As the storage needs of telecommuters and homebased entrepreneurs have grown in recent years, jumbo network-attached storage devices have started following them home from work. Now Microsoft is, too: Windows Home Server-based products are being released by vendors including Gateway, HP and Iomega.
Microsoft's WHS is actually a version of Windows Server 2003 that's been heavily modified for use in the home office. Ranging from $500 to $1,000, these multidrive WHS units fit right into home Wi-Fi networks and expand as your files do.
Network-attached storage is an idea that has been increasingly welcomed into homes nationwide since Buffalo Technology served up the first course nearly four years ago. A number of tech players have since added offerings of their own, but limited marketing budgets and consumers' love of portable USB alternatives have kept the rather technical NAS devices from really catching on.
What does Microsoft's entry mean for NAS penetration and for players already on the field? Companies like Buffalo and Netgear actually welcome the well-known behemoth and its marketing moolah. "Microsoft can push this concept through to home users who may not have started thinking about this or may not be aware that such a solution exists," says Sam Feng, director of marketing for network storage products at Netgear. Netgear's four-hard-drive ReadyNAS for videophiles and businesses starts at $900.
"[Because] it's early and the market is still very small, it's going to take a company with money to really educate people," says Brian Verenkoff, product marketing manager at Buffalo. Buffalo's four-hard-drive TeraStation solutions start at about $700, scaling up to 4 terabytes for just under $2,000.
"Microsoft research indicates that more than 14 million U.S. households have a broadband connection and more than two computers," says Joel Sider, senior product manager of the WHS team. So as more people catch on to the convenience and workability of NAS in the home, the market will see new brands, a wider range of products, added features, increased storage space and a variety of add-ons for greater connectivity.