While the Windows Home Server operating system has been available for consumers for quite some time, it's been relatively hard to market the device to normal, everyday consumers. Surely, a media server is just meant for those who work with large amounts of data such as photographers, video editors, and music aficionados, right? To make things easy, we've taken an in depth look at HP's Home Server offering to see if it has what it takes to be worthy of a buy. The full list of pluses and minuses, after the jump.
- We enjoy the fact that it provides a convenient, off-site solution for your daily backups. If you've never backed up in your entire life, we suggest starting now as you can never predict the next natural disaster or man-induced disaster (spilled coffee, kids, dropping it in the toilet, etc...). As for back-ups in general, an off-site solution is best because if one computer goes down, you'll always have a remote copy available somewhere else.
- You can use it as a print server. Through Remote Desktop, you can usually force it to recognize any drivers that aren't already available, but once you're set up, you can practically print anything via the Home Server, allowing large bulky printers to be sent into the back room where its out of view.
- Works with Time Machine. The fact that it's the only Home Server that works perfectly with Apple computer's Time Machine ability, it's easily catered for people seeking Apple's Time Capsule's abilities with added expansion. Which brings us to our next plus...
- It's upgradable. Saying that it's future-proof is another thing, but we like the fact that we can add another 2 1TB hard drives if we wanted to make it a total of 3GB of massive server space.
- It's aesthetically pleasing. Especially near a few books, you won't even notice that it's a piece of technology until the lights start blinking a bit. Even then, the small form factor gives it an advantage to building your own little Home Server from old computer parts.
- It's a bit expensive. While the list price is around $750, we found the cheapest 1TB HP MediaSmart Server for $592 on Amazon. Seeing as the specifications aren't too high, we expected it to cost a bit less in order to reach a larger market. Which brings us to our next letdown...
- It's not for the tech-savvy. We like our things running smooth, but if it has some room for tweaking and upgrades, you know we'll go at it. Because it's a bit underpowered, we weren't able to add many features. However, for the average user, it's far more than adequate.
- 64-bit users, you're out of luck for now. But when we tried playing with the WHS on a 64-bit client, and it just simply isn't as simple as it should be. It takes some technical remoting and backup to solve a few issues, but overall, we suggest avoiding the WHS if you're using a 64-bit operating system.
While we can't completely recommend the product due to some letdowns in 64-bit support and underwhelming performance, the actual functionality of the product is second to none. Backups were fast and easy and the hardware itself runs pretty cool and stable. Never once did we encounter a crash of any kind - the type of stability we all seek for in all our computers. Those looking for a convenient, expandable solution may just want to check it out anyway, despite its few shortfalls, since it's probably the best (and easiest) way to make a copy of things in case the unexpected happens to well... become a reality.