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Windows Home Server - Buyers Guide

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 12/10/2009

Windows Home Server is a permanent solution to storing, managing, backing up, and recovering data on your home or small office network. Before you buy Windows Home Server though, take a look at this buyers guide and Windows Home Server requirements.

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    Windows Home Server lets you back up and recover from just about any disaster imaginable, even one that destroys all the data you own, on every PC on your network. That's good enough in itself, but Windows Home Server has more to offer. Once it’s set up, it manages itself. You don't have to remember to perform backups, check on backups, or worry about anything backup-related. Once configured, Windows Home Server (WHS) automatically backs up data on every computer on your network. You don't even have to keep a keyboard, mouse, or monitor connected to the server; it's good to go.

    Once WHS is configured, you can use its shared folders for storing and accessing photos, music, videos, and other media, so you get to specify who can access what, just like you can on any Windows Vista PC, and, you have a central location to store it. Windows Home Server monitors itself too. You can be sure that backups are being performed regularly, and if your server has enough hard drive space, even keeps two copies of data it stores. Beyond all of that, you can even access your home server remotely if desired, via the Internet.

    While all of this may sound too good to be true, in some cases it is. Installation takes about an hour, and there are several requirements you must meet for Windows Home Server to work.

    First, remember the server will run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's best to purchase a new PC tower, one that's quiet, small, runs cool, and is energy efficient. The PC must also meet these Windows Home Server requirements:

    • CPU: 1GHz Pentium 3 or higher
    • RAM: 512MB or higher
    • Hard Drive:1 Hard Drive 70GB internal (IDE, ATA, SATA, or SCSI)
    • DVD: 1 bootable DVD drive
    • Network Interface Card (NIC): 100Mbps Ethernet
    • Motherboard: ACPI compliant and Windows Server 2003 compliant
    • Monitor, QWERTY Keyboard, and mouse or a compatible pointing device.

    To improve performance, consider the following:

    • CPU: 2 GHz or better
    • RAM: 1 GB or higher
    • Hard Drive: 1 70GB hard drive for Windows Home Server and two 70GB drives (or larger) for storage.
    • DVD: 1 bootable DVD drive
    • Network Interface Card (NIC): 100Mbps Ethernet
    • Motherboard: ACPI compliant and Windows Server 2003 compliant
    • Monitor, QWERTY Keyboard, and mouse or a compatible pointing device.

    Your network must also meet the following network requirements:

    • The server must connect to the network using a 100 Mbps (or higher) wired connection.
    • The connection to the Internet must be through broadband.
    • There must be an external broadband router/firewall device with 100 Mbps (or higher) wired Ethernet connection.
    • PCs on the network obtain their IP addresses from the router/firewall device on the network.

    The computer you select to run Windows Home Server must be running one of the following operating systems:

    • Windows Vista Home Basic
    • Windows Vista Home Premium
    • Windows Vista Business
    • Windows Vista Enterprise
    • Windows Vista Ultimate
    • Windows XP Home with Service Pack 2 (SP2)
    • Windows XP Professional with SP2
    • Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 with SP2 and Rollup 2
    • Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 with SP2
    • Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 with SP2
    • Windows XP Tablet Edition with SP2
    • Windows Home Server Connector Software CD

    And here's one BIG Windows Home Server no-no: Laptops are not supported for Windows Home Server.If you can afford a server and have a network that meets these requirements, I suggest strongly you consider Windows Home Server. It's a one-stop shop and will meet your small home or office network backup needs.