Windows Home Server: a Flop?

That is what this Washington Post blog posting guesses.  I wouldn’t be surprised because like media connect, I imagine that non-tech people don’t understand the point of having a home server and how it would fit into their home network, that is, if they even understand that they have a home network.

I have an HP Home Server and most of the time I love it.  This article says setting-up a home server is daunting.  I don’t recall it being difficult at all, with the exception of setting up the system passwords and updating the system.  What I recall is that the home server pretty much set-up itself.  Getting the rest of the computers to recognize that they were all on the same network was problematic and largely an issue that we’ve attributed to Vista quirks.

However, for non-techy people, an internal or external network drive will take care of most of the necessary functions of a home network.  For the most part that is how we us our home server.  We rarely use the media connect interface.  It only recently became usable with our XBox360 for our music and avi files.  So basically, home server provides a user interface that. as far as I can tell, doesn’t add much to the user experience unless you have the proper equipment — an XBox360 or a media connect box.  In the absence of these, it’s easier to have a beefed up PC to play media files via software like iTunes, Media player, and various other media players software.

So what happened here?  Well … I think that the main problem is an inappropriate target market.  Most people simply don’t need a home server.  However, if they had scaled back the volume expectations and went up market to tech, video and audio enthusiasts, and downloaders, they may have had some success.  I imagine, though, most of these folks home-brewed something anyway like we did before we got the home server.  And like I said, we don’t even use the home server interface and due to security concerns, we don’t serve our files to a website, so in essence we are using our home server as a 2TB network drive.

So what would be useful to me?

  • Integrated BitTorrent client with search and episode organization — Vuze is almost there
  • Some visual analytics around usage for video, audio, and data files.  I would also like to see some organization around age to ease the clean-up of old files
  • For the home server to hold the master table, so all the computers know that there is only one home network.

Still, though, this type of system would not be useful to many people.  The BitTorrent client could be stand alone software along with the analytics I would like to see (I imagine if I searched for them, these tools already exist.)  My final thoughts on this are the common consumer knows how to handle all files on one huge hardrive within one computer and use this computer as a “server” using the file sharing functionality within Windows.  Moving this functionality outside of the main computer doesn’t make sense or seem necessary to them.  As for sharing files on the web, it should be as easy as right clicking on the content and selecting an option that says, “Post on the Web.”  Of course, at set-up, the user already set-up a domain.   The real problem is users have too many files and lose track of what they have.  What the user really needs is an easy way to “see” what they’ve got.  This is a matter of tagging, search, and visualization.  This type of functionality probably should be built into an OS.   So whoever figures out how to do this in a manner that pleases consumers will have a quite breakthrough on their hands.