Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Quick Interview with Harrybbbbb

After the Windows Small Business Server 2011 (Standard and Essentials) Launch in Vancouver, BC, Canada, I managed to catch up with Harry Brelsford from SMBNation. He had a bit of a working vacation up in BC and pinned me down on my way out the door for a quick interview. If you were interested the video is here
The conference had about 100+ SBS'rs that were in attendance and there was lots of good discussions around SBS Standard and SBS Essentials.

Harry covered a few items in his recent newsletter, where I discovered the video talking about
  1. Re-cap of the gotcha's of Migration with SBS, with shout outs to Susan Bradley and Jeff Middleton as key places for help with your migration in the community and,
  2. The use of MultiPoint 2011 in SBS Essentials,
Thanks for the quick interview Harry!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Using the KeepVault Connector to backup Roaming Client Computers

Previously, I covered the basics of Proxure’s KeepVault Online Backup, as well as what you got if you went Pro.  With the release of the RC of KeepVault for, I noticed I didn’t cover the KeepVault Connector, which is a separate add-in for Windows Home Server 2011, and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials than the original KeepVault add-in. 

This add-in allows you to do the incredible.  Back up roaming computers via a “Sync” while the computer is connected to the Internet, anywhere.  Now I use Windows Live Mesh to sync most of my items between my computers and the cloud, but there are some things that I don’t.  For example, if I’m travelling and I process photos, those don’t get into my Mesh, but I still worry about them.  This solution solves that.

Simply download and install the KeepVault Connector for Mac & PC.  Make sure you choose the WHS/SBS 2011 version, and not the WHS Original.  Once installed, and the dashboard restarted, you’ll notice that KeepVault has an extra tab

KeepVault Connector

This add-in installs into the dashboard and adds a \KeepVault directory to your default website.  It also reads your servername (orange above), your remote access domain name (blue above) and provides an extremely secure recommended password (yellow above).  Simply click the link to Download and install the client setup.  This downloads the client component directly from your server:

KeepVault Client Download

KeepVault Connector Client ApplicationOnce installed, just find the KeepVault Connector in the start menu, or in your system tray, and load up this fancy little “Sync” application and click the Add Folder button.  This will allow you to to pick a local folder on your client computer which will perform the backup. 

For me I created a “backup to home server” folder as a test, and dropped a few files in there.  While I’m local on the network, the backups are SUPER quick, but away from the network they’ll be throttled by my connection speed back to my server.

You can also choose to modify the backup locally only, or over the Internet.  Given that the built in Client Backup functionality runs when you’re local, you might not use this.  However, it’s some nice flexibility if you use a tethered 3G connectivity, so you can choose to sync when you’re on wi-fi and by default not always.  Speaking of Sync, you’ll notice at the very bottom you can click the hyper-link to work offline, so if you end up tethering your PC to your cell phone and then dumping a ton of pictures in there, you can click that and work offline, and prevent the backup from happening over your 3G connection, if you valued cost of data over loss of data.  :o)

If I had a gripe with this system, it’s only that the KeepVault connector isn’t also available to launch directly from Launchpad via the Add-ins area.  As you can see AWIECO does take advantage of this, it’d be great to see “KeepVault Connector” in here:

Launchpad with Add-ins

Add ins

I’ve heard on a few occasions that the road warrior doesn’t like the stop in the office to do a much needed backup, perhaps this solution can help.  Backups can be done from home, or coffee shops, or in my case, at work to my home!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Now Available! New Online Help Sites for Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Home Server 2011

With the availability of both Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, and Windows Home Server 2011, you probably want to make sure you have some help documentation right?  Well, our Information Experience (aka documentation team) has something for you to look at while you’re waiting for your download to finish, or stuck at the office and can’t wait to get home to play with the bits.

Online Help

Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials – Available Today!

Last week, the Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials was announced as reaching the RTM milestone. As I mentioned, that didn’t mean you could get it.  It just meant that our team was finished with the bits and we handed over our “Gold” disk to the marketing/selling engine that services you, the customer.

Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials

Well, as of this morning, it looks like that marketing engine has indeed been hard at work, and already has an Evaluation edition of the RTM bits ready for you to download, right from Microsoft.com.  In addition to this, if you are a TechNet or MSDN subscriber, you will have access to download that today.

