After hardware failures in some 6-year-old computers that finally had to be replaced, I took the opportunity to rebuild much of my network from the ground up, and to reevaluate security at the same time. Because I had been briefed on it and was impressed, I decided to migrate the home network to Microsofts Small Business Server 2003 R2.
I try to treat my home network like a business, but its not entirely that simple. I do have to support my the computing needs of my wife and daughter. Lucky for me my daughter is too young to complain; just point her to the PBS Kids site and shes happy. And I havent screwed up my wifes computer yet to the point where shed complain.
And now that we have a clean, planned business environment we have benefits that, the way I look at it, anyone would want in a home network, if he or she knew such things were possible. Tops on my list is our family shared calendar, although there are free solutions for this too. We also have portable profiles; I can log on to any computer in the house (we have quite a few) and get to any of my stuff, including all of my e-mail, and not in some lame Web-based interface, but from Outlook itself.
Because SBS comes with excellent remote access support, we all can get at all of our e-mail, calendars, documents or whatever from outside the house, as well. I have visions of putting homework deadlines and cleaning your room in the calendar. And while I dont have hard plans to set up a family Intranet and design workflow procedures, dont put it past me.
The typical home network is completely unmanaged, a set of loosely connected islands of information. For the most part, administrators (i.e. parents) cant manage client systems (children and other parents), and tools for enforcing security are blunt. The power to administer your kids computers in the way a business could is analogous to going into their room and searching it. Parents may or may not be comfortable doing that, but I think its important that they be able to do so.
For a business product of this capacity, Small Business Server 2003 is easy to set up, but thats not easy like your average Linksys router, which most consumers find challenging. Even the average business will buy SBS pre-installed and still need a consultant or VAR to set it up and configure it for them.
SBS and the other products Im using here are far, far too expensive and complex for home networks, but to me that just means the industry has a long way to go. And of course a home network doesnt need most of whats in SBS. But a future home network should make it easy to manage systems, manage security, run applications at the network level and do it all easily. Maybe my daughter will be able to do it for her kids.
Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.