HP MediaSmart Server LX195 Review

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Configuration & Features



Just because the server was now operational and the Windows Home Server Console software was installed on at least one client system, did not necessarily mean that we were done setting up the HP MediaSmart LX 195--far from it, in fact. We still needed to do things such as create user accounts and setup automated backups.

   

 McAfee Total Protection Service ready to install.

 Even more updates ready for installation.


Before we even got to that, however, we noticed an alert that advised us that the McAfee Total Protection Service was ready to install. HP ships the LX195 with a 7-month trial to the McAfee Total Protection Service security software add-in for the Windows Home Server OS, but the add-in does not come pre-installed. Installing the security add-in, however, was quick and easy. The Windows Home Server Console next informed us that additional Home Server updates were ready to be installed. It was only after this round of updates, that we were finally read to start configuring the server.

   

 What you should know before you
add a user account.

 Managing user accounts.


The first thing we did was to create user accounts--the LX195 supports up to 10 user accounts. Creating a user account is straightforward: you provide a first and last name, a logon name, choose whether to enable remote access for the user, assign a password, and set the user's access (full, read, or none) to the existing shared folders. When a user is created, a folder share with the respective username is automatically created.

The user account creation wizard suggests that logon names and passwords for the LX195 be the same as the respective logon names and passwords that users use on their systems. Doing so makes it much easier to access the LX195's shared folders and seamlessly provides access to the folder shares the users are supposed to have access to. We created users whose names and passwords matched on the server and on their client machines, as well as usernames that didn't match. Needless to say, we found that the advice the wizard offers is sound--having matching usernames and passwords makes accessing the server's folder a much smoother process.

   

 Creating a user account.

 Assigning user folder access
to additional users.


In addition to adding new user accounts, you can delete users as well as edit the properties of existing accounts--doing things such as changing passwords, disabling accounts, and changing shared folder access. The server includes a Guest account, which is disabled by default. You can assign shared folder access to the Guest account and choose whether or not to require a password--you cannot, however, enable remote access or delete the Guest account (but you can disable it).

   

 Managing the shared folders.

 Creating a new shared folder.


In the Windows Home Server Console's Shared Folders section you can create or delete shared folders, as well as edit user access to the individual folders and enable Folder Duplication. You can connect up to four external hard drives to the LX195's USB ports and configure the server to use these drives as additional storage. If you have additional drives connected to the server, you can enable any of the shared folders to have their contents duplicated on the additional drives. This will double the amount of storage space consumed of any duplicated folder, but it also means that if a drive fails, all of the files in the duplicated folder are still intact and retrievable. The LX195 includes Music, Photos, Public, Recorded TV, Software, and Video folders, which cannot be deleted--but you still have full control over what kind of access each user (including the Guest account) has on each of the folders.

   

 USB drives can be added as additional
storage or as backup (Archive) for the server.

 Managing the hard drives.


When you connect an external hard drive to the LX195, you can set the drive up as additional storage or as a backup destination for files that are stored on the server. When drives are added as additional storage, they get added to the server's storage capacity, and all drives are combined so as to appear to users as a single volume.


 

 Configuring which folders to backup
to the Archive drive.

 Backing up the server to the
Archive drive.


Drives connected for server backup are dedicated solely for backing up the contents of the server (which includes additional storage drives) and are not visible as available volumes to connected systems (they can only be accessed via the Windows Home Server Console). We added a 500GB hard drive to be used as backup storage for the server, and we also added a 320GB hard drive as additional storage. Once we added the 320GB drive, the server's reported storage capacity went from 596.16GB up to 894.26GB.

   

 Scheduling system backups.

 Information on a system backup.


The Windows Home Server Settings feature provides a number of additional detailed configuration options:

Backups: The LX195 can perform automated backups of both Windows and Mac clients. Windows systems need to have the Windows Home Server Console installed, while Mac clients must have the HP MediaSmart Server - Control Center installed. Backups of all Windows system are set up and scheduled via the Windows Home Server Console. Setting up Time Machine backups for Macs are done on the individual systems. We had a little trouble initially getting Time Machine to connect to the server. After a few attempts, it suddenly started working. From that point on, our Mac testbed was backing up to the server via Time machine whether the Mac was connected to the local network via a wired or wireless connection.

 

 Restoring from a backup.


We don't want to spend too much time on backups, but we want to be sure to mention that you cannot only restore individual files and folders, but you can actually restore the entire hard disk image of a backed-up system using the included PC Restore CD.

Media Streaming: The LX195 actually has two built-in media streaming engines: one that is designed to stream media to "any supported digital media receiver (DMR), such as an Xbox 360, or to a supported digital media player, such as Windows Media Player 11"; and for less OS-specific devices, the LX195 also includes a built-in TwonkyMedia server as well.

   

 Configuring the iTunes server.

 Accessing the LX195's iTunes library.


Additionally, the server also includes a built-in iTunes server (which is enabled by default). All music files copied to the server's Music folder are available to client systems on the local network via iTunes. We populated the LX195's Music folder with 6,183 music files (23.5 days worth of music, totaling 52.51GB), and each of our Windows and Mac testbed systems were able to connect to the iTunes server in a mere 7 seconds--by far the speediest such performance we've seen to date for a NAS device with iTunes server support. Unlike some other NAS devices we've seen, the LX195 provides the option of password-protecting its iTunes server.

 

 Enabling Windows Media Center access.


Windows Media Center: After enabling a feature on the server and installing an additional client app on systems that run Windows Media Center, you can also access any of the server's shared folders through the Media Center user interface. You can also access the server's shared folders from Media Center Extender devices.

   

 The LX195 comes with a built-in
add-in for performing online backups
to the Amazon S3 service.

 Configuring online server backups to
the Amazon S3 service.


Server Online Backup: The LX195 comes with a pre-loaded add-in for backing up the server's contents to the cloud-based, Amazon S3 storage service.  If you want to utilize this online backup storage option, you'll need to pay for an Amazon S3 subscription.

Add-ins: There is an active and growing community of developers making additional third-party
add-ins for the Windows Home Server OS. We installed the free RemoteAlert add-in, which provides chronological data of when users log on and off the server--a feature that we wish was already included with the LX195. We also installed a download manager add-in, so we could use the server to perform scheduled downloads and free up our client systems from such tasks. Unfortunately, whenever we added a URL for a file download, the Windows Home Server Console would freeze, and the only way we could regain access to it was by rebooting the server. Needless to say, we uninstalled the download manager add-in.

   

 Installed add-ins.

 The RemoteAlert add-in we installed.


Unfortunately, the LX195 does not support being used as a print server. There is, however, supposedly an unsupported way to hack it in order to enable print server functionality, but we did not try this. Another feature we would have liked to see the LX195 include is the ability to send e-mail alerts when the server is experiencing problems (although, there are add-ins for that too). That said, the Windows Home Server Console does include an alert section that is visible when you have the console open on connected systems, and these same alerts also pop up on the console's taskbar icon on client systems.
 

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