By launching a second version of its MediaSmart Windows Home Server, Hewlett-Packard gets my award for persistence in the face of adversity. I gave the original server a favorable review when it launched in late 2007. What neither I nor HP knew at the time was that the Microsoft software contained a horrible bug that could lead to corruption of both application data and backups stored on the server, which pretty much defeated the whole idea. Even worse,it took Microsoft months to fix the problem.
With a launch like that, it's a little surprising that HP is prepared to try again. But the new version of the MediaSmart server appears to be a solid improvement on the original entrant in a market that doesn't quite exist but that could well become important. The new version come in two models, the 750 GB ex485 for $599 and the 1 terabyte ex487 for $749. Both will be available on Jan. 5.
Like other home servers, including an assortment of Linux-based products, the MediaSmart server provides three main services: shared networked storage (including remote access via the Web), backup, and media streaming.
The new version adds three welcome improvements. There is full Mac support, including the ability to use the server for Time Machine backups, something that cannot ordinarily be done with non-Apple network attached storage. PacketVideo's makes it easy to stream video and other content to a variety of players, including the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3. And for those of you who mant belts and suspenders, the MediaSmart server makes it simple to back up your backups to Amazon.com's S3 online storage service.
The MediaSmart server features both USB and eSATA connectors for the addition of external disk storage. It can handle a total of up to 9 TB.