Installing the MSS feels more like installing a Windows application than a typical browser-administrated NAS. Granted, other NASes instruct you to install a Windows application that at minimum helps you find its IP address, but the MSS install is more involved.
In fact, the whole "MSS experience" feels more like dealing with Windows than with a NAS. Some users might like this, since Windows is familar territory and they don't have to learn how to deal with a new type of device. But anyone who is comfortable administering and using a typical Linux-based browser-administered NAS will probably be more frustrated than pleased with the MSS. But I digress...
First, if your system doesn't have HP Update, Windows Installer 3.1, or Windows .NET 2.0, they get installed first. Then the Windows Home Server Connector gets installed, which, in addition to handling backup, provides access to the Windows Home Server Console, which I'll just call "Console" from here on. The Console provides the main administration interface to the MSS—there is no web interface.
Of course, each of these applications has its own automatic update process, which phones into its respective mother ship to update. There was a point where I got confused with requests from .Net, HP and WHS updates all flying at me. The last one was the most confusing because, at least to me, it was worded in such a way that I didn't know whether it was asking to update the server, or the computer that the Console was running on.
After the update dust clears (or maybe before, depending on your timing and system software configuration), the Console launches and steps you through the Server setup. Since you're actually initializing Windows Home Server, the process is very much like activating the other Windows versions you know and love. There are two things that stand out in the process, however.
First, you are warned that you can set your MSS name only during the MSS setup—there is no server name change option in the Console. But you actually can change the name—as you would any Windows machine—via a Remote Desktop connection.
Second, the setup forces you to set a strong server admin password, which Microsoft defines as:
"A strong password must be at least 7 characters long and must fulfill three of the following four character criteria: uppercase characters, lowercase characters, numbers, and symbols (such as !, @, #, and so on.) "
This is a bit of a pain, but good security practice. Strong password selection is also enforced for any users that require remote access.
If all goes well, you'll finally get a page with a Start link that will transport you to the Console itself (Figure 8).
Figure 8: Windows Home Server Console - Server
You also get the pop-up "Suggested Configuration Steps" nag box (Figure 9), that thankfully you can dismiss and not have return.
Figure 9: Another reminder
The Console has two "features" that I'd like to see HP change. First, it can't be resized and takes up most of a 1024x768 screen. Probably not a problem for most desktop LCD monitors, but I found it annoying to run on an older notebook.
Second, the Console automatically forces disconnection of the current instance when a new user logs in. I guess the thinking is that only the MSS administrator will be logging in and she or he can only be in one place at a time. But if there multiple administrators, this behavior could get very annoying.