To the OP,
I had a similar quandary. I'm not in the IT field, but it has always been a keen interest of mine. For work I require the use of one those programs XP Mode was intended for. I personally wasn't impressed by XP Mode. Here is my solution:
-Download Sun Virtual Box (completely free).
-Install the SVB program on your host.
-Set up a new virtual machine, when creating the VHD choose a mapped path somewhere on your server (of course make sure you have full read/write access to that path on the server).
Fairly simple. I'm running a 1Gb home network, and I haven't noticed any lag. One other thing I did was turn on shared folders within my VM and I save all of my work to a folder which is on my server, but outside of the VHD, if that makes sense. That way I can access my files to send to colleagues without having to boot the VM. I've been able to run my Guest on both my main desktop, or using my laptop, as a Host. Just for kicks I even copied the .Vhd file to each Guest's physical HD, and it works there, too.
Sorry if that's a bit confusing. I'm sure you can sort it out. Or feel free to post any question you have and I'd be happy to try to assist.