On July 26, 2007, I posted an article on Microsoft’s Windows Home Server (WHS) and how it presents a good server solution for the small firm and solo practitioner. Since then, servers have been sold by companies like HP which released their MediaSmart Server EX470 and EX475. One of the big advantages of these home servers is its expandability. The HP servers come with either two (EX475) or three (EX470) empty bays into which additional hard drives can be installed. This provides for the great ability to back up not only all the workstations on the network, but the server itself by using dual hard drives to create data storage redundancy. In addition, the server can grow with your firm as you need more storage space.

Unfortunately, Microsoft announced on its support Knowledge Base (KB) that “when certain programs are used to edit or transfer files that are stored on a Windows Home Server-based computer that has more than one hard drive, the files may become corrupted.” They state that they are aware of only a very small percentage of users that have been confirmed to have this problem and that “most users are unlikely to be affected.” Apparently this occurs with the use of specific programs that access data on these servers. Those most likely to be used by lawyers would be:

  • OneNote 2003
  • OneNote 2007
  • Outlook 2007
  • Microsoft Money 2007
  • SyncToy 2.0
  • QuickBooks

Microsoft is working on fixing it, with a final version currently planned for June 2008. In the meantime, they suggest the following to avoid a problem:

“Do not use applications to directly edit or change files that are stored on the Windows Home Server-based computer. Users may consider setting Shared Folders on Windows Home Server to read-only and avoid using media management programs, such as Windows Media Player, to import files to the home server. They may also want to avoid redirecting applications to access files that are stored in the Shared Folders because some applications may change the metadata of a file without explicit user action.”

I can’t help but think that this basically makes the product useless as a server. If you cannot edit or change files on the server, why keep them there? If folders are read-only, you can’t change or add the files. This was first posted to the KB in late December, according to a post on the Windows Home Server blog. So Microsoft expects people using this product to wait at least six months for a fix to this!

What does this mean for you? Well, the problem as reported does not affect WHS systems with one hard drive, so if you have one of those and have enough storage for the foreseeable future, you should be fine, according to Microsoft. Even if you have a system with more than one hard drive, they state that “most users are unlikely to be affected. ” If you are thinking of purchasing one for your office, I would get the largest hard drive you can to be assured that it will be safe to use until the problem is fixed. If you are looking to get a second drive, or purchase a WHS with more than one, I would hold off until the problem is confirmed to have been fixed. Even if it only happens in a small percentage of users, why take the chance? If you lose a few pictures or music files at home, it is one thing; if you lose files from one of your cases, that is quite another!