Windows Home Server 2011 RC has been released today and you have been inundated with posts from HSS about it. Let’s get into what it has and what it doesn’t have.
Unless you have been living under a rock, or a snow drift, the past couple of months you know that Microsoft has decided to remove Drive Extender from the new Windows Home Server. As I understand it, Drive Extender was never about data redundancy to Microsoft. It was more for multiple drive management for the home user. I’m sad to report that drive management in WHS2011 is going to be a tough task although Microsoft has made an attempt to allow you to easily manage data between drives. It will not make managing multiple hard drives any easier nor will it help with data redundancy in the fashion you are used to with version 1. We are at the mercy of the community with Add-In’s for this I’m afraid.
Selling WHS2011 without Drive Extender
It’s my opinion that Microsoft is hoping you will forget about all that Drive Extender business and migrate to WHS2011 by throwing in a couple of wizards. A move data wizard to be exact.
If you didn’t already know that you inserted a new drive into your server be comforted by the fact that WHS2011 will notify you via a health alert. In this alert you will be given the opportunity to format the drive. The Move Folder Wizard is nice and I’m sure to use it here and there but it does nothing to help a home user manage a server that has many hard drives in it like Drive Extender did.
Three Terabyte drives to the rescue right? As long as you are prepared to use them 2TB at a time. When you add a new 3TB or larger hard drive WHS2011 will volume it into a 2TB volume and a 1 TB or whatever is left over as long as it's larger than 1oGB. It also assigns two drives letters, one for each volume. It does this because the server can only backup 2TB per drive due to how the underlying OS handles VHD or virtual hard drives and it's backup mechanism. If you put in a 3TB drive and create the max partition size you cannot back it up via the console. Obviously, you can still add partitions that are larger but if you do you cannot back it up with the method that WHS2011 provides.
One thing that is sorely missing from WHS version 1 is Shadow Copies.
Shadow Copy is built in to hard drive management now although I see no new way for a new user to manage the actual recovery and I worry about new users confusing it for data protection. Recovery is done via properties of the folder or file just like any other OS. It's not done via console. This may seem like a limitation but I think it's probably a good thing so that shadow copy is not confused as a means of data protection.
It is not a means of protection or duplication. Education of the end user in how to properly use Shadow Copies will be paramount in this regard. It is a good thing though. WHS needed this type of feature.
One of the biggest issues in the data management scheme of this new version is shares vs. hard drive size. Share “A” has to go on a drive. It cannot span multiple drives. If your Share “A” is a 4TB DVD library, for example, you will have to devise a method in which to split them between two or more different drives.
Windows Home Server version 1 was never good at parity or saving space. It is a 1:1 arrangement. If you duplicate a share, and exact copy of it’s contents will be written to a second hard drive. This is also capable in WHS2011 but you have to manage that yourself. Gone are the days of buying just a single hard drive to increase storage on your server. You have to buy two now. One to put data on, the other to be a backup.
There is always RAID right?. You can use a RAID solution to give you some redundancy in your server but don’t expect to manage it within the WHS2011 console. Not yet anyways. Hopefully we will see something soon.
Hey WHS2011, I may be on your side after all! If you think about data protection that Drive Extender provided vs. a RAID and server backup strategy that 2011 will provide 2011 wins out. DE overhead is horrible. It interrupts streaming and is prone to wild and un-recoverable errors. I've seen it personally. 2011 on the other hand will let you RAID a set of drives together as well as use a 2TB drive and setup a nightly backup of that drive to another 2TB drive in the same server. This with the added safety net of Shadow Copies and you have a high performance redundant system. Hey enthusiasts, Microsoft is giving you exactly what you want! So why are a good portion of them upset with the move? Perhaps because Microsoft took something from them in order to make it happen. Without giving the enthusiast a choice I remind you.
I also think that 2011 can be healthy if developers get behind it. There are more opportunities for the developer with it in the launchpad and dashboard. The community has a chance to do some awesome stuff with it. Let's hope they do.
This is somewhat of a bleak look at the new Windows Home Server 2011 but don’t get me wrong. It has plenty of strong points to it.
- Finally, we have a 64 bit solution.
- PC backups have not changed and that to me is the top priority of this product.
- Shadow copies are now default. Drive handling and formatting has improved.
- Media handling is so much better in 2011.
- HomeGroup is standard on it.
- You can finally treat the OS drive as just the OS drive!
- You can use RAID and not worry about Drive Extender and RAID getting in the way of each other.
- You can use it as a file server, database server, or both. Business's upgrade!
- It’s fast and it’s up to date. It’s just not a direct replacement for the prior version.
Oh, and don’t count on an easy migration from WHS to 2011. It’s a manual kind of thing.
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