Windows Home Server 2011 may have server in the name but it is far from scary for anyone who uses Windows, as the above screenshot shows. This is an OS which very much has the same look and feel as the likes of Vista and Windows 7.
While it is possible to just connect a screen, keyboard and mouse to the system then use it like a local system/desktop the intended use is to leave the box as it is and move to using it remotely, either through remote desktop connection on our main PC/Laptop or via the Dashboard/Launchpad applications from Microsoft.
Dashboard is the more useful of the two applications and allows us to manage our server, starting with a list of common tasks which walk us through configuring the system for use.
We can for example set up user accounts and permissions or configure which of our home systems (or files) are backed up to the server; aiding us in recovery of important items should a system crash/break.
Another screen within Dashboard allows us to monitor and configure our drives and storage with Event viewer giving us details on any system aspects which require our attention.
Launchpad opens each time we start Windows on a client PC and is our quick access tool for server monitoring and maintenance. From this tool we can see server information/alerts, manage backups, view and access files, use remote web access and launch the full dashboard.
The other key aspect of a Home Server is enabling it for use with other devices such as our console, tablet or smartphone. To do this we enable remote access and then simply browse to our media folders on the mobile device/console to begin viewing files. It is also worth noting that Microsoft take this technology one step further with Windows Phone 7 and devices such as the Lumia 800 which have their own application for connecting to and managing the server on the move.