HP kindly let me have one of their MediaSmart Home Server (EX470) today and I have to admit it’s a sweet box of tricks. A server for your home? To some that might seem overkill – but when you look at what it does it makes perfect sense for a number of homes.
The idea, as with all server is that it is a central storage for all your files be it music, photos or videos. This really interested me as I store the majority of my media on a number of external hard disks and really would like to have them on a central storage unit. Drobo is a device I use religiously and it’s great as a RAID safe, computer attached storage device mainly used for my work files. Storage wise it can handle the bulk of my files but it doesn’t allow me to share them on my network and so I can’t just put it anywhere with power socket out of the way. I also have a LaCie d2 network hard disk which is great for just sharing folders and files but this only holds 160GB and doesn’t have the same calibre of home server software administration or overall functionality.
Enter the HP’s MediaSmart server. The initial thing that surprised me about the MediaSmart server, before reading the specifications, was that it didn’t have a monitor output and it was much smaller than the workstation size I was expecting (5.5″ width x 9.2″ depth). The box comes bundled with Microsoft Windows Home Server software with software you install on another machine to administer the box (once it is plugged in and a wired connection made to your network). You can, with use of the HP MediaSmart Connect base station, connect via wireless – also adding HDMI output, component outputs, audio and more USB ports to the mix.
HP MediaSmart Server – The Good
- Nice piano black finish style and I’m a sucker for blue LEDs (all the best kit seems to have blue LEDs these days).
- Great small form factor that is perfect to hide out the way, as a server should be.
- Sturdy compact build quality.
- Easy to setup. Windows Home Server is a few clicks to setup and even though the server doesn’t have a DVD drive you can do an OS restore over a wired network using the boot disk.
- Microsoft Windows Home Server – making it easy to setup network sharing, backups, maintenance and remote access. This is great for sharing and streaming media with the server supporting 10 devices running the connector software at any one time.
- Expandable storage with 4 SATA 2 hard drive bays and 4 USB 2.0 ports
- eSata connection for extending storage. Nice to see eSata getting included on more machines now albeit I think USB 3.0 when released soon will blow it out of the water before it has even really started to become common.
- Clever automatic backup – it might not be RAID but it’s still does a fairly good job of keeping you protected (particularly if you are not tech savvy). HP quote that Microsoft Windows Home Server “folder duplication” is actually better than RAID because it only backups/duplicates what you select and so offers better replication of data.
- The backup software will also backup the files from connected PCs or Macs that you configure which is a nice touch and stores different images snapshots of the server for different times etc – and is all searchable.
- Takes advantage of Volume Shadow Copy Services to take point in time snapshots that allow older versions of files to be recovered.
- 1.8Ghz 64-bit AMD Sempron processor is a little bit extreme but it runs fairly cool even when the server is busy.
- Home Network Health allows the server to check that the PC’s connected via the connector software have up to date antivirus, firewall and windows updates.
- Photo Webshare – a great simple idea for sharing photos on the server via the internet for the outside world.
- iTune sync – neat feature which allows you to sync a number of iTunes libraries of connected PCs or Macs to the home server creating a much larger, giant library which is shared.
- Mac connect-able / compatible.
- Stream content to an Xbox 360 / Windows Media Connect devices.
- Well priced.
HP MediaSmart Server – The Bad
- Noisy fans mean that you really do want to put it somewhere out the way.
- Lacking built in wireless – need to purchase an additional base station to go wireless.
- Not true hot-swappable drives.
- Photo Webshare doesn’t currently offer as many options as I would like.
- Lacks the option of hardware RAID 1. RAID 1 means you don’t need to have to select which folders should be backed up and if using RAID 1 it will basically mirror everything on a drive to another identically sized drive for true redundancy. Also I always, for performance and reliability, favour hardware RAID to any kind of software style RAID.
HP MediaSmart Server Images
As you can see there are lots more good points than bad for the HP MediaSmart server and so that speaks for itself. This won’t be the only device like this on the market soon and I think Dell have something similar to be released later next year – but they have a lot to do to beat this HP device. The only real issue I have is the lack of RAID hardware but I am going to put the folder duplication software through it’s paces and see how well I can recover the data. (look out for this in an upcoming data recovery comparison post).
The HP MediaSmart server bridges the gap nicely between a RAID storage device and a network shared storage device – offering you the convenience of backups for all computers on your network and a way to share and stream media to all connected devices. The MediaSmart Server storage is expandable to a point that most people wouldn’t even need to touch on. The added bonus from incorporating Windows Home Server OS is that you get some nice bells and whistles like remote access, maintenance, web photo sharing, iTunes synchronisation and of course fantastic networking options for sharing and streaming media files – which is lacking on most network storage devices. Highly recommended, particularly if you are on the look out for a shared storage device or a way of storing all your files centrally.