As a recap, SBS 2011 Essentials allows you to connect up to 25 users or devices (CALs included!).  This eval copy will be valid for 180 days, and if you activate it with a product key, it just continues to run as non-eval. 

The marketing engine plans on having it available in more channels including Volume Licensing starting in May.  While our OEMs and System Builders run on their own schedule, we hear mostly dates in May as well.

Learn more at the Official SBS Blog, or can watch the video learning bites to know more detail on SBS 2011 Essentials’ functionalities. Then download a copy and start discovering the multiple ways Windows SBS 2011 Essentials can benefit you and your business.


As you know, a small set of companies had the pleasure of running SBS 2011 Essentials in their business as part of the early adoption program.  Some of the things they said are:

  • Brian Woltz of Parkway Physiotherapy and Performance Center say that “SBS Essentials has provided my company with a stable, organized and efficient foundation from which we can build our business. Most importantly it has enabled me to do some of my work from home, a big plus for my family”.
  • Seth Feist, from Northwest Insurance Brokers, who says, “Being able to monitor all the desktops and laptops from one machine is great. It saves me time from having to go to each machine and check on updates. Having each machine automatically back up at a specific time is great so I never have to wonder if every person in my office is backing up daily like they should.”
  • Brett Schulte from Loteria Grill says “SBS 2011 Essentials is so much more than just a network attached hard drive. You don't even realize how many things you can run on the server that used to be on PC."

Monday, April 04, 2011

How To Install Windows Home Server 2011 on your MediaSmart or DataVault Hardware

Well, I’m positive this is something that HP will not support, so don’t even think of calling them if you go down this road, but I figured it’d be fun if you wanted to continue to use the same hardware. I took this opportunity to get an HP ProLiant MicroServer, plus it does at least RAID1 (Mirror) where the MediaSmart or DataVault servers cannot do any form of RAID. But it’s still a cute little form factor. Also, I think the MicroServer is quieter than the MediaSmart (at least the ex475 that I had)

Additionally you’ll have to use the EX490/495 or DataVault as Vail requires at least 2GB of RAM, which aren’t in earlier models of the MediaSmart servers (e.g. EX470/475). So if you’ve got the grey top, you’ve got a lot more work to do that isn’t covered here. (I hear it works on the ex48x, but I only tried the ex49x)

Creating the Bootable Thumb Drive

SanDisk DataTraveler 8GB

The first step here will be to prepare your media, usually on your client computer. The image is slightly bigger than 4GB, so I had to step up to an 8GB thumb drive. I’m actually using the Data Traveller by Kingston. First you’ll need to format it and make it bootable. I already have instructions on how to do that here. Next up you’ll have to copy the Windows Home Server 2011 DVD to the root of the disk. This makes the Thumb drive and the DVD look identical in Windows Explorer. You’re almost there. As you probably know, the MediaSmart or DataVault server doesn’t have a video input, so you’re going to need to do the install via an “unattend file”. The unattend file is called cfg.ini, and needs to also be in the root of the thumbdrive with the WHS 2011 DVD image on it.

Inside the cfg.ini, you’ll need to answer questions, so design your file like this:

PasswordHint=some password hint

Where VAILSERVER is the name of the server, Passw0rd is the server password and some password hint is the hint to remind you of what you set your password to.

Erasing the Primary OS Hard Drive

In order to have the MediaSmart or DataVault boot off the Thumb Drive for installation, you’ll need to completely erase the primary hard drive (the lowest one in the MediaSmart/DataVault server).

Remove the drive from the server and attach it to another PC (I used Windows 7) and then erase the primary partition. When you’re finished, place the drive back into the MediaSmart or DataVault server.

Installing Windows Home Server 2011

HP MediaSmart ServerThis is where the fun starts. Installation without feedback. Please note that this will erase the ENTIRE primary hard disk on your server, so make sure you have a backup of ALL your data, and customization. While you can most likely do a factory reset to bring back WHS v1 and get access to your data on other disks in the system, I don’t cover that detail on this blog, and don’t recommend taking that sort of risk with your data.

I recommend putting the box up on the desk where you can see the Health LED light and also listen to the hard drive(s). So let’s get started:

  1. Connect your MediaSmart or DataVault server to power, and network.

  2. Insert the USB drive into the bottom-rear USB port and disconnect all other USB devices. It needs to be the bottom-rear USB port.

