I wrote several articles about Windows Home Server several years ago. See http://goo.gl/xeNAE for a list of those articles. Windows Home Server allows you to have a server hidden away in a closet or under a desk somewhere, and it provides a central place for storing backups, sharing media files, and remotely accessing your network.
I always felt that Windows Home Server was one of the better products for serious computer users and I ran the software in my home for more than two years. I know from feedback that several readers of this newsletter also use Windows Home Server. However, there hasn't been much publicity about the product in the past couple of years and Microsoft has now announced it is dropping Windows Home Server.
The current version, Windows Home Server 2011, is the last ever version. System builders only have until December 31, 2013 to buy standalone copies, but it won't receive any new features or upgrades beyond what it already has. The software won't be available for purchase starting in 2014.
You can read more about Microsoft's decision in an article by Peter Bright in the Ars Technica web site at http://goo.gl/2HQr2.
I would suggest that anyone using Windows Home Server shouldn't mourn the loss. There are several excellent competitors available today. In fact, there is no need to turn off your own in-home server just because Microsoft stopped supporting it. You should be able to use it forever and ever as long as the hardware keeps working or until there is a change in networking technology, whichever occurs first.
Second, the price of external disk drives has dropped so low these days that the requirement of a dedicated server has been reduced. You can purchase two terabyte disk drives that plug into a USB connector on a computer for $100 or so. Even better, you can purchase a similar device with a network connector that plugs into an in-home network for $150 or so. If you only need simple file sharing, you might not need a dedicated server.
Next, there are a plethora of devices, such as PogoPlug, that actually are mini-servers or NAS (Network Attached Servers) devices. The PogoPlug sells for $50 or so plus the cost of a plug-in USB drive. It is very actively supported.
Finally, if you really need more than simple file storage space, today's in-home user has many options: the Mac mini server from Apple sells with hardware and very sophisticated software for $599 to $999 and has more capabilities than Microsoft ever put in Windows Home Server.
Several Linux-based server products also are available, such as:
Slax Server Edition at http://www.slax.org
Superb Mini Server at http://sms.it-ccs.com/
Amahi Home Server at http://www.amahi.org/
FreeNAS is a very popular network file server although it lacks other server features. It is available at http://www.freenas.org
Most of the Linux solutions can use an old PC that you might already own or a used computer purchased at a garage sale for only a few dollars. The big advantage of the Linux in-home servers is low prices.
While Windows Home Server is going away, the in-home user still has many options to choose from.
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