Lots of E-mail, so let’s talk about E-mail

Thanks for all of the great comments and e-mails over the last few days - it is hard to know where to start in answering all of the questions.  But, since this one often gets asked by 1 or more people ....

"Why don't you put Exchange in Windows Home Server?"

There are a lot of reasons why the first version of Windows Home Server will not provide any e-mail functionality for a family:

  1. 86% of consumers in broadband homes with 2 or more computers are ""very satisfied" with their hosted e-mail solution.   

    • Interestingly, consumers usually have 2 or more "e-mail" accounts, one for communicating with friends and one for all of that other stuff (e.g. site registrations, e-commerce shipping information, etc.).

    • They often use the free e-mail accounts from their broadband provider and they also have a free e-mail account from 1 or more of the Big 4 (MSN Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, or Yahoo).

    • They like the convenience of a hosted e-mail solution.

  2. Microsoft has a product - Windows Small Business Server - that comes with Microsoft Exchange integrated in.   Windows Small Business Server (SBS) scales to up to 75 users and I know a few people that use it to host e-mail for their family and friends.  If you really want to host your own on-premise e-mail server in your home - then use Windows SBS.

  3. We are trying to keep the cost of Windows Home Server low ... and if we keep integrating in lots of other products - then as you might expect the price will have to go up.

We strive to make the right decisions based on our customer research.  And we will continue to do research to see if over time consumers do really want to host their own e-mail infrastructure... 


Comments (32)

  1. Anonymous says:

    It should certainly automate the backup of PST Files, and make moving them there more simple to allow access from any machine.  I agree that OWA and Sync and Mobile wuld be great to have, but Exchange is way over the head of the target audience, and would require "alot" of work t get thse things.  If Outlook ever converts to storing the messages in the former WinFS then this database should sync to Home Server as well.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I understand no email (though the LIVE team might have some interesting ideas)

    However shared calendars for family will definately be coveted.  Its one of those features that people dont even know they want, but once they have it…they love it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    To keep WHS simple/inexpensive/purposeful..task it with data intensive/local functions.  Calendar is not data intensive.

    I’m sure there will be plenty of add-on solutions to expand WHS and has the flexibility for you to really geek it up.  But please, don’t do that to the average consumer.

  4. Anonymous says:

    One suggestion I’d like to make to WHS team.  Please consider adding functionality to backup/restore WHS to/from a USB drive plugged into WHS and/or remote PC’s High Def Burner.  Have physical media that I can store in a safe is powerful insurance here in S.Florida.  In keeping with target consumer..WHS backup/restore needs to be made simple.

    Can’t wait to get a hold of one the first WHS units.


  5. Anonymous says:

    There are two kinds of email people… people that think Exchange is good.. and people that want to outsource

  6. Anonymous says:

    brothernod, why not just share calender through Live service?

  7. Anonymous says:

    I can’t wait for this to come out. I also think that there is no need for hosted email – the main thing I want is a nice backup server 🙂

    Also, Gmail offers free hosted mail as well (20 accounts with 2Gigs for each) – so why bother with our own storage space when it’s there for free.




  8. Anonymous says:

    I agree 100% that email is probably not right for WHS.  I used to run SBS at home for web, email, and file sharing.  I got rid of it for web and email (and eventually file sharing) because I realized a few things.  1.  If my cable modem goes down or the power goes out I don’t get email and people can’t visit my website.  2.  I don’t like being an Exchange/IIS admin.

    For me, I was happier once I got web and email outside of my home network and someone else was worrying about keeping it running.

  9. Anonymous says:

    For me, having a version of Exchange built-in is less about hosting my own e-mail and more about the sharing and mobile access it enables in Outlook.

    For sharing, I would love to have shared folders for family contacts and calendars to know what’s going on in the family.  I bet if a little research was done on this the majority of families out there would say that making it easier to understand and organize the family’s schedule would be an invaluable feature.

    For remote access, it would be great to have a personal version of Outlook Web Access (remember – not just e-mail either.)  Also, wouldn’t it be great if the thousands of people that own smartphones could sync to their home Outlook accounts wirelessly (again not just e-mail) without resorting to third-party add-ons that are probably only going to give them new e-mails anyway?

