The Good Small enclosure is easily stashed out-of-sight, straightforward hardware and software setup; powerful server software lets you take complete control of the systems on your network as well as the files on them; easy to add storage as needed; expanded features via coming third-party software.
The Bad $749 isn't cheap; potentially cumbersome account management with the various other systems on your network.
The Bottom Line Microsoft's Windows Home Server is the best, easiest-to-use answer to backing up and corralling all of the disparate media files in a networked home. And delivered in this petite, relatively affordable MediaSmart Server ex745 from HP, you get plenty of storage in a well-designed hardware package. We recommend this system all the way to anyone looking to take full control of their data.
HP MediaSmart Server ex475
We've been tracking HP's MediaSmart Server and the Microsoft Windows Home Server software that powers it ever since they were both announced back in January. We got to play with an early version of the software this summer. Now we get to take a look at the complete product, by way of the HP MediaSmart Server ex475, a 1-terabyte home server that will cost you $749. In addition to the raw storage space, what you also get for that money is powerful software that's easier to use than anything else of its kind on the market. It lets you automate networkwide system backups, centralize all of your digital media files, stream them out to other devices in your home, and access them from any Windows-based, Web-enabled computer in the world. This HP MediaSmart Server also appears to be the best deal on a 1TB-equipped Home Server product, at least compared to its handful of competitors. We're sure to see other Home Server systems hit the market over the next few months, but for now, if you want to take better control of your data, this is the best solution we've seen.
Just a little thing
The actual hardware of the HP MediaSmart Server is very straightforward. It looks like a very small PC (9.75 inches high, 5.5 inches wide, and 10 inches high, to be exact), and in addition to the hard drives, it also has a processor and memory. But there's nowhere to connect a monitor, and it comes with no mouse or keyboard. Instead, the back-panel simply has a power cable input, a networking jack, and a handful of other ports for expanding your storage capacity with external drives. Once you've plugged in the power and network cables and the system has been recognized by your network, you don't really need to touch it. The vast majority of your interaction with the server will take place via the Windows Home Server software that you need to install on another Windows Vista or Windows XP-based computer on the same network. This hands-off approach gives you the freedom to put the MediaSmart Server completely out of sight in a closet or some other out-of-the-way location, eliminating visual clutter in your house.
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