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Acer easyStore H340 2TB
If you'll take Microsoft's word for it, sometimes a mere NAS device isn't good enough. No, rather you need a Windows Home Server in your, well, home, taking care of your backup, media sharing and remote file access needs. The Acer easyStore H340 is one such system purporting to offer any household willing to welcome it - it's a simple, but powerful, centralised storage repository able to cope with anything likely to be thrown at it.
Leaving aside its operating system, the easyStore H340 isn’t so different from many other NAS devices we've looked at. It has a single USB port on the front and a quartet on the rear, alongside an eSATA port and a Gigabit Ethernet port. A snip under £400 will net an Acer easyStore H340 pre-fitted with two 1TB hard drives, leaving two more of its four bays free. These are, incidentally, hot-swappable.
So far so usual, and the H340's 200 x 180 x 210mm dimensions and 4.5Kg (drive-less) weight aren't particularly outstanding either. Internally, things are a touch more interesting: a 1.6GHz Intel Atom 230 CPU coupled to 2GB of RAM should give the easyStore H340 a bit more poke than many NAS devices in its class, even accounting for Windows Home Server needing more processing power than the custom Linux OSs used by other NAS boxes.
While I remain unconvinced that an Atom-powered netbook could ever replace my trusty Vaio TZ, I certainly can't fault the performance of the Atom CPU powering the H340 - at no point did I find the system unresponsive. File transfer speeds were in line with expectation as well. A standard Windows file transfer of an 879MB file returned a write speed of 26.9MB/s and a read speed of 30.7MB/s, with FTP performance even better, giving 36MB/s write and 38.6MB/s read, over the office Gigabit Ethernet network.
Atom-powered NAS devices are not a particularly scare resource, however, so primarily it is Windows Home Server that stands as the selling point of this one. Fortunately, as we've already discovered through the Tranquil T7-HSA Home Server and Fujitsu Siemens Scaleo Home Server 1900, to name just a couple of systems, WHS isn't half bad. It has a few quirks and even some short-fallings, but in a home network configured to make use of its advantages those will likely go unnoticed.
The foremost of Windows Home Server's, and thus the easyStore h340's, issues is the complete lack of RAID support. In fact, WHS resides on the primary disk installed in the H340, in a 20GB partition all of its own, with the rest of the drive allocated to storage duties and backup on the server side is taken care of through simple duplication of folders onto another drive.
In an ideal world, no end user will ever notice this - it all happens in the background - but it's worth being aware of. The biggest risk is that if the primary partition fails and takes the server with it. You'll then have to replace that hard drive and use the recovery disc provided to restore your data, where other systems would enable you to simply replace the dead hard drive with a working one, then get on with things while the RAID array rebuilds in the background.