Microsoft Windows Small Business Server, Home Server RCs Are Released

Microsoft has issued release candidates for Windows Home Server 2011 and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, with cloud focus and features.

Microsoft has unveiled release candidates for Windows Home Server 2011, its bid to give consumers an office-like backup system, and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, aimed at small- to midsize organizations.

Windows Home Server previously went under the codename "Vail," while Windows Small Business Server was termed "Aurora."

In a series of releases over the past few months, including a preview build in August, Microsoft has progressively revealed Windows Home Server's key features: improved multi-PC backup and restore, simplified setup, media streaming outside of home or office, and a set of development and customization tools.

"This WHS RC is the first public release to include changes in the storage features," reads a Feb. 3 posting on the Windows Home Server Blog. "All existing technologies such as server and client backup, health monitoring, remote Web access, streaming media, and simplified dashboard management are still included."

Health alerts signal when a new hard drive is available, so users can format and configure that drive for more storage. A Move Folder Wizard allows data to be shifted to that new drive.

"Data protection also includes daily Server and PC backup, Previous Versions via Shadow copy," the blog posting continues, "which lets you return prior versions of existing files (without needing to restore from backup), and a protection feature for pre-defined folders (such as Recorded TV, Videos, Photos) in case these are accidentally deleted."

The latest Small Business Server indicates Microsoft's increased emphasis on cloud computing, offering administrative access via common Web browsers in addition to advanced backup and file-restoration features. Its Essentials version will support up to 25 accounts, one-third of the Standard version and its 75 accounts. Developers can apparently leverage the Windows Server Solutions SDK to heighten the server's interoperability with cloud services.

In a nod to Apple's increased prevalence within businesses, Small Business Server includes support for Macs.

With its "all in" cloud strategy, Microsoft is clearly positioning online services as the wave of the business IT future. "We're going to leave with the cloud," Microsoft COO Kevin Turner said during a speech at the company's Financial Analyst Meeting last summer. "Leading with the cloud actually helps better position Microsoft to sell more on-premises products than we ever have before ... very strategically it signals a very clear commitment to our customers and to our partners."