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Microsoft Unveils Beta of Windows Home Server 'Vail'

On Monday, Microsoft announced that a beta of its second-generation Windows Home Server solution can now be accessed.

Code-named "Vail," the new Windows Home Server (WHS) beta is now based on Windows Server 2008 R2 and is designed for 64-bit hardware only. It supports up to 10 PCs with backup and media file-sharing functions. Although the product is aimed at the home consumer market, it can also support the backup needs of small businesses. For those small businesses needing greater capabilities, the next step up is Microsoft Small Business Server 2008.

WHS Vail lacks much of what you'd expect in a Windows Server product, so there is no support for printers out of the box. It's not designed to be a terminal server for remote access to programs.

Still, you can use the Windows Home Server Vail beta to watch streaming videos or access a library of music and photos even when connecting to the server remotely. Microsoft announced that it had improved those remote streaming capabilities in the beta. WHS Vail now integrates with the HomeGroup feature of Windows, which allows content to be accessed through shared folders.

Microsoft also indicated that it has improved the backup and restore functions in the WHS Vail beta. In version 1 of Windows Home Server, users experienced plenty of problems with these basic functions. For instance, backed-up data sometimes would get truncated, although Microsoft subsequently fixed that problem.

Setup and other user interface functionalities have been improved in the beta, according to Microsoft. In addition, a software development toolkit is available to help Microsoft's partners customize WHS Vail installations for customers.

Microsoft offered lots of caveats for those wanting to try the beta. The company recommends a clean installation of the server. It should not be installed and used as the main production server. It should not be installed on the same machine as WHS version 1, even on a 64-bit machine. Hardware requirements include "a 1.4 GHz x64 processor, 1 GB of RAM, and at least one 160 GB hard drive," according to a WHS blog.

It only supports the NTFS file system and doesn't support RAID (redundant array of independent disks) setups, this blog explains.

The beta of Vail and its software development kit can be downloaded from the Microsoft Connect Web portal here. Microsoft isn't saying when the server will be available as a product. It's typically imaged sold by Microsoft's original equipment manufacturer partners.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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