Anticipating the home use of “the cloud” (I do so hate that naming convention) there are two versions of the newest WHS on the horizon. While offsite storage is a nice idea for business, I am not sure how big it will be for the home user market, both because of the cost involved in offsite storage, and also the bandwidth needed to really take advantage of it. Because asymmetrical rates are the norm, even in the case of fiber connections, moving information into the offsite storage will necessarily be slow, and many will eschew it due to the slowness.

The ease of use for the home “network administrator” has always been a plus for the WHS package – it makes easy those things which are sometimes difficult, and gives the users the idea that networking is simple and painless. This is always a good thing.

From Neowin there is a description of the differences and the naming conventions used –

Microsoft today made available the beta versions of Windows Home Server “Vail” and “Aurora” — two significantly different products that fall under the same umbrella — on Microsoft Connect.

“Aurora” is an edition based on Windows Home Server but designed with the cloud in mind, and allows the use of cloud-hosted exchange services, as well as SharePoint 2010 services. Aurora is designed for organizations with 25 users or less, fit between the “Home Server” and “Small Business server products” and are only basic domain controllers. Ars Technica adds that the cloud “doesn’t do so well [at] file serving or backup provisioning” and Aurora includes extra features to help with this, using the power that is found in Windows Home Server for the “flexible, replicated storage” capabilities.

Home Server is an edition of Windows Server that is targetted at home users, designed to allow end users’ to run a server with little to no knowledge. Windows Home Server “Vail” has been available for some time now, but the beta that’s now available is an updated version of the original beta release. No word on new features just yet, but the Vail itself boasts Windows 7 compatibility, a new dashboard and addon framework, home group support and new server health utilities.

Ars also warns that the new build of Home Server is subject to a number of data loss bugs, but this sort of thing is expected when running a beta build. For more information on the issues, read the release notes.

Windows Home Server “Vail” is available on Microsoft Connect here, and “Aurora” is available on Connect here.

If you’ve used WHS before, trying the betas would be a natural. If you haven’t tried them before, due to cost, or perceived lack of need, it would be a good time to try them, and see if they fit your uses. Since the earlier versions of WHS were quite inexpensive, you might want to consider moving to one of them. The WHS runs acceptably on last generation hardware, so if you are moving up to a new PC, the old one could probably be repurposed as a server with the addition of a bit more storage.


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You can store movies to be used on PCs around the house, like that copy of “Ice Station Zebra”!

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