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How to Save Windows Home Server: Vail + Drobo

I wrote in WinInfo this morning that HP has dropped its Windows Home Server product line, which is like kicking someone when they're down, given the recent bad news about Drive Extender.

Ed Bott has weighed in on the situation as well, and like me, he calls out Microsoft for publicly masking the reasons for discontinuing Drive Extender. (Which is odd, because Microsoft told me, point blank, the real reasons over a month ago and made no attempts to cover it up.)

But Ed also offers some advice about fixing Home Server:

First, optimize the basic Windows Home Server product as a single-drive product, with 1 to 3TB of storage intended for backups and light file sharing in a home setting.

Next, bring back the first-generation Drive Extender code and whip it into shape as an optional add-on for enthusiasts who want to build multi-disk boxes. Make it available only for Vail and block its installation on the small-business servers.

Give every Home Server installation a dedicated 50 or 100 GB of SkyDrive storage and use it as a free cloud-based backup service to help overcome the loss of data duplication in Drive Extender.

I asked Microsoft in October why it simply didn't make Drive Extender a Vail-only option. But I think it's a matter of resources. It only made sense to spend a lot of time and money on something like that if it was going to be broadly deployed. And what happens if/when this technology causes some customer data loss? Could Microsoft seriously tell them it was their fault because, after all, they're the ones that demanded it be put back?

So assuming DE isn't coming back--because it isn't--we still need a solution that mirrors the central function of Drive Extender: Local, cross-disk data redundancy. And the only thing I've seen that comes close is Drobo's product line. These products would work well with Vail, of course. Imagine a Drobo device (or series of products) based on WHS. That would make us all forget HP pretty quickly, especially if it was priced right.

And that could happen: A very low-end four-bay Drobo can be had on Amazon right now for about $350.

Just a thought.

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