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Windows Home Server or Windows Small Business Server 2008?

February 10, 2009

A problem this weekend between our Drobo and the Small Business Server 2003 machine to which it is connected has me contemplating a replacement for this PC, which is almost 3 1/2 years old. The problem resulted in the loss of access to all the media files on the Drobo over the weekend and seems to be USB-related. Unfortunately it isn’t clear that the problem has been solved.

I estimate that were I to buy a new machine to run Small Business Server 2008, it would cost an extra $1000 (apart from the cost of the server software itself, which I acquired in December when a really good deal appeared on Ebay).

Here are what I take to be the relative advantages of each platform:

Windows Home Server: relative simplicity; a good backup solution for all of the PCs attached to it on the network; and access to the growing market for add-ins.

Small Business Server 2008: Exchange (with all the collaboration tools that go with it); remote Outlook access; a customizable security model for files; a common logon for each PC in our home; the possibility of using Sharepoint later; Windows Server Update Services (WSUS); the ability to share networked printers; spam filtering; and the ability to run many server applications (such as J River Media Center).

When I last considered this I reluctantly decided that Windows Home Server would not be sufficient, but now I am wondering whether Windows 7’s Homegroup in combination with gMail might get me most of what I really want.

I suspect, however, that if I went with Windows Home Server I would be buying (A) simpler central administration at the cost of (B) (i) comparatively kludgy implementations of features I want (e.g. Windows Home Server evidently cannot join a Homegroup and won’t be able to until the next version arrives in 2010) and (ii) more work dealing with individual workstations.


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