Switching over to Windows Home Server

Well, I have had my current NAS (Network Attached Storage) for quite some time and it did serve my requirements I had when I initially bought it:

  1. Data Security: my data was previously stored on “server” drives with the server merely being an old PC with Windows and network shares enabled. The NAS did two things in terms of security: it detached the data from a given PC and it added RAID 1 as a security option in case something went horribly wrong with it.
  2. Availability: my network consists of several different PCs (some one the same hardware but with exchangeable boot disks, some as different physical PCs) and data had to be available in a centralized location.

However, the NAS I got (a Western Digital WorldBook 1TB) did not live up to my expectations – mainly for two reasons:

  1. The Performance: horrible, although that seems to be mostly the problem of that particular series of NASs. Even attached to a 1GBit Network, I rarely exceeded 5MB/s in data transfern (and now pullig off large amounts of files gives me about 1.4MB/s) – pretty darn slow if you ask me…
  2. The Management Interface: the NAS has a small built-in Linux with a web console but it does not really make the management of the NAS as comfortable as it could be…to tell the truth: I rarely manage the NAS at all…

So for some time now, I had been looking for an alternative – knowing what I know now, the requirements slightly changed:

  1. It must be “normal user compatible” – easy to use, either always running or easily to be switched on and with absolutely ZERO administrative needs (e.g. login, etc.) – after all, people just want to access their data, not manage a server…
  2. It must be easy to administer, preferably through a console but open to direct access where required.
  3. Must take up little space and operate with little noise and power consumption.
  4. Must grant data transfer speeds that are acceptable – after all, a 1GBit Network should get your in the area of about 15MB/s…
  5. Must be open and extendable – new users, new network shares, probably stuff like media streaming, etc.

So I came across the Acer Aspire EasyStore H340 (amazon has it offered if anyone wants to take a look). Things I liked:

  1. the price – I got mine with 2x 1TB Disks at the price of 379€‚ not cheap but given that the disks are around 80€‚¬ each, the box itself is just 200€‚ which I think is fair.
  2. the power consumption: based on Intel’s Atom Processor, I knew it was fit to do what I needed it to do (after all, I have an Atom in my Netbook and it is fit enough for simple processing tasks)
  3. the space: a small box with place for four hot-pluggable SATA drives (so I got two slots free) in relative neat design (black with blue LEDs)
  4. the Operating System: it rung Windows Home Server (WHS) which I think (after having looked at it in a VMWare Installation first) is giving me what I need.
  5. the Security: well, the WHS/Acer combo does NOT give you any RAID Level disk mirroring or striping but it can duplicate folders and keep selected data on separate physical disks. That plus the fact that it allows backups to external USB Disks to keep them in separate places doese serve my security needs.
  6. the Openness: being basically a Windows 2003 Server OS, the WHS is capable of running just any software really needed – plus, of course, that software specifically developed for WHS: thinks like Lights Out, etc. seem to be pretty nice addons, as far as I can tell after the short time.

I have currently set up and initially configured the WHS Box. I also removed McAffee (which was pretty outdated and disliked by me anyway). Much to my surprise, I did not had any of the issues other people had removing it – mine just went quietly and was replaced by another, more trusted product (and by the way: one that consumes much less CPU resources than the stupid McAfee did!)

So now I am busy transferring data – and you can guess that – given the speed of the old NAS – my progress is rather slow 🙁 – I disputed ripping one of the old disks out and directly attach it but I do not want to tamper with the NAS integrity before I know that all data has been safely transferred…

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