HP is one of the most active supporters of Microsoft’s Windows Home Server operating system. HP’s support for this platform has helped them to put together a package that offers a lot of extras. One of the newest extras is the ability to backup Macintosh computers in addition to Windows.
- Easily and automatically backup and protect the content on your home PCs and Macs.
- Access your media from anywhere you use the Internet – across your home or across the world. You can even give your family and friends access.
- Enjoy an exceptionally small footprint with large capacity. It’s only 5.5″ (w) x 9.8″ (h) x 9.2″(d), but it’s designed to grow with you. Built-in hard disk drive bays and expansion ports increase storage capacity.
- The HP MediaSmart Server easily fits in your network supporting both wired and wireless PCs (via a wireless router) and requires a wired connection with broadband Internet for remote access.
Windows Home Server is all about backups. That is its main purpose and that is why you would buy it. In its original form, it could only be used with Windows Machines. That was not good enough for HP, so they worked with Apple to make it compatible with Macs and Time Machine.
An alternate use for the Home Server is to store all your media in one place. Having your media in one place has many benefits, one of those is being able to access that media from anywhere, including the internet.
The MediaSmart EX487 is extremely small. With dimensions of 5.5″ W x 9.8″ H x 9.2″ D it is about half the size of a desktop computer. It is small enough that you can keep it right on your desk or hide it away on a self, either way it is not going to take up a lot of space. Despite its small size it is extremely easy to expand. There are 4 internal drive bays, 4 USB ports, and an external SATA port. Using these the expansion possibilities are nearly unlimited.
The Mediasmart server can connect to your network with either an Ethernet or Wireless connection. Having built-in wireless gives you the most flexibility when deciding where to place it, you literally only need a power plug and a wireless connection and you can store the actual machine anywhere.
As I mentioned above the MediaSmart EX487 is extremely small. It stands only 9.8″ tall, but it manages to get an entire computer with 4 hard drive bays packed in. The front has a single USB port, and if you open the door you see the 4 drive trays.
The trays are easy to remove and it is easy to install a new hard drive. Everything is tool less and the trays snap right onto the hard drive and then slide nicely into the bay. The one thing you need to pay attention to is that each drive tray has a handle, and the handle is also a lock that makes it so the tray will not come out accidentally. To install the tray the handle needs to be in the up position when it is pushed into the drive bay, or else it will not go in all the way. Once it is pushed all the way in, the handle can be lowered to lock the tray into place. The handle must also be raised to remove the tray.
Under the drive bays is a small grill that covers all the computer parts. There is a small lock at the top of the grill that, at first glance, seems like it locks the grill in place. It actually locks the bottom hard drive tray in place, but it doesn’t do a very good job because I was able to pull it out before I realized what it was for. The reason HP wants to lock in the bottom hard drive is because that is the system drive and should never be removed. There are two small screws on the right side of the grill that hold the grill in place. When the screws are removed the grill easily comes out so you can get to the parts that are inside.
The rear of the MediaSmart EX487 server has 3 USB ports, an external SATA port, Ethernet port, power plug, and power button.
When turned on there are several lights that come on. Each one of the drive bays has its own light to indicate that a hard drive is installed. There are another 3 lights at the bottom that indicate power, network status, and network health.
I already covered the Windows Home Server software in a different review, so I am going to skip all the basics and focus on the HP specific parts. If you want to know more about Windows Home Server basics I recommend that you read my other review.
The first part I was most interested in checking out was the Mac backups. I am not a big Mac user so having an easy setup process is very important to me and setting up and running the Mac backup software is simple. The same disk that installs the Windows connector also has the Mac software. The software that was installed consisted of the Control Center and the Time Machine interface. The unique thing about the Time Machine interface is that it allows the Home Server to be used as the backup Hard Drive. Previously, only a physically attached Hard Drive could be used with Time Machine. This meant that each computer needed its own drive. With the use of the HP MediaSmart EX487 Server every Mac on your network can use the same machine. During the setup process you can even specify how much space you want Time Machine to use up on the server, and each machine gets its own location to store its files. As Time Machine runs it will store all the backups at those locations and when they fill up it replaces the old backups with new ones. This is not quite as efficient with space as the Windows backups, but it is a huge improvement over the old way of doing Mac backups.
Now that we have covered the biggest feature lets check out the other upgrades that HP has added.
One of the new options is an off-site backup, which is powered by the Amazon S3 service. With this service you are able to back up the contents of the shared directories online. Even though Windows Home Server has built-in duplication it is still possible that something really bad could happen, like multiple drive failures, your house burns down, or the Home Server somehow gets launched out a 3rd story window. With off-site backup you are protected against data loss if anything happens. Because it costs money to have an Amazon S3 account I would probably only backup those things that could not be replaced, like photos. I would personally like to see HP partner up with a company like Carbonite, which also stores your files online, but unlike Amazon, Carbonite charges a flat fee, no matter how much data your store.
HP also added a media collector. The media collector scans all the computers that are connected to the Server and copies all the media from each machine and stores them on the Server. This works great and is especially nice for sharing media among all computers. If you have the off-site backups setup then this helps to make sure that all your precious media files are backed up even if you forget to copy them to the server.
TwonkyMedia is also an add-on that is included. With this software it is possible to stream music and pictures online so that you have access to them anywhere in the world. When I asked HP about streaming videos they said the MediaSmart Server did not currently have that capability. However, there is a free Home Server add-on called WebGuide that will allow you to access and stream not only pictures and music, but also videos. It would be nice to see that add-on included rather than TwonkyMedia.
Another HP add-on is the iTunes server. This allows iTunes to connect to the MediaSmart EX487 and play any of the media that is stored on it. This is another benefit to Mac owners because Windows Media Player already had this functionality built into Windows Home Server.
HP Photo Publisher is a quick and easy way to publish photos to one of many different online photo publishing services. If you like to share photos with friends and family this is a great and easy way to get those photos online for everyone to see.
The Remote Access feature is something that Windows Home Server already has built-in, but HP has added a new interface to it. Through this interface you can setup your server and routers so that you can access all the files on the server and also other computers that support remote desktop. I would like to see this expanded by either HP or Microsoft to support VNC or some other remote desktop software so that Macs and Linux machines can also benefit from the Remote Access functionality.
The Server Summary screen is also an HP exclusive and it offers a quick look at many different parts of the server. This screen can quickly show you where there might be problems or anything that needs attention.
Warranty and Support
The HP MediaSmart EX487 comes with a one-year limited warranty, with dedicated technical support from date of purchase via self-help, on-line documentation or phone. As far as I could tell the warranty cannot be upgraded.
I am really happy with what HP has built. It is really small, has great expandability and is not overly expensive. This is so much better than what I have built on my own and it has a lot more functionality. I would recommend this to anyone that is looking for a centralized backup and file sharing solution. I can easily give the HP MediaSmart EX487 Server my Editor’s choice award.
Even though I am giving the EX487 my editors choice award I recommend that you buy the EX485. The reason I recommend the EX485 is because you can save $150 and the only thing you are missing is one 750GB hard drive. Then you take that $150 and buy yourself a 1.5TB hard drive and you end up with twice as much space. The EX487 is available for $649.99 on either Newegg or Amazon, and the EX485 is about $499.99 at Newegg or Amazon.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|