    By the way, I’m not sure how the research was conducted for this product but we must remember that the majority of users may not see a need for this because they don’t even know it’s possible!  Even the majority of my small business customers are amazed when I set these things up for them.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for communicating with us about the progress.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I guess I am confused..does anyone agree that eventually many local services today will be moving to the web?  Web services could still do the things you have indicated here, like share & push calendar events to smartphones, etc..  To host email/calendar service on a home server just seems like introducing more failure points when a managed web service could do it better.  I want WHS to do things that offer significant performance benefits that are not available through broadband/web services today.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This product sounds interesting, but no "killer feature" or reason to spend what sounds like will be a fair bit of cash given the need for extra hardware.

    I have 5 computers at home and an Xbox 360 (2 Vista + 2 XP + an iMac) and have had the kinds of problems I think you’re trying to address – getting them all to behave together, sychronizing files and making sure everything’s backed up etc.etc.

    But there are already cheap products/services which seem to do most of the stuff you’re talking about without needed new hardware. I use Carbonite for backups onto a secure Internet site – better than onto a separate hard disk at home surely and accessible even if my home’s burned down, MyPcToGo for remote access, and AllWaySync to keep the PCs at home in sync. All this for about $50 a year.

    So I don’t quite get it yet?! What’s really new here?

  12. Anonymous says:

    I see some comments here about shared Calendar & Contacts.  Shouldn’t that be part of Live services?  Its not very taxing on broadband requirements to do it that way.  Microsoft needs to be careful, even with WHS it does need to move more service to the web and minimize duplicating functionality.  WHS in my mind is about providing localized/shared/alwayson services.  Future features could include…

    1. Home Media Download Server

    2. Centralized Parental Controls/Monitoring

    3. Home Automation Control

  13. Anonymous says:

    I’d follow the principles of KISS — "keep it simple, stupid!"

    For the target audience, simple does not mean managing email.

    Honestly, it may seem like second nature to most of us, and we would love to have that degree of control. And personally, I would ~love~ to be able to have my home server take care of email for me. But I’m not the core target audience for this product. Based on the research done, it’s an audience who wants to store and share and protect their stuff.

    Now maybe this ~also~ means that the target audience is a little too narrow or too idealised, but that’s a different discussion. In the context of this one, you have to make the product for the market, focus on what they want (both in terms of features and usability) and leave out what they don’t need. Every single feature has to live or die by that one rule — is this appropriate for our target audience?

    Perhaps there’s room for an enhancement or add-on which will let it run email — after all, WHS is a platform, and you could easily have Microsoft (or another company) offer a server program that adds email management to WHS for those of us who want it.

    But out of the box, I’d say Microsoft is right in keeping the focus on simplicity and the basics.

    What will be needed (and I’m speaking here as a professional journalist as well as someone who’s previously been a pr/marketing professional) is communication of those basic KISS principles and the target audience to the techie mags. I can see so many tech mags and Web sites sledging the WHS because of their own expectations of what a server (or even home server) should have, failing against it in the first few pars because it doesn’t have all these features that a ‘power user’ may expect. They need to be briefed from top down, endlessly have the message hammered into them as the framing reference for every feature in every PowerPoint slide, that this is for the casual everyday home user and is built around their explicit needs.

  14. Anonymous says:


    What a great vision! I like your ideas, but I fear that men around the world would live in fear of a nagging wife! We’d never have an excuse for forgetting to pick up milk. (kidding guys).

    What you described is exactly like how I believe we should be interacting with computers now a days. There is no reason why this couldn’t be a reality considering all the technology exists (in the business side), but it just hasn’t migrated to the home. It would be equally as useful as you pointed out with your examples.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you on the remote idea Brothernod… in fact I posed a similar question to Charlie back on the C9 thread a while back… it was one of the Q’s I couldn’t get him to answer.

    I’d expect that there will be an artificial limitation built in to prevent such a thing… if for no other reason than to save on bandwidth costs… just think, one of your remote machines has… 30 gigs of data which needs to be backedup… assuming the entire set only has to go across the wire once (as part of the first backup)… you are talking ~11 days to transfer it from a home connection with a capped upload rate of 32 k/s.

    Who knows… maybe this will be one of those areas that a third party will come in and exploit (free or not) and provide a way for more client side processing to determine which files need to be sent.

  16. Anonymous says:

    E-mail is overboard as most people have and like web based e-mail services.

