One of my favorite Microsoft products is being discontinued.
Fans of the home server saw the handwriting on the wall two years ago, when Microsoft removed the software’s key feature, its “drive extender” feature that pooled storage and duplicated files across multiple hard drives. Microsoft released a 2011 version of the software but interest faded among enthusiasts and hardware manufacturers.
Capabilities similar to drive extender are coming in the “Storage Spaces” system of Windows 8 and the company’s new business servers.
For those interested in a full, dedicated server, Microsoft’s suggesting they instead consider its entry-level commercial product, Windows Server 2012 Essentials, which costs $425 for the software. Home servers systems – with software and hardware – used to start around $400.
Windows Home Server was a niche product but it worked like a charm – once Microsoft sorted out the bugs in 2008. It quietly and reliably stores files, backs up PCs and streams digital media around the home.
Instead of building more powerful consumer systems for people to store and manage files in the home, tech companies seem more interested in nudging people toward online services where your files are stored and streamed from their computers instead of your own. This is easier to manage but leads to monthly fees and privacy concerns, plus bandwidth consumption and latency issues.
Here’s Microsoft’s confirmation of the move, from the Server 2012 Essentials FAQ:
Q: Will there be a next version of Windows Home Server?
A: No. Windows Home Server has seen its greatest success in small office/home office (SOHO) environments and among the technology enthusiast community. For this reason, Microsoft is combining the features that were previously only found in Windows Home Server, such as support for DLNA-compliant devices and media streaming, into Windows Server 2012 Essentials and focusing our efforts into making Windows Server 2012 Essentials the ideal first server operating system for both small business and home use – offering an intuitive administration experience, elastic and resilient storage features with Storage Spaces, and robust data protection for the server and client computers.
Microsoft noted that WIndows Home Server 2011 will be available through hardware makers until Dec. 31, 2025.