Windows Home Server, 2007-2012

As I’m sure most of you heard, Windows Home Server is no more. Microsoft this past week announced the Windows Server lineup, and both Windows Home Server and Windows Small Business Server Standard were not on that list.

In a Frequently Asked Questions document, alongside the announcement of Windows Server 2012 Essentials (more on that soon), Microsoft answers the question of “Will there be a next version of Windows Home Server?”

No. Windows Home Server has seen its greatest success in small office/home office (SOHO) environments and among the technology enthusiast community. For this reason, Microsoft is combining the features that were previously only found in Windows Home Server, such as support for DLNA-compliant devices and media streaming, into Windows Server 2012 Essentials and focusing our efforts into making Windows Server 2012 Essentials the ideal first server operating system for both small business and home use—offering an intuitive administration experience, elastic and resilient storage features with Storage Spaces, and robust data protection for the server and client computers.

I can’t say that I’m surprised by this decision. I’ve known about this for a few months now. However, it is disappointing.

Microsoft is right though. Windows Home Server is heavily adopted in home based businesses, and used in small businesses primarily for PC backup in conjunction with Small Business Server. What Microsoft saw as its primary market never fully materialized. Not many OEMs built a hardware product around it, marketing by the OEMs that did was iffy, and you could hardly find it in a brick and mortar store.

In some ways, the market killed the product. Not because the product sucked but because the feature set was championed by small business. This then led to Small Business Server Essentials, which really was Windows Home Server (minus Media Streaming) + Active Directory (what a lot of people wanted originally), and some hooks for integrating with Office 365. [Side note: Windows Home Server when it was designed initially used Active Directory, but it was cut after looking at the home market and finding that most home users were using Windows XP Home Edition.] There was also a NAS type version of Windows Home Server 2011 as well called Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials. Why I call it a “NAS type version” is because it’s designed to be an embedded product (similar to an HP MediaSmart Server), it supports up to 25 computers, and can be joined to existing domains.

Small Business consultants used to install Windows Home Server but when Small Business Server 2011 Essentials arrived they moved to that because it provided a compelling feature set. With Active Directory and Group Policy they could manage customer networks with ease. The integration module for Office 365 meant that businesses could use cloud-based services with ease. Create a new account on the SBSe server and have that user automatically created in the Office 365 tenant.

Another nail in the coffin for Windows Home Server was the removal of Drive Extender.  I can’t tell you how many people I heard from that threw their arms up at that point and said they were done and moving to something else. However, now with Storage Spaces in Windows 8 / Server 2012 users can perform Drive Extender like tasks with ease.

Soon I’ll be able to talk more about the replacement to Windows Home Server, Windows Server 2012 Essentials, but until then I want to leave you with a thank you.

I want to thank the Windows Home Server community as a whole. Having been around the product since it was announced at CES in 2007, I’ve watched the community mature and develop over the last five years. During my time at Microsoft the part I loved most was interacting with the community through the beta program newsgroups, the forums, or at different events. Outside of Microsoft, I’ve loved blogging and writing the SharePoint on WHS guide. The thank you emails and the emails of encouragement are what keep me at it.

Expect a flurry of posts and other goodness about Windows Server 2012 Essentials in the coming days / weeks / months / years.

Until then may your children always ask, “Mommy, why is there a server in the house?”, and may your server continue to Stop Digital Amnesia.

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