective backup and restore regime already in place. Also, if they have more than 10 PCs, they've already outgrown Windows Home Server.

Windows Home Server also reeks of first edition omissions.  The lack of 64-bit OS support if probably the most obvious feature that's lacking (at a time when Microsoft is trying to convince users that 64-bit is the way forward, not supporting it in Home Server is a shot in the foot).  Windows Home Server media sharing and streaming is also pretty basic, and I would have liked a centralized way to manage updates and scan for malware.  Alas, Windows Home Server feels rushed and incomplete.

[poll id=185]

Thoughts?

Topics: Servers, Data Centers, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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49 comments
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  • MS Home Server uses a push model

    Apple's approach--with Zeroconf (Bonjour), Airport Air-disk and Air-tunes, Apple TV,
    and coming soon Time Machine--are all based on auto-discovery and a pull model.

    I think the pull model is easier for non-techies to use.
    YinToYourYang-22527499
    • Absolutely agreed.

      Buy an external hard drive, plug it into your Mac. Your data is now automatically backed up on the fly without you needing to do a single thing. Compare that to the guaranteed nightmare setting up an MS Home Server is going to be. (Simple is not in the Microsoft lexicon).
      frgough
      • Absolutely agreed?

        I guess you didn't bother to see what is actually involved in adding more storage space to WHS. Complex?

        I suggest doing everyone a favor and first getting up to speed with the topic at hand before enlightening us with your "knowledge".
        Qbt
        • I'm not talking about adding storage space

          I'm talking about the software configuration required to set up the home server in the first place, and then administer it.

          Just setting up peer to peer networking in a home environment in Vista is a pain in the but. OS X? Turn on file sharing and you're done. Bonjour takes care of the rest.
          frgough
      • re: Absolutely agreed.

        frgough:

        "Buy an external hard drive, plug it into your Mac. Your data is now automatically backed up on the fly without you needing to do a single thing. Compare that to the guaranteed nightmare setting up an MS Home Server is going to be. (Simple is not in the Microsoft lexicon)."


        Once again, you rush to judgment on something with which you have no knowledge or experience. Have you used WHS? I rather doubt it.

        Do you know what it takes to install WHS on a spare box? No. Do you know what it takes to install the Connector app on the client box? No. Do you have any idea whatsoever what it takes to set up accounts on WHS and manage them? Not bloody likely.

        FYI, Home Server takes about 30 minutes to install and initially set up on the designated computer. The Connector software takes about 10 minutes to install and set up (including choosing your password.) And it takes less than five minutes to create and initially manage each user account. It takes a bit longer to set up Remote Access (for when you're away from home). It's slower than accessing through your home network since the throttle is based on your broadband upload speed, but it does work.

        How do I know all of this? Because [b] I have installed and have been using Windows Home Server RC1 on a spare machine for the past three months.[/b] In other words, I have experience with WHS, and you don't. I know what I'm talking about.

        And you don't.

        I expect know-nothings like yourself to berate and pooh-pooh the WHS concept. Certainly, it's easy to "Buy an external hard drive". Are you willing to do that for each client machine in use? What if you have five client machines?

        What saddens me is that knowledgable people like [b]Adrian[/b] are doing it as well, and are basing their criticisms on WHS' backup facilities alone, and not on the usefulness of being able to offload all of your media (music, video, and still pictures), from the client computer(s) to the server, without duplication of files.

        In addition, should you discover that you're running out of storage on the server, it's easy to add another HDD--WHS will automatically find, format, and add the drive to its storage pool.

        Automatic backups of all the client computers is icing on the cake.

        And no, Macs (at least their OS X partitions) aren't supported by WHS at this time. Perhaps that's a Good Thing. You clowns would simply find something else to carp about.
        M.R. Kennedy
        • You've just told me all I need to know.

          Windows:

          1. Spend 30 minutes installing WHS on a box.
          2. Spend 10 minutes installing the Connector App.
          3. Spend 5 minutes creating an account.

          OS X

          1. Buy an external hard drive.
          2. Plug it in.
          3. Check Yes when asked if you want to make it a time machine drive.

          Thanks for proving my point.
          frgough
          • except you again don't get the point and aren't REALLY paying attention

            dis-proof of point....

            1) There is only WHS install time if you buy the software separate and want to install it yourself on your own machine. This is not the main intended path for WHS, it's main market is sold pre-installed on a dedicated piece of hardware.

            2) 10 Minutes installing the connector is a VERY high estimate, and even most of that time is just waiting for the software to copy over and install. There's only about 1-2 minutes of user interaction.

            3) 5 Minutes creating an account is also an extremely high estimate. If you know the username and password you are going to use it's more like about 45 seconds to create the account, including the average person's hunt-and-peck typing.

            re: OSX time-machine.