    Having a shared calender and contacts for the household/family is essential and would be an incredible selling point.  Having an easy way for parents to keep track of their children’s school schedules, or keeping track of doctors appointments or planned vacations would be an incredibly handy feature.

    I assume with Vista’s new calender application, this is something that’s planned…… I hope so anyway.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I would love to see Microsoft add secure online storage – similar to Carbonite, et al – to their "Live" portfolio. It would be great if could run on PCs or WHS.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I would love an email option in WHS. So much so, that it would be one of the most important features why I would buy a WHS system. I totally agree with jpennin1 comments. I also agree with johncz points 1, 2, 3 & 4.

    The most important features I would look for in a WHS in order of priority are:

    1) Reliable storage (either RAID 5 or similar). If a hard drive fails, I don’t want to loose any data what so ever.

    2) PC backup.

    3) Sharing video and photos (and other files) in the home and access from the Internet.

    4) Email with access/sync from my Windows-based mobile phone.

  19. Anonymous says:

    @ beaumoj, what if carbonite goes out of business?

  20. Anonymous says:

    I think that when many people think about putting a new feature into software they confuse rich capabilities with complexity.

    I’ve seen comments that this product needs to stay simple and that’s why Exchange shouldn’t be in there.  But having Exchange technology under the hood doesn’t mean that this feature should make the product more complex.  Instead I see this technology really making this product the center of your digital home like it should be.

    I envision a simple interface on the server similar to the shared folders interface but instead it would be for shared family contacts, calendar, etc. and permissions for each just like the shared file folders.  I also picture that the server connector program that lives on the client computers would automatically configure Outlook for you.  Maybe there could even be a customized "Home" version of Outlook bundled injust as Outlook is bundled with Small Business Server.

    Imagine if the family had smartphones and Mom had to let everyone know that the time for a family event planned for that evening had changed.  When she updates it in the family calendar it updates on Dad and kid’s smartphones so they know about the change.  Then Mom needs Dad to pick up milk on his way home and she sets up a task request and it syncs to his phone as well.

    This is how I want my home of the future to work! Make the vision a reality, Microsoft!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I agree that Exchange probably doesn’t belong in this product, but it would be nice to give families that buy this product access to an affordable hosted Exchange solution as part of the package.

    For more detail see http://thunor.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!71C238B5E0E3724D!190.entry

  22. Anonymous says:

    A shared calendar is not geeking it up.  As Jeremy said, most people don’t know they want it and once they have it they will find it invaluable.

    As the console market has proven time and time again, people don’t buy add-ons.  If it’s not built in people won’t bother, simply because it is not set up with a way to inform people of handy additions.

    Plus patching and addons removes the simplicity they are pitching so heavily.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I understand beaumoj concern and that will Microsoft’s marketing challenge.  Here are a couple of my thoughts on Windows Home Server…

    1. It performs a full system backup (system files, executables, etc)..most online services don’t offer that

    2. It offers full system recovery option

    3. Recovery doesn’t require broadband service and much faster than your 2-8MB cable/dsl service could ever provide.  Who wants to wait all day for your files to be recovered?

    4. Power of keeping document version history and recovery to a specific version

    5. Global Search

    This product is perfectly suited for SOHO users and geekheads.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft eventually releases and ties Live Drive to Windows Home Server as a secondary level backup (insurance policy).

    If I am wrong about any of this please respond.

  24. Anonymous says:

    To be completely honest, I have been insanely excited about what WHS could offer, but the lack of Exchange really has put a damper on that.

    I realize that hosted email is easy, free, etc etc, but as someone mentioned earlier, I was really looking forward to an easy way of having Outlook Web Access. The email aspect of an Exchange feature on the WHS was only about 10% of what I was looking forward to. I would have loved to have access to my calendar, contacts, tasks, AND email all in the wonderfully powerful OWA (from anywhere). Oh well, I guess it was too good to be true.

    I don’t know if I have much of a use for a WHS at this point. I have a decent backup plan in place right now and it’s fairly cheap to maintain. I guess we’ll see if something really compelling comes out of all of this.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure it is capable of differentiating file types and conveying the limitations of remote backup to users simply.  After all you would know that you aren’t local and it’s a special case.

    I would see the limitation more in line with raising demand by forcing people to get their own rather than sharing. ie a family across 2 location with 2 computers each may be able to share 1 setup with remote backup as opposed to having to get 1 setup for each location.

