Vol. 22, #20 - May 15, 2017 - Issue #1131
Are WHS and SBS still relevant?
- Editor's Corner
- Reader comments on Windows Home Server
- Susan Bradley on WHS, SBS, and WSE
- Send us your feedback
- Recommended for Learning
- Microsoft Virtual Academy
- Factoid of the Week
- Admin Toolbox
- Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
- This Week's Tips
- URGENT! Intel systems - Mitigating the Intel AMT Vulnerability
- WARNING! Microsoft Edge - Possible issue when printing PDFs
- PowerShell - Download and install updates from WU and WSUS
- Events Calendar
- North America
- Add Your Event
- New on TechGenix.com
- Recommended articles from TechGenix.com
- Tech Briefing
- Enterprise IT
- Windows Server
- Other Articles of Interest
- What users can expect as cloud providers add new data centers
- Pivotal hops aboard Kubernetes container orchestration tools bandwagon
- Jenkins devs prep Blue Ocean, a sea change in DevOps deployment tools
- Why Microsoft Azure Stack is destined to fail
- WServerNews FAVE Links
- Elon Musk Goes Underground To Solve Traffic Jams
- Exotic Red Underwater Creature - The Spanish Dancer
- Angara Contortion Bend Over Backwards
- Hydroplaning Dolphins Catch Fish In Just Inches Of Water
- WServerNews - Product of the Week
- Deep Packet Inspection for Quality of Experience Monitoring
- Deep Packet Inspection for Quality of Experience Monitoring
- SAVE THIS NEWSLETTER so you can refer back to it later for helpful tips, tools and resources!
- SEND YOUR FEEDBACK to email@example.com if you have any comments or suggestions!
In this week's newsletter we'll examine whether Microsoft's Windows Home Server and Small Business Server platforms are still relevant. What sparked our interest in this topic was an Ask Our Readers request we received from a reader named Jack which we included several weeks ago in Issue #1129 Reader feedback: Reconsidering biometric security. Jack asked us the following:
I am probably one of many who invested in the HP Home Server/Microsoft Home Server a few years ago because it was very easy to understand and use (for us, computer illiterates). Then all of a sudden support became almost non-existent, the non-existent. Not even HP who manufactured the hardware supports it even though it is still on their website with no working links of course and no support even when you ask them about it. When mine no longer backs up anything completely, I tried to use another server system and NAS system but totally at a lost. Do you have any ideas on where or if there are any sites that still have forums or help on the Home Server?
While mainstream support for WHS 2011 ended last year and the Microsoft Exchange component of SBS 2011 is supported all the way to 2020, both of these servers can be considered legacy products even though they're still widely used in home, SOHO, and small business environments. So despite the fact that Microsoft is now pushing the cloud as the solution for everything, it's obvious that not all smaller businesses are ready yet to make the jump from owning their own on-premise server to running their whole business in the cloud. And despite how cloud providers might be calling you stupid to continue to maintain an in-house server for your small business, it really all boils down to trust as the following Dilbert comic illustrates:
Reader comments on Windows Home Server
Our first reader comment comes from John, a Senior Analyst / Programmer based in the UK. John's comments focus on backing up the server and workstations connected to it:
I've been a user of Windows Home Server since the last version (2011) came out, although in my case I have it installed on a home-built server. Like your reader Jack I was finding the backup becoming increasingly flaky and did some investigation. I think the issue is not with the backup itself but with the connector software, which hasn't been updated in quite a long time. Although I did manage to get this working on Windows 10 it would fall over at the drop of a hat.
I investigated replacing WHS with something else but in the end elected to keep it going for a number of reasons: I don't have the money to buy Windows Server Essentials, which is the direct successor. I could probably have got a Linux replacement going but my real expertise is with Windows so I was reluctant to do that. I have a lot of services running on my Home Server including Plex and hMailServer. Plex runs on pretty much anything these days but finding another mail server and learning it from scratch was rather daunting. Plus, my WHS installation was otherwise working fine on a pretty low-power machine (AMD Sempron) and, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it. So I set about looking for alternative methods of backing up.
There are two aspects that need to be looked at: backup up the server and backing up workstations. Without the connector software WHS will still continue to take care of the server backup itself so it was only the workstations I needed to worry about. Long story short, I eventually bought a three-user license for Acronis TrueImage. This isn't quite as set-it-and-forget-it as the WHS backup server but it comes quite close. I had some difficulty with it at first but everything has now settled down to the point where I don't really have to think about it. There are really only two minor issues with it in my experience:
1. It takes a bit longer to do a backup. My wife's laptop is sometimes only on for a short time; this doesn't actually give TrueImage a problem -- it will continue the next time it starts up -- but it does mean that backups can take a long time to complete sometimes. I therefore occasionally start it up and leave it running long enough to complete the backup.
