Time for a Switch to Windows Home Server in 2009?

485-487_Lg Those that read this blog know I’m a fan of my Data Robotics Drobo for storage and backup of all my music/videos/photos/documents etc.  But with my wife now toting her own laptop and my older son asking to spend more time in front of the computer, IT support needs in our home are expanding.  Spending a few hours rebuilding a laptop just doesn’t have the new car smell it used to. 

I’ve been a fan, but not a user of Windows Home Server for a while now, mainly for lack of a Media Center solution. Instead my quad-core desktop runs all the time.  The thought of another PC running or having to transfer all of my content from my 2GB Drobo is daunting at best. Michael Gartenberg’s opinion of the new HP MediaSmart EX485/487 over at MediaBistro.com has me rethinking this pain.

Points for Windows Home Server

  • Automated backup on all my Windows PCs
  • SkyDrive and Cloud storage and drive mounting
  • Remote access (easily) via easy to remember domain name
  • Vista Caller ID add-in
  • No $129 startup + $49/year cost for Firmware updates like DroboCare requires
  • Extendable past 4 drives via eSATA
  • Robust application development and enthusiast community
  • Mac TimeMachine support & iTunes
  • Hack to stream Zune directly from WHS

Points for Drobo

  • Fast USB file transfer (and 1394 on some units) from my desktop system for large HD videos.  With WHS it will have to run over the home network.
  • No issues with CableCard-based Windows Media Center setup or My Movies 2 client.
  • Little interesting or compelling add-ons when connected to a PC

So my main issues become speed of transfers and transcoding/connectivity to Xbox 360s as extender devices (via DLNA or Media Center).  I have all this working well with TVersity and Vista Media Center/Extenders.  Do I really want to risk breaking it?

It looks like the HP MediaSmart EX487 would be the right solution for my needs.  If I do make the switch, I’ll post about my experiences migrating from Drobo.

3 responses to “Time for a Switch to Windows Home Server in 2009?”

  1. I love these things too, but as usual, they are only sold in the US. I could buy one while I am here for XMas and hope that the customs guys don’t catch it. Maybe its just a matter of time. Drobo finally started selling units in Europe which is why I have one of them with the DroboShare. It is fantastic, though the DroboApps are a bit of a waste. I tried the media sharing app, but think I will stick to TVersity running in a vm on my quadproc server 2008 box.

    PS. I hope you meant a 2 TB Drobo. Spending all that to host 2GB is a bit much.

  2. Sean,

    I have been running a home network with both a Windows Home Server AND CableCard based media center PC (along with 3 XBox 360 extenders) for about 21 months now. I’m not sure what issues you are concerned about in the "Points for Drobo" section.

    I have had no problem storing recorded TV files on the Windows Home Server and playing them back on the media center PC or any of its extenders. In fact, I am using the WHS MyMovies add-in to catalog more than 400+ movies recorded in HD on the media center PC, and subsequently copied onto the Windows Home Server.

  3. I agree the new HP Windows Home Server units are compelling. But I’m waiting until after CES (and Macworld)… Bet Drobo intros something new and who knows what Apple’s cooking up.