Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Changing Home Server Setup

For a couple years I’ve been running a home built server with Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V as a the host and Windows Home Server 2011 as the primary guest with a couple Windows 7 and a Windows XP guest that could be run as well. This was to allow for the WHS2011 to run always, and when I was needing to download a file I could fire up one of the other Guests and download the file without having to fire up a desktop PC in the house and leave it on.

The primary job of the server has always been to be the homes central point for documents, photos, MP3s, videos, etc.

So now I’m at a dilema. I always try to save energy and thus money so having the Server setup is very nice. However, now that I have a home weather station, I don’t want to have to leave on my desktop computer 24/7 just to record that data. Now, granted, it might add at most $5 to my monthly electric bill, but every little bit counts, and hey it’s just plain good for the world to not to have to have additional coal burnt for my weather station.

I had thought about just firing up a guest on my server and having it run 24/7 to record the weather information, but one (of many) of Hyper-Vs weaknesses is that it won’t allow a guest to use a USB device plugged into the host. So as my system is currently setup, that won’t work.

So here’s what I plan to do this weekend.

Backup everything, of course, I maintain 3 sets of hard drive backups and a set in the “cloud.” So that’s covered.

Then I’m going to install WHS2011 as the main O/S on the system, after all that is its primary job. Then inside that I’m going to install Oracle’s VirtualBox, which does allow for the use of USB devices in a guest. What I might do first, is on my desktop, which has VirtualBox it to make sure the USB device will work in a guest as not all USB devices work flawlessly in a guest.

So if all goes well, the weather will be recorded 24/7, and all my documents will be on 24/7 leaving the rest of the PCs in the house off when not being used by someone.

One downside that I was thinking of on the bus this morning, is that when I run my cloud backup, it will probably see all the files as “new” and re-upload them all. That’s about 40 GB worth. So for about 3 months I’d have to pay a couple bucks extra for the space (after 3 months it’ll purge the old files in the cloud storage).

But in the long run, once everything is setup, I’ll not have to spend that extra money for having a desktop PC running 24/7.

Though, I think our cat would rather I ran my desktop PC 24/7 as she lays under the PC for warmth!

Dumping Hyper-V
When I was first setting up my home server I wanted to use the bare metal version of Hyper-V as it would reduce the memory footprint of the host and leave more memory available for the guests. So I installed it and got it initially setup. So far so good. I then went to try and remote into the box to start setting up my guests but couldn’t access it via my desktop, though I had the user name and password for access.

Eventually after searching for solutions I found some scripts that you had to run to try and get access! Excuse me? Why is it so difficult I was thinking? If I have a username and password I can fire up remote desktop and get complete access to a server! Or heck, even in SQL Management Studio if I have a user name and password I can gain access to the databases WITHOUT running any special scripts! Nada!

Well, even with running those scripts and trying to jump through many hoops I had no success. So eventually I had to get one with it and installed the full server software. And gee, with the username and password I could access the whole server and configure away. But to install, and get to work, the Hyper-V Management tools on my desktop involved running scripts, opening up ports on my firewall, etc. etc. etc.! You would think that a product that you are trying to get a hold of some market share away from the defacto king of virtualization, VMWare, you’d make it as easy as possible to use. Not Microsoft.

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