Acer's Windows Home Server

I dashed off a quick "Message from the CTO" about disk drives failure probabilities and backups for the eighth DevExpress newsletter, and, for such a quick message, it really resonated with the customers. It's always the way: it seems the longer I spend polishing some bit of writing, the less it'll jibe with people, whereas if I knock it off in 10 minutes flat, it becomes the most highly-commented post ever.

The replies were so good and so welcome, that a couple of them finally convinced me to stop my madness with external drives plugged into USB ports and backing up to them and get a proper, real live, grown-up home network server to back up to. You know, join the 21st century and all that.

So, during a lull from writing for the new Wiley book on DevExpress' ASP.NET controls, I did some research to find a competent home server. I knew all about Windows Home Server (WHS), and I could have obtained a copy from my MSDN subscription, but this time I really just wanted an appliance. No messing around with it and buying the components separately. Been there, done that. I just wanted the box. Before I started I thought I was going to buy an HP, but then I saw the Acer Aspire EasyStore Home Server (the AH340) on Amazon and plumped for that instead. $367 with shipping (it's gone up in the meantime).

Four hot swappable bays (the bottom one has the OS on it, so that's kind of debatable whether it's swappable or not), a 1TB drive to begin with, WHS, an Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, blah blah. An appliance. When I got it from the UPS man in a thunderstorm, I plugged it in to the power and to my router, and booted it. I then installed the Home Server connector application on all our PCs (except the MacBook — no connector app for that) and configured the backups.

And that was it. Dead boring really. Well, OK, it came with McAfee something or other, which I dislike intensely, so I uninstalled that, but apart from that, it just sits there humming (extremely quietly, I might add) doing its stuff. Also it does have a tendency to moan and groan about the PCs not having anti-virus, but apart from that there's nothing to report but general goodness. I'll probably buy another terabyte drive next month just for expansion needs (I have four PCs backing up to it).

After a month or so of this general no-problem "just works" scenario, I'll reconfigure my external drives, and sell one to my father-in-law so he can backup his one and only desktop.

Now playing:
Crowded House - Mean To Me
(from Recurring Dream, Best Of Crowded House)

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6 Responses

#1 Scott Bussinger said...
19-Aug-09 9:34 PM

I bought my son one of these for his birthday. It's been great so far. I especially liked the fact that the 1TB drive that was included was one the nice WD green drives.

julian m bucknall avatar
#2 julian m bucknall said...
19-Aug-09 10:16 PM

Scott: You're right, I forgot to mention that. Yes, the drive you get is one of the new Western Digital Caviar Green drives which runs using less power and less noise. In fact, my laptop's fan is noisier than the Acer Aspire Server. Wacky.

I'll certainly be buying another one of those drives from Newegg next month (currently they're $85).

Cheers, Julian

#3 William Sigmund said...
20-Aug-09 7:42 AM

'... the PCs not having anti-virus...'

Interesting. You don't use anti-virus protection?

julian m bucknall avatar
#4 julian m bucknall said...
21-Aug-09 8:00 AM

William. Nope. I haven't for getting on for four years now, perhaps as much as five. There are three reasons, I suppose.

First, on XP I used to run as LUA (Least-privileged User Account), in other words, not as Administrator. (Here's a post I made about it after I'd been doing it for a while) It was a bit of a pain until I got used to the workflows, but well worth it. And then, moving on Vista, I rely on UAC. Ditto for Windows 7 (and I've ratcheted up UAC to the max from the default for that). So, unless something I was installing was itself compromised, I wouldn't suffer from viruses.

Second, I don't use Internet Explorer, the other great attack vector for viruses, the drive-by ones. Instead, I use a mix of Chrome and Firefox.

Third, I've trained myself and my wife not to click on dubious attachments, to type in passwords to websites rather than save them, etc. Your basic sanitary approach to using the Internet.

The result is no viruses, and no slowdown due to the virus checker kicking in.

Cheers, Julian

#5 Cavalry tamper proof seal said...
21-Aug-09 9:24 PM

Short and sweet story. My F: drive on my desktop is an external 500GB drive from Cavalry , one of three I own. On it I've stored the final backups of old machines before I wiped them, and also the backups of programs that do their own backup. Adobe Lightroom

#6 William Sigmund said...
22-Aug-09 3:04 AM

To #4: very useful, thanks. I've been wondering about switching off my AV program. I also avoid IE and use both Chrome and FF but wish they could sync bookmarks. I'll take the plunge and not renew my sub for ESET AV.

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