Last week we highlighted the benefits of having a Windows Home Server, including seamless backups and system restoration. This week we're highlighting some great add-ins for making the most of your home server.
In our overview last week we briefly touched on the idea of using add-ins to enhance your Windows Home Server experience and get more out of the console. This week we're highlighting five add-ins, providing a little more detail on their functionality and how they make Windows Home Server even better.
First, for those who haven't installed any add-ons to their WHS before, the process is simple. When you find an add-in you want to use, save the .MSI file such as AwesomeAddOnForWHS.msi to the /Software/Add-Ins/ folder on your Windows Home Server. The next time you open up your console and click on Settings (located beneath the Windows Home Server icon in the upper right corner of the Console window), and then on Add-Ins once you're in the Settings menu, you'll see two tabs, like in the screenshot above, that show your Installed and Available add-ins. All the add-ins you saved will be under the Available tab.
Note: For ease of use — some of the add-ins homepages are forum posts or in foreign languages — we've linked to the reviews at WHSPlus, a Windows Home Server enthusiast blog. It's a great resource for finding more add-ins and each review has a link back to the author's site.
WHS Disk Management provides a more detailed look at your disk storage than the basic view included in the console. You can use existing server wire frames (most commercial WHS frames are available) or create your own if you have a DIY build. WHS Disk Management makes it easy to see what's going on with which physical disk in your server. The wire frame model includes disk bays in your tower and external drives for a comprehensive picture of what's going on with your disks. Eventually when you have to replace a disk or want to upgrade one for additional space, having a detailed model like the one in WHS Disk Management makes it easy to ensure you're unloading and extracting the right disk.
AutoExit makes it easy to send commands to Windows machines connected to your Windows Home Server through your home network. You can send messages to machines on the network, and perform a variety of shut down functions like suspending, hibernating, rebooting or completely shutting down the remote machine. When you have access to your WHS console remotely it's a great way to have control over other machines on the network.
Remote Notification makes sure you get updates about your WHS even when you're away. You can always remotely login to your console to view the notifications in the console itself, but Remote Notification will send systems notifications to the email address of your choice. If you have an email address for your mobile phone's SMS account, it's simple to plug that in and get notifications directly on your phone.
One of the great things about Remote Notification is that it forwards all notifications not just the default system notifications. If you have third-party plugins that handle things like downloads and you have them configured to issue system notifications, those will be forwarded to your email or mobile phone via Remote Notification too.
While you may opt to run your WHS 24/7, many users opt to power their home servers down at night to conserve energy and cut down on their energy bills. LightsOut is a fantastic add-in for WHS that allows granular control over when the server is awake and when it is suspended, hibernating or completely shut down. In addition to giving you control over the up and downtime of the server it also tracks the up and down time of both the server and the machines that connect to the Windows Home Server. Even if you're intending to run your server night and day, if you're a sucker for graphs and feedback about your network you might consider installing LightsOut just to see what the uptime patterns across your network look like.
It's the least glamorous of the add-ins we're featuring today, but it's a handy tool to have around if you've got an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) hooked up to your home server. You do have one hooked up to your server, don't you? Grid Junction issues power alerts through the console, makes it easy to monitor the UPS, and lets you easily set up custom shutdown scripts and test them. It's not loaded with bells and whistles but it makes it simple to manage your UPS on headless systems.
Have a favourite add-in for Windows Home Server? Let's hear about it and your other WHS tips in the comments.