    Either way, it’s what I need lol and pretty much the only way I’d be able to justify it’s purchase.

    I’m also really curious about the data redundancy scheme and would love to hear more about it.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I have opened a forum for Windows Home Server on my site and will be featuring on my podcast in the future

  27. Anonymous says:


    This all boils down to how much your time vs. money is worth.  Most of us here could easily cobble something together like you have with various software products but the busier I get these days the more I appreciate an off the shelf solution.  You are using three separate applications, all with separate license keys, separate payments, separate check-ups for patches and bug fixes, separate UI’s for others to learn.  Again, not really a big deal for a single person to manage but at this stage in my life I’ve decided I’d rather spend that time with my wife or friends than managing my home IT infrastructure, even if it is only 2 hours a month of maintenance.

    Another boon I see with WHS is the ability for someone besides myself to use the product.  I’ve become the de facto IT guy for me and my wife’s extended family and I’m getting tired of running around installing backup software, setting up sync software, making sure all their products are fully patched, etc.  I’d much rather be able to say, "just buy this one thing here" instead of "OK, you’ll want a cheap PC plus buy this… and this… and this".

    In one way you are correct, there *isn’t* anything new here but then again there was absolutely nothing new about the iPod when it came out (I’d had an MP3 player for a year at least prior) yet it’s simplicity and elegant design, not to mention the massive marketing, really captured the market.  Often products aren’t about being new, they’re about taking what exists and presenting it in a way that’s easy to use and accessible.  Just for the record I own a Zune now but I give the iPod the historical respect it deserves.

    All this said I’m really interested to hear any future details on how this may work into an MCE + XBox 360 ecosystem like I have currently.

  28. Anonymous says:

    In all honesty, the single biggest feature I need is remote backup.  My family is spread out since my sister and I have grown up.

    I live in Maryland and have 3 computers and am tech support for the whole family.

    My sister is going to college and has 1 computer (hopefully getting a tablet soon).

    My parents share 1 laptop at home in New Jersey.

    We all need a backup solution, music would be great, but more importantly, word documents, spreadsheets, taxes and pictures.

    We all have broadband.

    What I need is a way to have the server at one location (mine) and let them backup their stuff.  Otherwise their still going to be left not backing anything up.  Backup systems need to be automatic.  PCs are appliances for most people, and although they require maintenance like a car, it should be just as infrequently.  If you had to change the oil on your car once a week, even if it cost 50 cents, you would be quite fed up.  I don’t want to spend 30 minutes a week backing up my pc, and most nobody backs up their computer because of it.

    Please please please include remote backup for small files.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I am one of those that would love to have exchange, live communications, sharepoint, ect integrated into my home domain.  I have 4 kids at home who are attending a vertial accadmy for school.  Keeping them safe while attending the school is what keeps me up at night.

    A more robust home server, with exchange, live communication, SharePoint, ect. would be a natural choice for me.  I currently have 11 servers in my home server farm, 14 personally owned workstatings and laptops, and an employer owned laptop in my home.  Six of the servers and 5 of the workstations/laptops are used by me for personal research. (I am a computer security proffessional.)

    I have been involved in computer security for over 20 years.

  30. Anonymous says:

    My main interest in WHS is for File storage, Backups and hopefully Streaming the familys Multimedia files to the TV’s, PC’s and MP3/PDA devices around the house.

    But, i do like some of the ideas others that have posted here. Like roaming profiles or gamertags, and the ability to save backups to an external HDD or HD-DVD. So the backups can be safely stored off site.

    I have an idea for the people looking for an e-mail server. As i understand it there will be a ‘Live Domain’ included with WHS for remote acces. Maybe that could be upgraded to a ‘Live Office’ account, which i believe includes both a website and e-mail along with your domain.

  31. Anonymous says:

    ..I retract #2 above, Windows Live OneCare Family Safety Beta should solve this nicely for me.

  32. Anonymous says:

    heaphus..I second that.  I’m just guessing, but Microsoft probably could/should offer something like that to standalone users.  For the cost of Vista Ultimate, I would offer to those customers for free.  However, its currently not a practical solution for individuals with large library of video files.  Things might change if broadband upload/download speeds of 5/25 become generally available..which could be 3-4 years away.

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