Why Windows Home Server? Personal Cloud with Bare Metal Restore and Single Instance Storage (possible broadband caps looming)

Posted by Paul Braren on Mar 15 2012 (updated on May 2 2014) in
  • HomeServer
  • Windows
  • Windows-Home-Server-Console-Server-Storage-Tab-Pie-Chart-1

    Why have I been using Microsoft Windows Home Server products for nearly 4 years now?

    Well, it all started with 3TB of videos (from dozens of Hi8 tapes) that I absolutely never want to lose. Ever.

    Then, it grew to be a quick way to recover many laptops in my extended family from various problems (software afflictions or hardware failures), saving my skin, and a lot of time, every month or two. This peace of mind has been absolutely worth the investment, in time and money. I wasn't interested in continuing with Ghost or Acronis backups, with no de-duping, requiring 8TB for storing it all, and having to worry about duplicate data on multiple family laptops.

    When Windows Home Server v1 came along, daily backups of 10 machines were handled with about 4TB of local storage, with no more worries about waste from the same data (games, videos, etc) on multiple hard drives, nice. Real nice. And occasionally carried backups off site, despite some USB 3.0 issues.

    So, with all the talk about Windows 8, and/or Windows Server 8 Storage Spaces (see 8 Ways Windows Server 8 Handles Storage Better) and other possible replacements for Windows Home Server. Or even something like Synology NAS devices, that's all might be fine options, as long as:

    • it's Single Instance Storage (greatly reduces storage requirements) works as well as it did on WHSv1 described here, and for Windows Server 8 described/shown here
    • it has fast Bare Metal Restore (recover entire hard drive image, OS & data, handling hard drive failures and upgrades with ease)
    • it is at least as fast as Windows Home Server v1 (WHS2011 seems to have some speed issues), so daily backups of 12 PCs can be easily handled automatically each night
    • it can recover from drive failure (RAID is fine for me)

    Given the specter of bandwidth caps, and the conflict of interest with Netflix and other video providers, I don't really see a way for my family to cut over to cloud services entirely anytime soon. Not to mention the issue of the time to upload or download 4TB of personal data, even with a stable router+cablemodem combination.

    So it's personal cloud for my family for now, with Hamachi allowing us seamless access when outside the home. I may complete a move from WHSv1 to Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials soon (I'm at 9 of 12 PCs now). But even if I don't completely migration, that's fine, as the performance of both Windows Home Server VMs are far better than they ever was on my sad, aging, Pentium D system. I can do so very much more with vZilla, with similar watt burn compared to the 4 year old machine it's replacing: 126 watts at idle, 159 watts at full CPU.