Windows Home Server : The Good, the Bad, the Workaround…

Well, it’s been almost three months now and time’s up. Time to pay the piper, or Microsoft in this case, and put in the big money or exit stage left and reinstall Linux. I’d say so far I’ve been extremely pleased with my experience using Windows Home Server, but as an enthusiast and not as Joe the Plumber. WHS is definitely not for Grandma, as it utterly fails the Grandma test in every category – ease of use, concept complexity, and need. Here’s a few things it needs before it’s ready for the Christmas wish list…

1) Integrated Media Center – if you want to sell WHS as a one stop shop, make it a one stop shop. With WHS as your media center and XBOX 360 as your extender, this is a slam dunk for anyone remotely interested in the connected home. Integrated Netflix makes all other machines in the house nodes for personalized entertainment.

2) Integrate the XBOX 360 better – if your not going to give up the Media Center schtick at least integrate WHS more with the 360 and Zune interfaces. Provide some incentive over plunking down a NAS in your environment. Perhaps the ability to see file meta data – like episode descriptions, or album covers, or even (gasp) lyrics, right through the 360 interface. This seems like a short walk to a long gain.

3) Central Calendering and Contact management – families interested in a server in the home are likely interested in all the ways a central data repository can help them. Centralized data isn’t just about music, it’s about keeping track of busy lives, and knowing when Aunt Mae’s telephone number changes. Perhaps there is even an option to aggregate contact information from your family group using live contacts, with an option that marks certain contacts for aggregation. Calling up a webpage on the local server gives you all the info….

4) Folder redirection should be an option of the install – if you’re going to sell a central management solution, make it centrally available. Give admins the option of tying the various folders into a users desktop automatically – My Documents would then redirect to the users network folder. This completes the backup circle by making data and the operating image two different things, and extends the concept to migration and not just restoration.

5) Add-ins need a Store Front – if you really want to sell the extensibility options, then include a Addins Store that allows users to browse a list and add to WHS with one click. Put some rigour around it, and a checkout, and you’ll have developers claming for a piece of the pie.