  3. Power on the server. The server should automatically boot off the USB key, format the drive and install all of the operating system files. The health LED will blink the aqua through the BIOS bootup, then aqua/red during the OS installation. The OS installation takes ~ 8-10 minutes. You should hear the hard drives during this phase. I also constantly refreshed my router DHCP list so I could see when the server obtained an IP address.

    1. While the Answer file should take you all the way through setup, once you find your server get’s an IP address you can browse to http://<ip address> and you should see a webpage for WHS 2011 to download and run the wizard. I’d just leave it use the answer file, but if you left out the [Initial Configuration] piece out of the answer file above, you could also just run setup from here.

  4. The installation of the rest of the server took ~20-25 minutes for me. The LED light stopped blinking aqua/red and just went back to blinking aqua when it was done. Also, when I went to http://<ip address>, I saw the remote access site being turned off: Remote Access Disabled

  5. At this point I used “MSTSC” or Remote Desktop to connect to the server. clicking Start, then Run, and typing in MSTSC /V VAILSERVER, or whatever name you called it in the file above. When you log in using the VAILSERVER\Administrator, and the password you created in the cfg.ini file, you’ll see that the server is indeed setup and ready to roll: Your Server is now ready to use

I wouldn’t say the MediaSmart or DataVault server is as fast as my MicroServer, and it certainly is lacking 4GB of RAM, but it runs reasonably well:

Windows Task Manager

That’s all there is to it. Now just plug in your USB Backup drive, and set it up however you like.


  • Make sure you choose a name for your server that doesn’t conflict with another name on the network, this will halt the unattended configuration

  • Make sure you have at least 2GB of RAM, this will halt the unattended configuration.

  • Make sure you clean the system hard drive, otherwise it won’t boot to the USB disk.

Kudos to MediaSmartServer.Net

While I did these instructions myself, I was struggling at the location of having to format the hard drive, so kudos to the folks over at MediaSmartServer.net for the help here. Their steps helped get me over that hump, although I noticed that their cfg.ini file is a beta version, which has since been updated. My cfg.ini file is the correct one for the RC2 and RTM releases of Windows Home Server 2011. They also go into details about using the EX47x series that I don’t cover here.

Installing Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials

I targeted this post to Windows Home Server, as it’s more likely to have enthusiasts in the consumer space try this than in the business space. Businesses typically want the hardware RAID functionality that the DataVault or MediaSmart doesn’t offer. Additionally, being able to see what’s going on in a hardware failure is critical to a business, so the lack of a video card of a headless device is a show-stopper. HOWEVER, if you’re the type that wants to run SBS in your house, or you want to take this risk on to leverage this hardware, the same steps above work for SBS 2011 Essentials as well. The cfg.ini file is different though as it has more required fields:


CompanyName=Some Company Name

You’ll want to replace the bold items above with your own. Also, you’ll notice that you can use the cfg.ini file to change the .local of your internal domain name to whatever you want. We recommend .local, or .lan, or .internal work well too. DO NOT choose the same DNS name that you plan on using for your Remote Web Access website. For example, if you plan to use remote.contoso.com as your URL, do not use contoso.com as your DNS name for your internal network. Contoso.lan or Contoso.local is recommended. Or, while I haven’t tested this with SBS 2011 Essentials, I think you can choose internal.contoso.com if you absolutely must. Just don’t make them the same.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Best of April Fool's Day 2011

Well, I had a post ready for today for WHS 2011, but it's no joke, so I'll save it for Monday... I have enjoyed what Google has done for April Fool's day, and a few other companies too.. I figured I'd post my favourites here. I discovered Google's courtesy of Mashable's best.

I definitely like the GMail Motion as my favourite, are they teamed up with XBOX?

Or perhaps their job posting about becoming a Google Autocompleter

Google also allowed you to search for "Helvetica" or "Comic Sans" and return the search query in that font

Some of my other favourites are Linked-In suggested you might know Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood and other characters. Funny-or-die.com had a "Rebecca Black" only home page. And the online gaming site Destructoid.com re-wrote their entire blog in hand writing. Hulu.com changed their home page back to Netscape 4 style.

And last but not least. ThinkGeek introduced their "Apple Store" set, with optional "line"