In the developed world at least, computers are a fixture in homes and increasingly as ubiquitous as the television. Singapore Infocomm Development Authority's annual survey of infocomm usage of approximately 2500 households found that in 2006, at least 78% of these households had at least one computer at home, while those with two or more computers grew dramatically from the previous year by 10% to reach an impressive 38%. These machines are also mostly connected to the Internet, with 71% of these households wired for access. Overall, these statistics seem to suggest a tech savvy and connected population that's probably looking to get more out of their computers for entertainment and work.
And the wired homes in Singapore merely reflect the larger trend throughout the developed world, which suits Microsoft just fine, since the software giant's latest product, Microsoft Windows Home Server has such a target audience in sight. As Todd Headrick, Product Planner behind this new product elaborates:
The target market for a home server solution is households with a broadband connection and more than 1 personal computer. Broadband penetration is growing worldwide with over 220 million households with a broadband connection, and over 60 million households with 2 or more PCs and a broadband connection. The top 3 countries are USA, Japan and Germany, but other countries are not far behind, including Korea, China, United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Brazil, etc.
So what's Windows Home Server all about, such that it apparently requires the prerequisite of having multiple computers at home with broadband access? Based on Microsoft's enterprise level Windows Server 2003 but adapted to fit its niche market, Windows Home Server has a few key objectives in mind, mainly to be the storage hub of the family and allowing the sharing of files between computers. It will also automatically backup each computer on the network while ensuring that they are all healthy through Microsoft's PC health monitoring feature for machines installed with Windows Vista.
As you can see, it does not have the most ambitious nor comprehensive list of features. Some enthusiasts are probably capable of utilizing a variety of software tools and scripts to achieve the same purposes. After all, most of the underlying technologies in Windows Home Server are all present already in some form in the enterprise version. System administrators do these tasks trivially everyday in their jobs but how would the typical user handle them? This is where Microsoft comes in by making such maintenance processes simple and automated, where users are left to make straightforward and goal oriented decisions instead of trying to understand the technical details. In short, it is supposed to be user friendly and idiot proof enough for the average family. Read on for our trial usage of this new home administration appliance/environment and what we thought about it.