            1) Time Machine is designed as a backup only solution so it is FAR FAR FAR from an apples to oranges comparison (no pun intended). That's like comparing a 4-wheeled automobile to the space shuttle, yeah, they're both transportation devises but....

            2) It is only for individual machines. You need a separate hard drive for each computer. And even if you didn't you would need to lug it around from computer to computer...I'm sure people would be really likely to do that in a home setting (plus you'd lose your previous versions and only get snapshots of that instance when the drive was plugged in).

            I have 6 computers here at my house, they all backup nightly to one device. I never touch a thing.

            WHS alerts me if a machine has missed backups over a few days, if AV definitions are out of date or off, if their firewalls are off, if updates are not being done. In addition we have a HP digital document sender, a Roku network media player, multiple windows media players, and photo management software which ALL use the WHS for storage/retrieval of data. I can access any of my computers from an external internet connection. I can access any file on my WHS from an internet connection.

            Let's see time machine do that...ANY of that.

            You really should at least check rudimentary information about things before you start discussing things you obviously know nothing about...it makes you look stupid. Now please go back to Apple-land where they are still trying to spin non-user-replaceable batteries into a "good thing".
            NotOnYourLife2
          • No you proved his point. The ecxternal drive is not

            a server or a good backup method for multiple machines. Not does it provide an access/storage point for all PCs on the network.
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • re: You've just told me all I need to know.

            frgough:

            And by ignoring the rest of the post, you prove [b]my[/b] points.

            You continue to be clueless.
            M.R. Kennedy
  • I expect that people sufficiently into computers...

    ...to know (a) what a server is, and (b) know the advantages of having a home one will also know that Linux boxes, with a very long history as servers, would do a far better job of it than a new, untried, poorly tested, and probably expensive offering from Microsoft.
    Henrik Moller
    • Not particularly expensive

      It is supposedly $599 (several stories have indicated this amount, but it's not for sale yet so it can't be deemed 100% factual). That's not very expensive. Especially for tech products. A lot cell phones are more (without contract at least). But it doesn't matter because you didn't even bother to check it out, just made an assumption.

      Bottom line, you're allowed your opinion, and could very well be justified when it comes out, but since you clearly did no research on the product, the testing it has undergone, the testers' opinions on it, or even the suggested price, you really have no right (or ability) to make claims regarding any of those topics.

      You think Linux would do it better? You're probably right.

      Too bad you didn't bother to get any facts about the product before you decided why it was inferior, though.
      laura.b
      • Actually...

        ...I <i>do</i> consider $599 to be expensive. The hardware I use for my Linux-based home server--a little naked white-box--cost me a bit over half that much. And the software was, of course, free. You're right, I did make an assumption about the cost--and I was right.

        <p>As to testing, <i>no</i> manufacturer's testing is as good as real-world experience. It doesn't matter in the slightest how thoroughly MS thinks it has tested the gadget, or what their beta-testers think, Version 1.0 of <i>anything</i> is going to be buggy--and Version 1.0 of anything used by the public at large will reveal some truly astounding bugs. Look at Vista. I'm sure MS wore the edges off it in pre-release testing, but the result was still deemed too risky to deploy in a lot of businesses until SP1. By comparison, not only have Linux-based servers of various kinds have been around for years and had most of the bugs worked out, Linux, following Unix, was designed for a networked environment in the first place and has all <i>that</i> experience behind it.
        Henrik Moller
        • re: Actually...

          Henrik (or Henry, whichever you are this week):

          NewEgg is currently offering the OEM WHS software package for US$190. Add that to an existing spare computer and your cost is...US$190.

          The starting price(s) for new, pre-configured WHS consoles will probably be in the US%500-600 range, depending on the amount of HDD storage optioned. And, unlike a Linux server package, they'll be easy for a relatively non-geeky person to set up and configure. Kindly take that into account the next time you want to shoot off your mouth.

          I'm not one of Microsoft's "official" beta testers, and never have been. Like thousands of other interested people, though, I downloaded the WHS RC1 .iso images when they became available. I burned them to discs and installed WHS on a spare computer and the Connector software to both my Vista box and an HP Windows XP notebook. Setup was easy on all three machines. Creating and managing the accounts has also been simple, as well as adding media files to the public and private folders.

          I even created an account for a friend and had him test Remote Access (through MS's "LiveNode" site), and it worked quite well, if a tad bit slowly. (Net speeds are limited by your network's broadband access upload speed.)

          The biggest difference (other than price) between WHS and a hobbyist Linux server) will be in the simplicity of setup. If you have a strong Linux background, you'll be able to use the latter easily enough. But what about someone who has [b]no[/b] background in Linux or, shudder the though, "Joe and Jane Average", as Adrian mentioned? Do you really think that they'd be able to successfully set up a Linux server? In less than an hour? In less than a day? Week?