2. Although it can back up to the cloud the only option is to Acronis own cloud, which I wasn't prepared to pay for. Obviously WHS would only backup to the server so you've not lost anything, it's just a bit of a shame. I have an Office subscription which gives me 1TB of cloud storage so it's a shame that I can't use it for this. If that's important to your reader then he may like to look at an alternative.
TrueImage comes with a few other tools, some of which have proved useful. For example, when I changed the hard drive in our laptop to an SSD disk TrueImage had a tool that let me clone one to the other, meaning I was up and running very quickly.
One other point: the WHS connector software used to also take care of making server shares available to workstations, so without that running you now have to do that the old-fashioned way.
Next a reader named James offers a list of websites he uses himself when he has issues with HP Home Server:
The resources are slim but here are websites/links that I use:
MediaSmartServer.net - The Windows Home Server Enthusiast Community
MediaSmartHome.com - Your HP MediaSmart Server Community
MS Windows Home Server (Philip Churchill)
Depending on the issue, there may be something here that would help.
Another reader named John from Ontario, Canada offered a more general suggestion concerning NAS and HP Home Server:
I agree with John that the How To Geek is a terrific site -- I use it often myself when trying to figure out how to do something with Windows or Windows Server.
Finally, let me toss one suggestion of my own: check out Microsoft's Windows Home Server 2011 forum:
Now let's move on and hear what Susan Bradley has to say about the current state of SBS 2011…
Susan Bradley on WHS, SBS, and WSE
I started by asking Susan whether SBS are still relevant and whether she knows any people still running them and why they're holding off migrating to the cloud. Susan responded in her usual insightful way as follows:
Given that I get a question every other week about "how do I migrate from SBS to...." we're still out here! I still walk into many a small office and see an old SBS or Server 2003 or 2008 in the corner still chugging along.
For every firm that sees the value and the need for hosted Exchange and Office 365, there is another firm that doesn't want the monthly subscription fees that come with it. There is a breakeven point of about 20 to 25 users where online services start to cost more. We don't upgrade servers annually; they have about a five to seven year lifespan.
The other problem faced is that Office 365 demands that you upgrade to the latest Office versions and we still have LOB apps that are not ready or don't support Office 2016 at this time.
Home server has morphed into WD NAS devices. Show me small firm nailed by ransomware and I'll show you a consultant who has now made sure the desktops are backed up with a NAS device.
So three things: Cost of subscriptions/LOB apps that demand older Office versions/Ransomware and need for desktop backups still mean there's a few of us out here.
I asked Susan whether cloud-based backup can replace local server-based backup for smaller businesses:
While Azure Backup is nice and cool, it's not fast to recover. SMB's don't have fiber channels to the cloud we're still on DSL and Comcast. So when ransomware hits and you want to rebuild ... you need something local.
What about Windows Server Essentials (WSE) the successor to SBS? Susan responded:
Essentials is even more of the red headed step child of the Microsoft server family. At the present time the official documentation states that you can't install Azure AD connect on Essentials, but it's merely a formality. You can't install it *and* run the Office 365 wizard on the box at the same time because they would want to do the same task.
[Editor's Note: If you read this documentation you'll see it clearly states that "Azure AD Connect cannot be installed on Small Business Server or Windows Server Essentials. The server must be using Windows Server standard or better."]
So pick one or the other. I'm hoping to get Microsoft to make that change because for Essentials to truly be the hook into cloud services that Microsoft intended it to be it needs to natively support the tools that Microsoft intends for us to use.
Thank you very much Susan for all your hard work on championing WSE and the earlier SBS/WHS platforms for small business customers who still want to maintain their own in-house servers! I concluded by asking Susan whether she still blogs a lot about these platforms and she said:
I don't blog as much as I used to but it's at sbsdiva.com:
I'm still a moderator also at patchmanagement.org:
and write for windowssecrets.com:
Send us your feedback
Got feedback about anything in this issue of WServerNews? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recommended for Learning
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Factoid of the Week
Oops, we goofed with last week's factoid as we stated it like this:
Fact: Safety Beach, a bayside suburb in Melbourne, Australia, was renamed Safety Beach to attract tourist trade to the peninsula.
