Computers have become a mandatory tool when it comes to running a business. The small business office can vary from a single PC used just for basic record keeping all the way up to several networked computers performing many different aspects of the business such as taking orders, providing customer support, software development, maintaining client lists, and more. The failure or loss of even one of these critical components can result in delayed or missed commitments, upset customers, and financial loss.
Managing these technology resources can be one of the more complicated aspects of running a small business, and many companies turn to IT Consulting providers such as Kevin Royalty of Total Care Computer Consulting. I assisted Kevin in a recent webcast titled “Business Opportunities with Windows Home Server”, where he advocates that Windows Home Server can be an excellent solution in small businesses that may not be a good fit for Small Business Server, as well as businesses that may need to use Windows Home Server as a complement to Small Business Server. The Windows Home Server Backup Software in particular provides what is arguably one of the most important IT tasks for the small business.
The company where I work, RealGo Inc., has 9 employees comprised mostly of software development engineers, with a SysAdmin to manage IT tasks, a graphic designer, and myself for testing and release management. All of our daily work is safely managed by Subversion for revision control, and our network shares are all on large RAID systems. However our daily workstations were not being backed up, so a corrupt OS or lost system disk would cost a developer at a minimum several hours to rebuild and more likely a day or more of lost productivity. I’d been advocating that we implement Windows Home Server in the office to back up all of our workstations, so when some time opened up in my schedule the boss gave me the go-ahead and I spent an afternoon getting Windows Home Server installed and configured.
The first step was to get the Windows Home Server installation software. This is easily acquired for a very reasonable cost (currently $95.00) from sites such as Newegg.com, but since we are Microsoft Action Pack subscribers, I used the media and license included in that package. Next I had to get the hardware lined up, and so our SysAdmin gave me a Virtual Machine running in VMware ESXi. The VM has a single processor, 1GB of RAM, and 1TB of disk space from the 4x1TB drive RAID5 array. The installation is straight forward, with the only trick being that in order to avoid a Blue Screen (BSOD) during the install I had to change the SCSI Controller Type to “BusLogicParallel” and load the storage driver from the vmscsi-18.104.22.168.flp image.
After installing Windows Home Server and all the subsequent updates, it was a simple matter of installing the Client Connector Software on all of my coworkers workstations and get them backed up. I was very interested to see how much storage space would be used, since we all have modern PCs with at least a 160GB hard drives. Fortunately due to the excellent single instance storage feature of the Windows Home Server backup software that only stores a single copy of duplicate files across all the backups, this resulted in a very small amount of consumed space due to the high amount of common files. Since all the developers use the same tools and source files, the majority of files are the same across all systems. The end result is about 200GB consumed for our client backups, consisting of 9 workstations.
Only the SysAdmin, myself, and our boss have access to the Server Console for management purposes, and so I’ve disabled the health notifications on all the other employees workstations. This results in near-silent operation for all the users and the administrators get notified in the event the Home Server needs our attention.
One annoyance is that since we aren’t using the network shares on Windows Home Server for storage, we don’t have any user accounts created and so every time a workstation is rebooted the user gets the following message after logging on. One workaround for this is to remove the shortcut from your Startup folder that launches WHSTrayApp.exe, which will prevent the Tray Application from loading.
So far we’ve not had the need to call on our Home Server Backups, as we’ve had no hard drive failures and most important files that might be deleted are also checked into Subversion. However we now are all more confident knowing that our systems are backed up and can easily be restored in a very short period of time, should the need arise.
Windows Home Server is obviously not a single-tool solution for all our needs, but the case is quite strong for it as an excellent backup solution that integrates very well into many small business environments. Are you using Windows Home Server in your small business, have you installed this for any of your clients or customers, or does this give you an idea on how to help a future customer?
- Kevin Royalty’s Business Opportunities with Windows Home Server (recorded)
- Kevin Royalty is speaking at SMBNation Fall 2009 about “Taking Windows Home Server Deep Into Small Business!”
- Using Windows Home Server to Back Up Windows Small Business Client Computers
- Windows Home Server – Can It Be a SOHO Solution?