The “Death” of Windows Home Server

by: David McCabe, Windows Home Server MVP

It’s a catchy title so I couldn’t resist.  It could also be called, “Two Years from now.”  That’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around. Two years from now.

More on that thought later but for now how about the Windows Home Server’s death march? You can’t tell me you didn’t see it coming.  Everyone is going to say, “I called it.”  “I knew it back when Microsoft ____________.”  Fill in the blank.  Killed Drive Extender. Merged SBS and WHS groups. Lost HP as an OEM partner. Etc, etc.  Congratulations enthusiast.  You were just a part of a several year server trial.  All your testing and trust into Windows Home Server product has now been placed in a new product called, Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

How about a parting gift? How does $425 dollars sound?  All your hard work has earned you the right to pay $425 for the next version of Windows Home Server. Errrr, Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

Drive Extender has been resurrected if you haven’t heard.  It’s called Storage Spaces and it’s available in Windows 8 and the new Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

DLNA and Media streaming? That feature is moving to the new Essentials product.

Windows Home Server’s single best contribution was it’s ability to automatically backup every PC in the house.  On top of that it could restore a PC from it’s database to a brand new hard drive.  Now it’s in Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

Remote access? It’s in there too and called Remote Web Access.  All that testing you did trying to get into your sever from work, stream music, access files, all in the new product. Refined and working fine.

So thank you home user.  Thank you enthusiast.  You just helped create a mighty fine server product.  Did I just hear a thank you?  No, Microsoft is not thanking you.  They also didn’t want you to find out very easily.  Instead of telling you to your face they decided to end your beloved server in a FAQ document.  In a downloadable PDF!  Times have changed but Microsoft’s communication abilities have not.

What exactly is it that you want?  What do you need right now and what will you need two years from now?

The way i see it is Windows Home Server 2011 users have a year if not two years of good use out of the platform.  There is certainly no reason to go pull the plug on it right now.  I don’t see any reason to go put effort and money into a different platform either.  In two years time we may even look back and wonder why we needed a backup repository in our homes.

Windows 8, tablets, and mobile computing are going to push us to cloud based backups much like the most popular tablet of the day is backed up and restored.  All via the cloud.  It’s unbelievably simple to wipe out an iPad or iPhone and restore it to new with just your user ID.  A Windows 8 tablet done right should be able to do this as well.  The big question looms though, does Microsoft have a plan for this?

The powerhouse PC is often referred to as a truck.  How many of these trucks are going to be in the household come 2 years from now?  None? One maybe?  I can honestly say that I don’t know about my household.  My PC probably.  My two HTPC’s? Probably gone.  Kids?  Right now they don’t know anything but mobile devices.

I’m not trying to defend Microsoft’s actions here.  I’m trying to be forward looking.  My needs are different than they were when I first installed my version 1 of Windows Home Server.  Back then I envisioned my kids each having PC’s, the wife’s laptop, my laptop, my PC, etc.  Today I could get by with a dual drive NAS and some offsite backup option.  I would probably be just fine with a single truck and my trusty CrashPlan account.  Who knows what I’ll need two years from now.

Yet, the enthusiast in me still wants to see what my hard work has yielded. Thankfully I still have TechNet so it won’t be as painful as shelling out $425 to find out.  So bring on the product.  Windows Server 2012 Essentials.  Where can I buy it?  Where can I download it?

Oh, it’s going to come out as a beta?  FFS, your kidding me right? I gotta test more? I’m outa here….



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42 Responses

  1. gcoupe says:

    Why do people think that having MSDN or TechNet subscriptions gives them the right to use the software in production environments? Microsoft are quite clear on this – it's for testing and development use only.

    • Gunk says:

      Define production. As an IT-pro I consider using TechNet at home as testing. No SLA with wife and kids…

    • homeservershow says:

      MS is taking steps to keep TechNet from being abused but the inevitable fact remains that people will use it this way as long as they can get away with it. We don't advocate the use of TechNet in that manner. Granted, we did in the past. I'll be the first to admit that.
      I have TechNet and am expected to test the product and I will. That's what I wrote. It will not be painful for me to find out if I like it or not. That's it.

    • John Wills says:

      Production could have a multitude of meanings. As long as I do not sell the product keys I have or use them to install at a for profit location, I consider myself to within the spirit of the EULA.
      The four remote servers I support only go to enhance the trouble-shooting and bug fixing aspect of the equation.

    • Yeah you're right gcoupe

  2. Steve says:

    Use linux! I work in Windows support and know Windows much better than Linux, but for me a Ubuntu based home server works perfectly. It's only an Atom based mobo with 2GB ram but it does all sorts (CCTV, Asterisk phone system, Time Machine server, headphones, sickbeard, Couchpotatoe…….). Plus it's running Linux software RAID 5 so nice and safe………

  3. John Wills says:

    Microsoft has done exactly what we asked them to do. Simplify the SKU's, it just happened to be with our little darling.

  4. Joe Miner says:

    While a specific product line may be "dead" I don't see the future of a "Home Server" being dead — not by a long shot. As our digital "memories" (i.e. digital photo's, family videos, etc.) grow I see the need only growing to protect those digital memories and important family information. Some people, like me, will be unwilling to trust the "cloud" with confidential papers and/or tax information or little Tommy's first walk video.

    So we may be looking at "Essentials" but I'm seeing more mainstream potential to enhancing Win8Pro to give it Home Server functionality via add-in, apps, applications, what-ever.

    Additionally, hard drive manufactures would love to see growth in the Home Server/Home Storage market so there could be some interesting solutions out of that segment.

    Oh well, those are my thoughts………….

  5. Sevla says:

    Are we going to receive a thank you for Windows Media Center as well? Have a look at Microsoft MediaRoom and see what direction is Media Center taking. Dont take me wrong as i love Windows 7 and Windows Home Server 2011 but at the end we are nothing more then guinea pigs for Microsoft.

    Just my little rant…

  6. JamrD says:

    I think there will always be a need for a centralized home storage point as long as there are desktops. Some people will never trust the cloud to store all of there digital items.
    The need for centralized storage will change when we move to a centralized home computer controlling our homes and small clients and mobile devices as UI's.
    Windows already has something like this with their Multipoint server. Too bad it doesnt do Mediacenter or I would be all over that.

  7. timcadieux says:

    I will continue to recommend to people to purchase an Aces H340 WHS.

  8. Darkside34 says:

    Time to switch to linux! Wait, I never used windows in my home….nevermind….

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