Sunday, August 2, 2009

Windows Home Server (Acer Aspire AH340)

If you are like me then you are really bad at backing up your computer. Except for financial information I've never had much on my PC that was worth backing up. Now that we have kids things have changed. My wife takes several GB worth of pictures and video every few weeks. Losing these would be unthinkable. Up until now our backups mainly consisted of a handful of DVDs and an assortment of images that were been uploaded to the various photo hosting sites. After a recent scare with my PC I decided to bite the bullet and buy a Windows Home Server (WHS). In general I'm not a huge fan of Windows, but I've read good things about Windows Home Server. My goal was to find a unit with a dedicated processor and expandable hard drives. I didn't want to build my own box, so the Acer Aspire AH340 fit the bill nicely.

The unit includes a 1.6Ghz Atom Processor, 2GB of RAM and a 1TB drive. I added an extra 1TB drive right away for a total of 2TB. It will hold a total of 4 SATA hard drives and 3 of which are hot swappable. The unit also includes 5 USB 2.0 slots and 1 eSATA port for additional external drive expansion. With gigabit Ethernet transferring files to the server is extremely fast.

I currently have the WHS configured to automatically backup my Windows 7 PC and laptop daily. It was a breeze to setup and everything worked flawlessly out of the box. For most people the WHS console is adequate for performing common tasks. If you want to install additional services like Orb for instance then you can login using remote desktop. You are then presented with a bare bones UI reminiscent of Windows NT.

I'm primarily using the WHS for the following functions:
  • Automatic PC backups
  • Web Domain. The WHS allowed me to easily create a domain so that I can access the server from the internet. That's convenient for uploading and downloading files when you are away from home.
  • Audio\Video streaming. I installed Orb on the box so that I can stream audio\video to my iPhone.
  • Tivo spoofing. I installed pyTivo which allows me to view video on the WHS from my TivoHD.
Features that I'm not currently using:
  • iTune server. You can configure the WHS to be an iTunes server which is great if you want to host all of your audio\video from one primary location.
  • Offsite storage. The WHS provides a feature where you can plug in an external hard drive and backup the WHS. That's a great option if you want to store a drive in a fire proof box or at an offsite location.
All in all I'm very pleased with the unit. It sits out of site on my server rack and I let it worry about backing up my computers. The added features are simply icing on the cake.

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