As several readers pointed out to us, we obviously meant to say this instead:
Fact: Shark Beach, a bayside suburb in Melbourne, Australia, was renamed Safety Beach to attract tourist trade to the peninsula.
Anyways, most readers overlooked our mistake and send us interesting and amusing responses to our question about whether they had heard about or observed any other similar "rebrandings" of products, services, and so on. Here's a short smattering of the responses we received to this question:
Matt from Western Australia - Well how funny. My parents had a holiday house in Safety Beach, Victoria Australia. We went there every summer as they were both school teachers, during most of the 70s and into the 80s. Safety Beach was a nice quiet beach with clean sand and yes, safe waters. Many fond memories. I learnt to swim in the sea at that beach and later on enjoyed watching the land based wildlife that walked along in the ripples on the edge of the water trying to improve their tans. How did you happen to chance on that beach? Also, never say to an Australian, "you sound like you're English". Almost the biggest insult you can throw at an Aussie. Take care and happy swimming.
Glenn from Adelaide South Australia - Another Australian story: 100 years ago there was a suburb in Adelaide called Chicago. They wanted to change the name, as Chicago gave an impression of gangsters. So they changed its' name to Kilburn, so much nicer!
Wayne from Australia - My wife tells me the story of the Casino in Darwin which is located near the ocean at a locale that has been known as Fanny Bay by the locals for many years. To make it seem more exotic, the Casino named their location Diamond Head. Now it is called Skycity.
Editor's Note: Nice to hear from all of you Australian readers of our newsletter!
Don from California, USA - Dolphin fish was a tough sell because people thought it was dolphin or porpoise. Mahi-mahi as it's now called sells much better.
Editor's Note: Actually that's a misconception as this Wikipedia article explains:
Matthew - Rape Seed is marketed as Canola. Black cod is now called Sablefish. Tilapia is often marketed as red snapper.
Editor's Note: Speaking of fish, a survey performed by conservation group Oceana in 2013 suggests that up to three-quarters of the fish sold at sushi restaurants is not the type of fish that being advertised:
John - How about naming a rather large island Greenland when it is actually covered in rock and ice. Eric The Red must have figured he could grab the tourist trade from Iceland.
Mary, a Software Engineer from California - This reminds me of a 50s science fiction story "Mezzerow Loves Company" by F.L. Wallace. A guy named Mezzerow owns a planet that isn't getting many settlers because it was misnamed "Messy Row" by an Earth computer. He travels to Earth to get it corrected to "Mezzerow" but learns that there's a 4 to 6 year backlog, unless he can convince the computer that he deserves priority due to extreme anguish and suffering. He writes a convincing plea, receives notice that his planet has been renamed, and heads home. On the way, he asks the pilot to check the updated charts. The planet has indeed been renamed -- to "Misery Row."
Now let's move on to this week's factoid:
Fact: French has no word for "shallow."
Question: This one might be a bit difficult. Complete the following sentence: "English has no word for _______."
Email your answer to us at: email@example.com
Until next week,
GOT ADMIN TOOLS or other software/hardware you'd like to recommend? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Free tool for fast, transaction-level recovery for SQL databases. The wizard-driven recovery process will guide you through all available databases and instances that you can restore.
Test if any website is blocked in China:
DiskCryptor is an open encryption solution that offers encryption of all disk partitions, including the system partition:
Eraser is an advanced security tool for Windows which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns:
GOT TIPS you'd like to share with other readers? Email us at email@example.com
URGENT! Intel systems - Mitigating the Intel AMT Vulnerability
You've probably heard about the recently discovered Intel AMT Vulnerability that enables a trivial bypass of the poorly implemented MD5 hash matching for HTTP Digest Authentication used for authentication by the Intel Active Management Technology web interface. If you haven't you can read Intel's security bulletin here:
EMBEDI also has an excellent explanation of the problem and the risks associated with it in this white paper:
WARNING! Microsoft Edge - Possible issue when printing PDFs
An issue has been reported by Microsoft where printing PDFs opened in the Microsoft Edge browser could result in numbers in the document being printed incorrectly--yikes! Read more about it here:
PowerShell - Download and install updates from WU and WSUS
Rod Trent's myITforum.com has a PowerShell script you can use to download and install updates from Windows Update/WSUS with rebooting and reporting functionality that can be customized:
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This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
GOT FUN VIDEOS or other fun links to suggest you'd like to recommend? Email us at email@example.com
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WServerNews - Editors
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7www.mtit.com.Resource Kit and has been author or series editor for almost fifty books mostly published by Microsoft Press. Mitch is also a ten-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see
Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also manages research and marketing for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.