Microsoft Takes Appliance Approach to Home Backups

One of the things deemed significant from this weekis Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) is the Windows Home Server, according to Information Week.

The Windows Homer Server is an appliance box for backing up a home network. It just plugs into the network and does its job without requiring the user to be an IT specialist. Signficantly, it can back up Windows, Linux and Mac OS X systems.

The box itself doesnit come with a keyboard or display. The installation and configuration is run on any PC on the network, and if restricted to a PC only, that could be a serious oversight. For example, Apple supplies configuration software written in Java for its Xserve/RAID making it usable on any network.

The unit has some interesting features. Itis a single-instance archive, which means that only the latest version of a file on any computer is backed up. That contrasts with Appleis Time Machine in the forthcoming Leopard that allows the user to go back in time and recover any version of a file.

Thereis lots of control for the administrator, and the unit does some monitoring of the network and PC health. However, the unit doesnit invoke RAID technology. Microsoft believes thatis too difficult for customers to set up.

The unit will be priced like PCs. In the few hundreds of dollars for basic systems to much more for more capable systems.

Microsoft belives there is a big market for a home appliance backup box. Perhaps 40 millions homes. The software that operates the system is intended to be simple, and it even reminds one of the Apple TV -- a piece of hardware that [is claimed to] look cool and offers simple, reliable software services. Itis the kind of thing one would actually expect from Apple.

The Windows Home Server is scheduled to ship later this year.