Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Setting Up A Home Server

Microsoft is in the works of releasing a Server operating system for home use. I think this is long overdue. But you don't have to wait, an XP Professional or Vista Business/Ultimate machine can do just fine for the task.

First, the benefits of a home server:

1. Central location for all files including: movies, music and documents.
2. Backups: You can configure your other computers to automatically backup to the server at a specified time.
3. Increased security.
4. In case one of the other computers in the network fail, you can restore it easily using backups from the server.
5. Share applications that are installed on the server.

Some people might think having a home server is excessive, but if your network consists of 3 or more computers, then the cost is justified. You can purchase or build a moderate Intel or AMD machine with 1 GB of memory and a hard drive capacity of 160GB or more. Make sure either XP Pro or Vista Business/Ultimate is installed. Change the Server's workgroup name to something unique and make sure all the other computers share the same workgroup name.

Next step would be to share some folders from the server so they can be accessible to the other machines in the network. Now all users can centrally store all their files on the server. For backups, you can run the built in Windows back-up application by clicking start, then run and typing in ntbackup. The wizard will guide you through the set up process. Just make sure when selecting the backup destination you choose a directory on the server. This is done by using the UNC functions. Basically in the destination box you would type in something like this "//server/backupfolder" without the quotes. Where "server" is the computer name of your server and "backupfolder" is a shared folder on the server that you have designated for backups.

For security, you can configure the server with firewall software to only allow authorized users to access its resources. When a computer on the network crashes, after reinstalling Windows you can easily restore your documents from the server. Another great features is the ability to sync your "My Documents" with the documents you have stored on the server. This can be done automatically again with the Windows Sync Feature.

Users can log in to the server via Remote Desktop to use an application that is installed on the server. This eliminates the need for the application to be installed on multiple computers and yet allows multiple users to use that same application.

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