This morning my wife was firmly ensconced on the couch with the puppy, catching up on her shows on Media Center.

Sensing some free time, I snuck upstairs and began poking around at getting remote access working with Windows Home Server.

The real magic came down to 2 main steps:

  • Enabling port forwarding for three ports on my router
  • Installing ISA Firewall client on my machine at work.

The port forwarding took awhile to figure out. On my Dlink router, forwarding is hidden under Advanced | Gaming. The WHS docs say that it will try to do this automatically, but it didn't work for my router at this point. Hopefully by RTM though!

As for the ISA Firewall client, if you're on the Microsoft corporate network, it's a given that you need to install it to connect to home machines. Don't ask me why or how. Networking has never been my strong point, and as long as things "just work", I'm happy to focus my time on other areas.

So here's how it played out: I had a Remote Desktop connection to my work machine on campus. From that session, I opened a browser and entered the externally visible IP address of my home router. Soon I was presented with a "Windows Home Server" login page.

At the WHS login page I entered my username/password for my home account. A new page appeared with three tabs:

  • Home
  • Computers
  • Shared Folders

Clicking on the "Computers" tab, I saw the four machines on my home network. I selected my wife's laptop, and was prompted for her credentials. After entering them, a full screen Remote Desktop window appeared, and I was logged in to her machine. At that point I had to go drag my wife and puppy away from from the TV to show them. They were suitably impresed; my wife more so than the puppy.

Ponder for a second just a few of the machines involved in seeing my wife's desktop on the other side of the room:

  • My home machine
  • My work machine
  • ISA Server at Microsoft
  • Windows Home Server box in my downstairs closet
  • Wife's laptop

Since I'd previously set up a dynamic DNS account, I then tried entering that name in my browser, rather than a hardcoded IP address. To my pleasant surprise, it worked right away.

With the basics in place, I've now created accounts for several family members in CA and AZ, and have given them read-only access to a few folders such as photos. Now if I could just get one of them to call me back, I'll be able to see how well it works in "the real world".