Ever since its announcement back in January, the idea of Microsoft's Windows Home Server has excited me immensely. Combining all the remote storage benefits of a NAS appliance with the security of an integrated backup solution, adding media streaming capabilities, user access control, plug-in support and combining it all in a familiar Windows interface, sounded like a compelling concept. So, the moment review systems started to become available, I leapt at the chance to get one in.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Windows Home Server is just a cut-down version of Microsoft's hugely successful but highly complex Windows Server 2003 operating system that powers a huge proportion of the corporate networks around the world. Just like its more staid bigger brother, Home Server is used to control access to a shared resource, which in this case is whatever files you want to store on the server. So, for instance, you can share network folders so you have constant access to your files regardless of what computer you are using, you can also manage users, ensuring only those who have the right privileges can access certain folders or remotely access the system. However, in contrast to its much more expensive sibling, Home Server doesn't require a Ph.D in computing to administer all this.
You can buy the software separately for around £100, if you fancy putting some of your spare computer equipment to good use by building your own server. However, for the majority they will be picking up Home Server pre-installed on a custom built system, much like a NAS box. Indeed, many of the big players in NAS appliance design and manufacture are now releasing the same hardware we're already familiar with, like the Buffalo Technology TeraStation, but with Home Server installed, rather than the usual Linux based operating systems. So it is with us, as we've received a very attractive unit from the fine purveyors of all things fanless, Tranquil PC.
It's been a while since we've looked at any of Tranquil's products so it's no surprise to see the company has a new chassis to accompany this brand new Home Server configuration. It's predominantly built of aluminium and, although small (224 x 232 x 57mm) and compact, it has a dense weightiness to it that emanates a feeling of quality. The front and sides are ribbed for pleasure to increase the case's surface area and the top is slotted to allow hot air to escape. These things combined with the all metal construction and use of low power components mean the T7-HSA, as it's known, can remain sufficiently cool without resorting to the use of fans.
Connectivity is not great, but then it doesn't need to be. Once, the server is up and running it doesn't need a keyboard, mouse, monitor or anything apart from a network connection and power to work. Although there's only room for one hard drive inside, you can attach extra USB hard drives to augment the T7-HSA's storage capacity and, with four ports on offer, there's plenty to go around.