I have been playing around with Windows Home Server Beta 2 (WHSB2) this week. I have to say it is not that bad. I am not a Microsoft pundit in any way, but this is a decent product. WHSB2 is built on Small Business Server 2003 SP2 (Yes SP2), and is designed to work with Windows XP and Windows Vista clients only. Bummer, I have a Windows 2000 client that has been running for years that could use this service.
The idea is to create and market a small, easy to configure server for home use. The average Windows user would find Windows Server 2003, Small Business Server 2003 a little too much. Not to mention the sticker shock. Linux, as free as it is, not for everyone. Even Ubuntu has not reached the level of usability in the home server role. I have been doing what Windows Home Server does with Windows' Active Directory for Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, and even Novell's Netware, for years.
WHS can be installed on a second hand computer. The monstrous hardware requirements of Vista are not present. The server is installed, then administered from remote. The monitor and peripherals can be removed to make a "head-less" system. File sharing, backups, and a basic form of network authentication are available. The remote console installs as a service on the client computer and provides complete control a la the Windows Adminpak.msi for active directory.
And it's pretty...