Windows Home Server 2011 Will Support Time Machine Backups (With An Add-in)

If you read our coverage of the Windows Home Server 2011 Release Candidate launch, you’ll have seen that we were surprised to see the lack of full Time Machine support for Macs. Microsoft have developed a Windows Home Server Connector for Macs, as well as a Launchpad application – there’s even a Backup option in the Mac Launchpad that will take you through to the Time Machine configuration dialog. But try as you might, Windows Home Server cannot be discovered as a Time Machine backup disk, and that’s certain to be the case in the final release too, I’ve been told.

A relatively complex workaround is available, and has been neatly documented in various corners of the web, including here, but this involves hacking around a little to get Time Machine to recognise SMB shares, a step that Microsoft have not automated in Windows Home Server 2011. What Microsoft have done is to extend the Windows Home Server SDK platform to the Mac – which means that Windows Home Server add-ins can be built to work with Apple’s client operating system, as well s Windows.

That’s how Time Machine Backups are going to be enabled in Windows Home Server 2011.

Microsoft contacted us last week to introduce us to a Canadian company called Orbital Technologies, who are developing a free add-in for Windows Home Server 2011 and Windows Small Business Server Essentials 2011 to enable Macs to backed up to either platform using Time Machine. The add-in, simply named Orbital Backup Configuration, adds a new option to the Mac Launchpad application allowing you to point to your server, or enter its location via an SMB path. The necessary magic will then happen under the hood to connect Time Machine to the server for backups.

Here are the first shots of the add-in in action:

Chatting to Orbital this week, the company confirmed that the add-in was likely to be made available for free and would be available as a download for all users. The add-in is now code complete, and will be undergoing private testing over the coming weeks before release around the same time as the final builds of Windows Home Server 2011 and Windows Small Business Server Essentials 2011 are issued.

Whilst I’m sure there will be those that wonder why native Time Machine backup was not included in the platform, Orbital Technologies’ forthcoming add-in makes enabling the feature a simple matter, and provides a great showcase for Windows Home Server’s extensibility.

[sws_green_box box_size=”540"] Update: The add-in has now been released. Download [/[/sws_green_box]
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23 comments

  1. To be honest i like what i'm seeing about the upcoming add ins.

    But for me especially regarding the lack of DriveExtender Microsofts behaviour looks more stupid than before.
    If they had talked to one of the 3 companys which now bring a new Drive Extender to WHS 2011 and had presented those solutions together with their announcement they hadn't lost so much support…

    1. Well, we don't know what conversations go on behind the scenes, but in the DataCore post last week, they did say there had been discussion with MS directly. Perhaps, just perhaps, Microsoft are reacting to user feedback in the most efficient way possible – they have an OS to ship to OEMs, but in the meantime, they could work with third parties to address the obvious gaps in WHS 2011?

      This is conjecture, not knowledge! 😉

      Terry

  2. Well, I don't use Macs, but I have a few friends that do, who also use WHS.

    I'm sorry, but WHS 2011 just isn't cutting it… i actually thought that full TimeMachine would be included by Microsoft.

    and Terry… while I appreciate the effort on getting info from sw developers, I must say regarding "(…) the company confirmed that the add-in was likely to be made available for free (…)", well, "likely" just doesn't sound like much of a "confirmation" to me… more like hopeful wishing!

    Here's to hoping that the final WHS 2011 will turn out much better than expected, with a lot of developer add-in support at reasonable prices…

      1. Hey phaze,

        Fair call and the "likely" is my insertion, just in case. Orbital told me it would be given away for free.

        I also was under the impression that Time Machine support would be available in box. To be fair to Microsoft on this one, they got in touch with me to introduce me to the developers at Orbital. They get there's a gap, it's getting filled by a third party – for what reasons, I don't know, but it's being addressed at no cost to the end-user.

        Let's at least give them credit collectively for sorting it out.

        Terry

        1. Thanks Terry,

          Of course credit where credit is due. Just curious, like Mike mentioned…. would be nice if Microsoft would get in touch with you regarding "DE equivalent" add-in developers… Maybe they can officially present them to us also, and get behind them like they are doing for Orbital?

          Well, i guess my sarcasm is showing through a bit… but I truly want WHS '11 to succeed.

          1. Hi phase,

            A bit of healthy cynicism does no-one any harm 🙂

            MS haven't discussed third-party DE development with me, but read the DataCore interview again carefully, and you'll perhaps see more than you first did.