          It took me about an hour to install and configure WHS itself, along with the Connector app on all three of my computers. And no, I'd never used Windows Server 2003, on which WHS is based.

          And as a beta, WHS RC1 has caused me exactly zero problems. I won't vouch for its ability (or lack) to stream video files over a 100Mbit network. I haven't tried it. But it [b]does[/b] stream audio files with no problems whatsoever. Maybe a gigabit network could handle video streaming.

          Oh, and BTW, Windows Server 2003/WHS was designed for a networked environment [b]in the first place.[/b]
          M.R. Kennedy
        • So then build and sell home servers based on Linux.

          Match all the features of WHS (back up of all Windows machines, central storage and retrieval, etc.) and give it away to anyone that wants it.

          Now there is a ral business plan yes???
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Home Servers based on Linux

            No_Ax:

            "Match all the features of WHS (back up of all Windows machines, central storage and retrieval, etc.) and give it away to anyone that wants it."

            Oh, yeah. That'll make a bundle of money. ;)
            M.R. Kennedy
        • No, you weren't right

          For many (particularly who this product is aimed at) building a computer is not an option.

          The $599 price is for a full box with the software.

          The software itself is less than $200, if you intend to just load it on a box you already have.

          But my point is that you would have known all this if you had bothered to check before you started yapping.
          laura.b
    • Translation:

      [b]I expect that people sufficiently into computers...
      ...to know (a) what a server is, and (b) know the advantages of having a home one will also know that Linux boxes, with a very long history as servers, would do a far better job of it than a new, untried, poorly tested, and probably expensive offering from Microsoft. [/b]

      So what you're saying here - hard core geeks will know what a server is and it would be a good thing to have and will use Linux.

      All well end good - if you're a geek. But there are a LOT of people out there who aren't geeks. They're too busy running around doing their thing to bother learning the necessary skills to install and maintain a Linux box, let alone a Windows server.

      Enter WHS. This product is designed specifically for those who have better things to do with their lives than be a geek but DO want to protect their data.

      In fact, I can think of several of my clients who fit that description. One such client happens to be a lawyer. He's far too busy being a lawyer to be a geek. His kids are spoiled rotten - have their iPods crammed to the gills with music and by now, probably videos. Losing that data if one of the kid's devices was stolen - and since they're not really into antivirus (you can set it up for them but that won't mean they won't disable it cause it's sucking down too many system resources), the odds of their computer having fatal problems isn't out of the realm of probability. Not to mention it'd be fairly expensive to replace all that purchased content.

      So, WHS would be darn cheap insurance for them.

      I, myself, think the idea of having a backup of my computers would be a good thing as well - especially if I can do a bare metal reinstall if I needed to - without digging out all the CDs/DVDs, without having to dig up the drivers. Just create a boot CD, pop it into the reformatted computer's drive and launch a full restore of the OS, my data and my settings.

      Show me a Linux box that can do that...
      Wolfie2K3
  • Waste of Money

    Most home users don't have the knowledge or desire to have a server installed at home. Just the idea of that makes me laugh. The PC enthusiast/IT Pro most likely has a server or some other backup solution already, and would not be interested in a "Home Server". So just who is going to buy this waste of money computer??
    jpr75_z
  • Agreed Adrian, average home user doesn't know what to do with WHS

    nt
    D T Schmitz
  • I suggest...

    I suggest people first look into what WHS has to offer before just lumping it into what we typically think of as being a "server". That is why everyone here is jumping on the "it's a stupid idea" bandwagon: They think the concept of a server is too complex for most home users. It is only complex because that has been the only option we had up to now.

    WHS makes a lot of the "server" type concepts extremely simple or completely hides the complexities. For example, how many people ever tried to manage a RAID array? Well, with WHS, there is no RAID array. Instead, you can add any drive, in any capacity, with any interface (SATA, USB, Firewire, etc), and they all get added into one large logical storage pool. You can also opt to store data on at least two spindles, ensuring that if any of these drives go down, your data is still protected.

    Then there are the people that can set up a typical server at home but just could not care to go through the hassles, like myself. It is like my car: While I know the technology behind an internal combustion engine, I just don't care to spend weekends popping the hood to work on it. I just want it to work. That is what WHS offers me, so I am definitely getting one set up when they become available.

    And seriously, if you add up all WHS' features, it would take you a long time to set up a non-WHS solution to perform the same functionality, if you can even get it to do the same. And it would be way more complex to manage. For example, I can connect from any computer with internet access to my WHS running at home, tell it to wake up any particular desktop at my home (using one of the many free add-ins for WHS), and remote desktop into that system to get some file I need while I am away from home.

    Check out the list of add-ons people already created:
    http://www.wegotserved.co.uk/windows-home-server-add-ins/

    But then again, this is an MS product so I don't expect people here to give any kind of response other than your typical ABM rants.
    Qbt