Planning for Windows Home Server with the Drobo

For several months now I've been considering putting together a home network that meets the following requirements:

  • Centralized back up - computers, media files, and other documents are backed up to and available to be restored from a single location
  • Access to media from any machine - ability to play music and video from any computer and TV
  • Easy interface - interface for playback should be usable by the non-computer saavy
  • Remote access - capability to send and retrieve files on home network while on the road

I recently read a blog post by a colleague discussing an environment that meets this requirements:

Architecture of the Charran eHome

The central component is Windows Home Server (WHS). I was intrigued by the Drobo when I read about it in the This Week in Photography (TWIP) blog entry: Mini Review of the Drobo. This appeared to be an either-or decision as WHS doesn't support any drives with RAID functionality. The Drobo uses its own striping approach which allows for 3/4 of disk utilization rather than the 1/2 you get with RAID configurations. Nonetheless, it's close enough to a RAID-solution to warrant concern. That is, until I read this blog from someone successfully using a Drobo with WHS:

Drobo + Windows Home Server = Goodness

This blog recommends that if you are using the Drobo then make it the only storage you're using so your WHS would have a small primary hard drive. It's primary job is to be a file server. 

The minimum requirements for WHS are:

Computer with 1 GHz Pentium III (or equivalent) or faster processor
512 MB of RAM or more
70 GB or larger ATA, SATA, or SCSI hard drive as the primary hard drive and any number of additional hard drives of any size 

An old machine collecting dust in the closet could suit the purpose keeping the cost down to that of the Drobo. Or, if a green PC is more to your liking the Everex gPC2 meets the requirements for $200. It comes installed with Linux, but can be repurposed.

Unfortunately, my work leaves me with little time to tinker at home. Updates to this effort will come over the next several months.

Additional Resources

Windows Home Server Team Blog 
Microsoft Windows Home Server Unleashed
MS Windows Home Server - Blog is written by a Microsoft MVP, but is not an official Microsoft resource

This Week in Photography - Mentioned earlier in the blog. This is a good resource for digital photographers which first clued me in to the Drobo.