            E.g. "When Microsoft approached us about their plans to remove Drive Extender, we carefully considered the situation."

            It would be unfair if MS came out and recommended one dev vs another, and Mac support may be a different story to DE replacement, but take a step back and you could say there's a theme emerging with third party support.

            Of course, whether they're any good or not remains to be seen – I'm just working hard to keep you up to date with what's happening… 🙂

            Terry

          2. Hi Terry,

            I see what you mean, and I too sure hope they are good.

            The thing is that when the original WHS came out, it was the first time a major company was responding, unexpectedly I must say, to our fundamental need for a server in the home. Along with it came limited add-in support. Limited in that the add-in developers didn't have much room to move around the o/s, and while a few very good add-ins did come out, we all had to work our way around the o/s's boundaries to get all the functionality we wanted.

            But the basic desired features where there, and at the end of the day, it worked (works) very well.

            Now we're heading towards the next version, and a new scenario presents itself. It would seem that WHS '11 has a very fine o/s backbone, that would seem to give much more liberty for add-in development, but the CORE functionality is now below par…. it would seems that the success of the platform now DEPENDS on add-in developers.

            I ‘m very happy that we’re starting to see new add-in developers, who are presenting sophisticated solutions and features. What worries me is there just might not be enough core functionality for the success of the platform, and that the necessity to install add-ins to get back the functionality we took for granted on the original WHS will compromise the whole system.

            Microsoft needs to find a good balance of features IF they want to succeed in the Home Server market, a market that they themselves have created, and that in this point in time, they themselves can destroy!

            I’m hoping that initial sales will be better than expected, so maybe Microsoft will add desired features in the first PowerPack!

          3. You know, I've viewed WHS 2011 (perhaps unfairly) a bit like the Windows Vista project for some time – a big shift in direction part way through development, meaning that Microsoft are playing catch up to get it finished and out the door.

            What we're left with is a good platform, with a lot of stuff under the hood (in this case, mainly the shift to Windows Server 2008 R2, but there's other features of course) which can then be built on by Microsoft in future versions or third-parties to improve the product as a solution.

            We'll see… oh, I don't think there are Power packs any more – just service packs.

  3. This is also pure conjecture, but it is entirely possible that some of the interest from 3rd party developers may have come about due to:

    1. the community reaction to the removal of DE
    2. Microsoft reaching out to various developers perhaps as a result of community reaction, the anticipation of community reaction, both or perhaps not at all…

  4. Thanks for the positive news and Orbital for their work but I keep wondering what will be the selling point of WHS '11? There seemed to be not much more left than a server OS in a different color.
    Yes the core is good and runs on my servers for years, but so does WHS v1
    What will happen when there is an OS update and it effects the (third party) drive extender or backup functionality. No one is really responsible for things like this and as a user you want well tested server software.
    Giving away core functionality to other companies doesn't seem the right track unless they basically pulled the plug out of the system and focus on (small) business use and not spending money on (home user) development anymore. I wonder if this is the last WHS we will ever see.

  5. Why cant it just work out of the box for 2011? Why do we need an addin to fix their broken code?
    Same thing with DE. Now we must rely on two third parties to do what MS should have done with 2011.

    What in the hell are they doing? Did they fire all the good developers and now just stick with what works, backup, and rely on third parties to do the rest?

  6. I'm less concerned about DE now that I've got backups working on my Vail server (but then, I only have 400GB of data or so, including backups, so storage is less of a concern for me for the time being), but this sucks. I have a Mac using friend who doesn't back up, and I'd been figuring I might just get her to do so when she comes over periodically. I'd assumed Microsoft would make this simple. Backup is really a primary use of a home server. And it doesn't even work out of the box? That's staggering. I mean, geez, Microsoft. Just buy the damn extension and ship with it preinstalled!

  7. @Terry: Did you hear anything new about the “official” addon from Orbital (e.g. ETA)? I am currently using SuperDuper to backup my Mac to my WHS2011 but would rather use TimeMachine again. But will try out Tickett’s in the meantime – his solution sounds great!

    1. Haven’t heard an ETA yet, but I believe it’s not too far away. Should have more to share very soon.

  8. With the release of OS X Lion, compatibility with my WHSv1 48x is broken for good. I do not wish to implement a workaround (reach around?) on WHS2011 if this product is actually going to be released. Any word yet?

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