Hands-on With Windows Home Server (Verdict: Great In Unpredicted Ways)

Speaking of Windows Home Server, Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research has lived with one for a while and really, really likes it. In fact, he said it was one of those things (like the first time you used TiVo) that you didn't know you needed until you experienced it. Here are some of the things he loves:

1. A terabyte of networked storage that I can access from any PC (or Mac) in my home. It's great. It's simple and it works. If that's all it did, I would be happy but there's much more.

2. Fantastic PC backup, automatically. I love this. Every PC on the network is automatically backed up. It's scheduled and incremental so once the first backup is done, the rest is a snap. I purposely killed one of my machines that was backed up and it took less than 20 minutes to fully restore it. Wow.

3. Remote access. Not only can I access my server from my network, I can access it from anywhere in the world thanks to a Microsoft free URL mapped to my server. Not only that, but I can also remotely access and control any PC on the network as well. Now that's not a new trick, places like Go to my PC offer that service but this is all free. Nothing to buy.

4. Streaming media. Add in your music and pictures your WHS becomes a media server for Windows Connect. That means my Xbox can see it and play.

5. It's a platform. Yep, it's built on Windows Sever 2003 so it's solid and there's a whole SDK for developing server apps. Microsoft is running a code contest for the best apps, so expect even more cool stuff.

Among the things he didn't like are the fact that Microsoft's not really specifying what people should be using it for (tons of applications, no focus on a single one), the lack of automatic copying of media, and awkward remote access. All pretty small complaints for something that seems to be a great unifying machine for all the media in your home. We're looking forward to testing this ourselves. [Jupiter Research]