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First Look: HP MediaSmart Server

updated 03:30 pm EST, Fri January 2, 2009

FL: HP MediaSmart Server

Many people own multiple computers, such as a notebook and a desktop, or a a Mac and a PC. The problem with multiple systems is backing up data from all of them -- while backing up a single computer is easy with an external hard drive, buying separate disks for several computers can become cumbersome and expensive. In the corporate world, businesses can back up multiple machines to a single server; HP's MediaSmart Server makes this option available at a reasonable cost to individuals, as well as small businesses.

Essentially, the server is a dedicated computer with its own processor (a 1.8GHz AMD Sempron), RAM (512MB of DDR2) and operating system (Microsoft Windows Home Server). Packed in a case 5.5 inches wide, 9.8 inches tall and 9.2 inches deep, the MediaSmart includes bays for holding up to four SATA hard drives. Depending on the model you buy, you'll get either one or two 500GB, 7200rpm disks by default. Other hardware can access the server through a router's wired or wireless connection, or by plugging into the back of the unit via its eSATA and three USB ports.

Since the server is essentially a Windows PC, it inherits the problems of relying on Windows. First there's the need for security software, such as an anti-virus program and a firewall. More importantly, another Windows system is needed for setup. Although the company promotes the server as Windows and Mac OS X compatible, it's really designed for anyone who either has all Windows PCs, or a mixed collection of PCs and Macs. If you only have Macs, you'll either have to buy a separate PC to perform setup and maintenance, or you'll have to avoid the product altogether.

To actually use the server, you'll need both the router and a high-speed Internet connection. After you plug the server into the router, any computer connected to the latter can access the former.

Whenever you set up an account, you'll have the option of enabling remote access for a user. This allows users to tap into their computers from anywhere in the world, granting complete access to all files. Such access runs in a browser and is noticeably slower, but it is at least functional.

The main and most useful feature of the server is in simply backing up data from multiple computers to a single location. Any Mac with Leopard can use Time Machine for this purpose, though you can also manually copy selected files such as photos, videos or music.

Besides just storing photos, the server includes HP Photo Publisher, an app which lets you organize pictures much as in iPhoto. Publisher also lets you send pictures directly to photo-sharing sites, like Facebook, Snapfish or Flickr.

Anyone with a particularly large music collection can store their files centrally; using iTunes, they can stream these songs to any other computer on a network. Connected users just have load iTunes, then click on the server icon in the left pane of the main window. Note that music streaming is only supported through iTunes, which means that you'll need to download the app for any PCs.

At a beginning price of $500 or $800 (for the 500GB or 1TB models), the MediaSmart Server can be handy for backups of multiple computers, allowing remote access to a system while traveling, or merely streaming music. Just be aware that its reliance on Windows Home Server puts you at the mercy of all of Windows' quirks and flaws. If you want to avoid Windows entirely, you'll probably want to skip the product. If you have a PC however, you'll find the MediaSmart to be a reliable and useful addition to any small network.

by MacNN Staff



  1. greenG4

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It's not for Macs...I got a great idea--post it on MacNN!

  1. jameshays

    Joined: Dec 1969


    MacNN becomes...

    Mac Opinionated Regurgitation Or Nonsense

    or MORON for short.

    For macintosh users, this solution is really not any better than having a shared folder on a Time Capsule or AirDisk and about 50% more expensive.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969




    actually, this is the first HP MediaSmart Server to include OS X support... don't be so quick to attack MacNN.

  1. martinX

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I know where this is goin

    Crafty. Pop in a 'review' of a Windows based device (and a nice bit of kit too), drive demand and Apple will hopefully rise to the challenge. Assuming they haven't made on already. Basically this could be a Mac mini 3 more hard drives. Take a look at the HP one, though. Bit of a monster, and I reckon those fans would kick along like a G4-powered wind tunnel. Apple's effort needs to be smoooother.

  1. imagine engine

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple solution

    It will be interesting to see if Apple announces their own home server solution whether as an update to the Time Capsule or a total redesign which incorporates Time Machine for network backup.

    As for the HP Media Smart Server I really don't understand how HP can make consumers believe their update to the server is Mac friendly. From HP "The HP MediaSmart Server Control Center is a small Windows-based program that runs on the client PC and is the graphical user interface (GUI) for the casual user to easily access shared folders, HP Photo Webshare, the iTunes server and the Windows Home Server Console. The control center GUI
    itself is not available to Mac OS users, but for the most part the functionality is available through some
    other means." They should of ported their Smart Media Control Center software for OS X to make the server more user friendly on a LAN that is entirely using OS X, not Windows. If they didn't want to port it then at least make the Control Center accessible via secure log-in from a remote terminal such as when traveling on the road and accessing the server remotely over cellular network or WIFI through Safari's browser. As per their documentation it appears limited functionality is only available when accessing the server remotely.

  1. ericdano

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Hey, instead of this HP c*** thing, why not review the ReadyNAS line of things that Netgear has? I have been the owner of one for 2 1/2 years now and it has been rock solid. It runs Linux, supports time machine, and is just........great.

  1. nrgsoft

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Uou do need the pc to configure, but once it's up and running it works very well with iPhone and iTunes. The next rev includes better support for time machine. I replaced a full-size dell server with this little beauty - it is SO quiet. And the lights are cool. :) Kudos to HP.

  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Little brother?

    How does it compare to it's cheaper, simpler sibling?

    This seems pretty appealing, although on the other hand it makes the Time Capsule look pretty attractive too.

  1. jarod

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I would NEVER...even if it was last option on earth, use ANYTHING from MicroSHIT. That garbage belongs in one place and one place only...the TRASH.

    Get a Mac Pro, load it up with 4TB of disk space, and run Mac OS X server. Put all your media in there, and access them from any computer or TV. It works flawlessly. Its how Im setup.

  1. JeffHarris

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Anti-Mac Server?

    I've used some Linux based Ethernet RAID drives for network backups. Yeah, they work, BUT...

    The biggest problem is file name incompatibility! There are numerous characters that are NOT ALLOWED in Linux file names. I'm an architectural designer and use things like 1", 2", etc. in VectorWorks filenames all the time. My GF is Bulgarian, so we also have lots of files and folders with Cyrillic names. It's anti-Mac not to allow every possible character.

    The "solution" is to
    A.) Try to remember which characters are forbidden.
    B.) Scan EVERY hard drive on your network with a file renaming program and rename EVERY file with offending character.

    I can tell you that A is a pain, especially since Mac OS X disallows only the colon and backslash ( : / ) i n file names. Backslash is actually optional.

    Renaming files is a pain in the butt and a huge time suck.

    The best Macintosh solution would be to dedicate an old Mac (with gigabit Ethernet!) as a file server and connect a bunch of FireWire (800!) hard drives.

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