Five tabs run along the top of the console and a large section below displays the various details of whatever tab you’re on. Each tab is obviously titled and contains a simple selection of options, which makes the whole thing very intuitive and it takes next to no time to become familiar with the whole process. Additional settings are accessible via the little settings button in the top right and, although there’s a bit more going on here, it’s still very obvious what does what.
If you’re using additional storage, the first thing you’ll want to do is setup how you’re using your hard drives. Each hard drive you add will appear in the Server Storage tab and it’s a simple case of selecting which ones you want added to the shared folder storage. Additional storage can either be used to just add to the overall space on the server or, if you enable folder duplication, extra drives are used to store duplicate copies of your data to safeguard against hard drive failure. This is something I’d recommend you do if possible as it’s all very well having a central repository of data but if that source breaks you’re left with nothing. Unfortunately there are no advanced options for configuring how Windows manages its hard drives so if you want a proper RAID setup you’ll have to stick with linux but for the rest of us it’s nice to just let Windows handle everything and remain blissfully unaware.
Options for user access control are comprehensive but simple to understand and it’ll take no time at all to have a full family setup with appropriate read/write privileges. There’s no provision for creating administrators, as such, and there’s just one logon to administer the server but being a home environment this shouldn’t cause many problems.
To avoid your computer constantly asking for the password to access a shared folder you must create users that correspond to the users on each of your computers. So, if you logon to one machine with the username and password ‘one’ but use ‘Mr Anderson’ with password ‘redpill’ for another machine, you can create corresponding accounts on the home server and give them access to the same folders. Then, each time you logon to a computer, you automatically authenticate on the server as well.
By default there are five shared folders on the server; designated as Music, Photos, Public (miscellaneous), Software, and Videos. However, you can add as many extras as you like and each time you create a user a new folder is created to accompany it. Access to each folder can be individually controlled, so children can access music, photos, and videos but software is restricted to adults only, for instance, and folder duplication settings are also independent.
To access shared folders, you can either just navigate to the server using Windows Explorer or right click the Home Server Console software in the system tray and click on Shared Folders. Windows Media Player library support is also present so you can stream music, videos, and photos, from the server to your computer. Unfortunately there’s no native iTunes library support but there are apparently add-ons that can do this.