Microsoft has begun offering an online evaluation experience of Windows Home Server 2011. It lets you try at least six aspects of the operating system: adding a user, using the client Launchpad, managing PCs to ensure its health and security, protecting the server and PC's data, adding server storage capacity, and using Remote Web Access.
Over the next few weeks, Microsoft plans to update its official WHS website, adding a full introduction portal to the online experience. Until then, the evaluation is available for all at this garbled URL: online.holsystems.com/portals/sbs/whs. Microsoft says the new site "provides customers the ability to walk through both client and server interaction freely, or follow a suggested demonstration path with the evaluation manual which will also launch with the online experience."
To use the evaluation, you'll need to meet the minimum requirements, which Microsoft has also jumbled up on the site. Your OS will need to be Windows XP with CredSSP enabled, Windows Server 2003 with CredSSP enable, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 R2. You'll also need IE8+, Firefox 4.0+, or Chrome 10+, as well as .NET 3.5 SP1 and RDP 7.0.
Interestingly, Microsoft says it has no plans to release an evaluation version for download so that users can test the OS at home on their own hardware. This is because some of the embedded third-party codecs the company uses within WHS 2011 does not allow it to provide a trial version due to licensing agreements. The online experience manages to get around that, though the software giant does say it is working with its OEMs on additional evaluation experiences.
Windows Home Server 2011 was released on April 6, 2011. It is the successor to Windows Home Server, which was released on November 4, 2007 and was updated three times: Power Pack 1 on July 20, 2008, Power Pack 2 on March 24, 2009, and Power Pack 3 on November 24, 2009.