Windows Home Server 2011 Update

It has been over a month since I installed Windows Home Server 2011 and have been using it for my data storage and backup needs. Although I really like the new server OS it has not been without some problems. For one, there seems to be a problem with the client backup service on the server. It isn't always running and if it's not then backups of client computers won't happen. It appears that the service doesn't automatically start after a server restart. If I go into services and manually start it it keeps running and backups happen as they should. Another problem I have had but since solved is that the server was unable to clean the client backups. By default the server keeps 5 daily backups, 4 weekly backups and 6 monthly backups. There is a cleanup task for the client computer backups that is supposed to get rid of the extra backups. It seems that while Crashplan is trying to upload the server backups to the cloud the backup cleanup service can't run. If I pause Crashplan the cleanup task runs fine. I initially was going to have Crashplan pause while the cleanup task was scheduled to run but I may have to change that idea based on the following observation.

As I said on my previous posts about my new server, I am using Crashplan to backup my data to the cloud. I have created 2 sets in the Crashplan program. The first set, with the highest priority contains my photos and documents. The second set contains the video and client backup folders. The first set uploaded to the cloud just fine but there was a problem with the second set. I'm not sure about the file structure of the client computer backups but it seems like they are stored as several large files are changed when the server updates the backups every night. These changes are seen by Crashplan and it has to upload the large files every time they are changed. The incremental backups are taken care of on the server so it doesn't have to transfer a lot of data from the client computers but then the server consolidates the backups into larger files. This means that Crashplan can't efficiently use incremental backups because large files are being changed on the server, not just small ones. Because of my slow DSL connection Crashplan doesn’t have time to upload all of the large files to the cloud every night. I will probably end up adding a server backup drive to the system and then either use the built in server backup function or simply create a third backup set in Crashplan and have it copy the backup database the internal backup drive. I am finding that one of the most useful features of Crashplan is the ability to create multiple backup sets that can save different file selections to different locations.

One final point about my WHS 2011 usage. Last week, Microsoft released the RC of Windows Home Server 2011 Windows Phone 7 Connector (nice long Microsoft name). I downloaded it as soon as I could. Two parts are required, an add-in for WHS 2011 and an app for the phone. To install the add-in I just copied it to the desktop of a client computer on my home network and double clicked it. This was the first add-in I have installed using the new install method (as opposed to copying it to the add-in folder on the server) and it worked fine. I was prompted to enter the server password, accept the EULA, and click Install Add-in. That was all that was required for the server add-in. I then installed the app on the phone. I had to enter a web address on the phone because the app isn't publically published in the marketplace yet. The installed app is called My Home Server. I launched it and selected 'add an account'. I entered my server web address and was then prompted to enter a user name and password and if I wanted administrator access or not . You can also change these options each time the app launches. I chose to not have the app remember the password and not to allow administrator access. When the app launches the first thing you see are any alerts on your server. The panorama contains three pivots, 'alerts', 'media', and 'account'. Swiping to the right of the panorama shows 'media' with music, pictures, and videos listed. The first time I used the app nothing appeared when I selected any of the media categories. I had to restart the server and then items appeared as they were supposed to. Under the 'media' part of the app I can view all of the pictures on my server and save them to the phone if I want. I can also stream any of my music, but it looks like streaming playlists is not an option. In theory I should be able to stream my videos but it only seems to work for some files. This could be due to a codec issue or it may be due to my slow upload speed and lack of patience. The final part of the app panorama is 'account' where you can change settings (currently the only setting is to turn on the live tile). Under 'account' you can also logout and see the about screen for the app. I have activated the live tile and pinned the app to my start screen. The tile shows a pie chart of your used and free server space. It also shows any warnings or critical alerts on your server. Even though I don't have the app remember my password, the live tile updates almost instantly with any changes to warnings or alerts. I have also noticed additional integration with the phone. For instance when looking at photos stored on the phone and selecting the 'share' option there is an 'upload to My Home Server' option. Selecting this option opens the My Home Server app. After entering my password the photo is automatically uploaded to the server. The picture is uploaded to a folder called 'LG-C900 Mobile Uploads'. I wasn't given a choice of which folder to upload the picture to.

Overall I am really enjoying Windows Home Server 2011 and the integration with Windows Phone 7. There are times when accessing data remotely from the server, either from the web or phone app, where it is a bit slow. I think I am running into the limits of my DSL upload speed. This is mainly going to be a problem for people trying to access video from their home server.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me.

By the way, I wrote most of this post using the OneNote Web App with Skydrive and on OneNote in Windows Phone 7. Both worked great.