As it’s increasingly common for households to have at least two computers, and with the media revolution in digitizing movies, music and photos, there has never been a greater need for large amounts of storage capacity. Similarly, small office environments can benefit from a simple file server on which to share files and backup PCs.
One solution is obviously to have at least one external hard drive attached by USB, but often it would make more sense to have one central storage unit that all users can access at the same time.
This is the thinking behind the HP Media Vault, which comes in two sizes; the 300GB MV2010 and the 500GB MV2020 reviewed here. Smart, sleek and stylish in brushed silver and black, this compact unit is designed with maximum simplicity in mind. Thus the front has a set of indicator lights to confirm it’s connected and working, a USB port, an On/Off button and a cover leading to an empty expansion bay. Round the back is an Ethernet port and two more USB ports – and that’s it.
The free expansion bay enables you to add any 3.5-inch internal SATA hard drive, which means your total network storage could be a whopping 1.2TB. With redundant backup capability (RAID 1) and Gigabit Ethernet support, this is also a machine geared towards fast action when it comes to both backup and moving data. Set-up is equally user friendly – simply connect the Media Vault to your router, load the Media Vault software on to each PC on your network and you’re ready to rock.
Three folders are provided initially – FileShare, MediaShare and Backup – and you are encouraged to map a drive letter to each so that your documents are kept separate from your movies, etc.
For Backup, which is well suited to a small office environment, you have several options: ‘Easy’ will automatically update your principal saved folders every time you add another entry on your PC; ‘Custom’ will let you specify which folders to backup, the number of backup file revisions you want to save and when to schedule them; ‘Drive’ will save your entire hard drive and you can later restore it with the supplied software.
The MediaShare system will undoubtedly prove the most popular among home users, as it allows you not only to drag and drop new music, video and photo files into the appropriate network folder for instant sharing, but also for each PC on the network to run a different media file simultaneously. Neither are you confined to watching a DVD, say, on your PC as any media file can be streamed to a TV or home entertainment system via a UPnP AV Digital Media Adaptor (DMA) connected to your router.
The three USB 2.0 ports mean you can, in addition, run three printers or, for instance, two printers and a separate hard drive. One slight note of caution: although the Media Vault supports file sharing from Windows, Mac and Linux-based computers, the Media Vault software is only compatible with Windows PCs.
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