Microsoft has released a new beta version of their Security Essentials suite, which offers enhanced compatibility with Windows Home Server v1 and Vail Preview. There has been debate on many other sites whether Windows Home Server now “supports” the free anti-virus application. Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Installing Windows Security Essentials (WSE) Beta on Windows Home Server is not supported at this time. As WSE is in Beta, the Windows Home Server team is in the process of ensuring the use of  WSE with Windows Home Server will meet customer expectations. Windows Home and Small Business Team said to release a statement of support once the validation is complete, when they are confident that this combination will meet customer expectations.

Almost with no exception at all, the first reaction when people hear that Microsoft is working on Windows Home Server is, “Why would I want that?” After they see it, the first reaction is much simpler: “I want that.”

Setting aside that first skeptical reaction and by taking a closer look at the image gallery Windows Home Server has assembled showing the most recent beta release of Windows Home Server in action. The “April 2007 Community Technical Preview (CTP)” was released to the public last week. This new product has a lot of potential for home Windows users who are drowning in digital media and typically unprepared for sudden data loss.

Windows Home Server

Windows Home Server, code-named Quattro, is a home server operating system from Microsoft. Announced on 7 January 2007, at the Consumer Electronics Show by Bill Gates, Windows Home Server is intended to be a solution for homes with multiple connected PCs to offer file sharing, automated backups, and remote access. It is based on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2.

Starting with a description of what Windows Home Server isn’t. It’s not a general purpose file/web/application server. It doesn’t require high-end hardware (an old P4 with 512MB of RAM plus a Fast Ethernet card will do just fine). You don’t need a technical degree to set it up or run it. In hardware terms, it’s an appliance (no monitor, keyboard or mouse required, and the smaller the better) designed to plug in to a home network, where it’s always on and available for a variety of useful activities. A nontechnical end user should have no problem installing the client software and walking through the simple seven-step setup, after which it requires virtually no ongoing management.

What does Windows Home Server do?

It performs backup routines. The backup service backs up every computer on the network, automatically. Its uses a clever storage system that makes efficient use of disk space on the server. You can recover individual files from a backup or restore an entire system from scratch on a bare hard drive by booting from a restore CD and connecting to the network.

It provides the facility of sharing folders. Shared Folders offer a common location for storing and sharing files, especially disk-hogging digital media files, which can then be played on any connected PC or Windows Media Connect device.

It allows remote access to shared files and to computers on the home network via a web browser, with policies that require strong passwords for access.

It constantly monitors the health of the network, alerting you if a PC is running with out-of-date antivirus software or if a nightly backup failed to complete.

In the later builds, Microsoft is looking at adding capability for targeting Launchpad tasks to specific users who are part of a User Group on the Server. For example, one can target only users who are part of ‘Remote Access Group’ to see a link to your remote portal hosted in Home Server. They are also making it so that Launchpad automatically authenticates the machine to home server using the username and password stored, if the user chooses to do so. So, as soon as the user logs into the local machine, they are authenticated to Home Server so that all the services that require authentication to server work seamlessly. Another enhancement that is coming is the ability to control the alerts that are seen from the tray icon. User would be able to choose from three options – No alerts, network alerts or local & network alerts.