Buffalo's TeraStation Home Server network-attached storage drive is more than just a competent NAS drive at a reasonable price. It also exceeds the current needs of most home users by including media-sharing features you may not need yet but could soon. It's a DLNA-compliant media server and even has the Gigabit Ethernet connection necessary for streaming maximum-resolution HD content. That's about as future-proof as it gets in that department. We found little to complain about, though write performance in the default RAID 5 mode isn't as fast as we'd like. The TeraStation Home Server NAS also comes in 1.6TB and 2TB flavors, and at $900 for the 1TB unit, it's quite the bargain. If you don't need the media-server capability of this drive, check out Buffalo's TeraStation NAS drive.
The silver-hued TeraStation Home Server NAS is about the size of, and distinctly resembles, a subwoofer from a trendy PC sound system: the front status lights encircle what could easily be mistaken for a subwoofer port. Appearances aside, the design is efficient: on the front are two USB 2.0 ports and a power switch, and on the back reside two more USB ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, a serial port for UPS monitoring, an AC cable connector, a fan, and the main power switch. (Note: Don't turn off the TeraStation using the power switch on the back--that will reboot the drive. Instead, hold the front button for the required three seconds. Otherwise, you're looking at six hours of the aforementioned status lights blinking incessantly while the unit checks the RAID array during reboot.) The USB ports can be used to connect additional hard drives or printers, as the TeraStation Home Server has a built-in print server for printing over the network.
Buffalo's TeraNavigator client utility will find the unit and let you access the HTML setup utility, since the unit doesn't default to grabbing a URL from your router using DHCP. To our mild annoyance, TeraNavigator works only with Internet Explorer. The HTML-configuration application on the TeraStation Home Server isn't the prettiest we've seen, but it's intuitive and offers all the options you need, from checking the status of the disks and arrays to how the Home Server will behave as a DLNA-compliant media server. (If you have a compatible media player such as the LinkTheater Mini, you can use the TeraStation Home Server to push video, photos, or music to your home entertainment system.) Memeo's AutoBackup, a real-time, continuous file-level backup utility, is also bundled with the drive. AutoBackup watches the folders on your PC and copies revised and newly created files to a safe location, likely on your new TeraStation Home Server drive. After upgrading to the latest version of the Memeo AutoBackup online, our backups to the TeraStation proceeded smoothly, but only after a reboot during which Windows decided to enlarge the size of its page file. (Without a large page file, the drive can suck up CPU cycles and memory like a hog at a trough. Before updating the program, AutoBackup almost brought our system to standstill while backing up, with nearly 60 percent CPU usage and taking a whopping 60MB of memory.)
If we have any complaint about the TeraStation Home Server, it's a decidedly minor one: the unit's lack of RAID implementations. The default mode of the drive is RAID 5, which is safe, but your storage capacity is reduced to 750GB after earmarking 250GB for parity (actually, after we formatted our drive, we were left with 697GB of free space). If you'd rather have all 1TB at your beck and call, you have to use spanning, since there's no RAID 0 mode. (RAID 0 mode wouldn't provide any performance benefit, even using a Gigabit Ethernet connection, but it could speed up the process of backing up the unit locally to hard drives connected via the USB ports.) We'd also rather see a RAID 0 + 1 mode for the mirroring instead of the two spanned RAID 1 pairs that the TeraStation Home Server uses. The LaCie Biggest F800 drive offers more RAID flexibility, but it's more expensive and isn't a NAS unit.
We tested the 1TB version of the TeraStation Home Server, and its write performance was a bit slower than the competition's (not unexpected with RAID 5 parity), but it excelled at serving up data from its platters to the network. It blew Maxtor's Shared Storage Plus and Western Digital's NetCenter drives out of the water, shaving the better part of 10 minutes off of those units' times.