Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 27

Review of the ASUS TS Mini Home Server 4/05/2010 8:00 AM Eastern

Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 27

Apr 5, 2010 12:00 PM, By Eric B. Rux

Review of the ASUS TS Mini Home Server

Figure 1. The ASUS TS Mini.

Figure 1. The ASUS TS Mini. (See larger version of image.)

Right after I reviewed the HP DataVault last month, ASUS sent me its version of a Windows Home Server, the TS Mini. The single 500GB drive, 1GB memory model sells for around $330 on both Amazon and NewEgg.

This unit is very different from the other models that I have either seen or reviewed. The hard drive bays are not easily accessible, and I found the case difficult to open. I know that sounds pretty negative for only the second paragraph, but I call them like I see them. Unlike the HP Home Servers' (Media Smart and DataVault) screwless case, the TS Mini requires five screws to add a second hard drive. Once the additional hard drive has been added, the case has to be put back together—no easy feat as you try to line everything up (see Figure 1).

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Fortunately, everything else about this Home Server is top-notch. The unit is extremely compact and very quiet. There are also quite a few external connections: six USB and two eSATA (that’s twice as many as the HPs').

The Windows Home Server Console doesn’t disappoint, either. Two pre-installed add-ins add some super value: ASUS Xtor Manager, and ASUS WebStorage. The Xtor Manager does a great job of helping you manage all of your external storage. A File Manager utility helps you manually copy files and folders on an external drive to/from the Home Server. The Sync utility ensures that the same files are on both the external and internal drives. Finally, a strangely named Backup utility actually copies files and folders from an external source to the Home Server (if you want to backup your Home Server, then be sure to use the built-in backup tools that come with Windows Home Server).

Figure 2. ASUS WebStorage

Figure 2. ASUS WebStorage (See larger version of image.)

The ASUS Xtor Manager is slick, but it’s the WebStorage add-in that really got me excited. In just a few minutes, I was backing up the data on the Home Server to the ASUS storage service on the Internet (Figure 2). Right from the WHS Console, I created an account by entering in my User ID, password, and email. You get 500GB of Internet storage free for one year. After that, you will have to pay for a subscription, based on how much online storage you want, with unlimited storage for one year at $40. You can find more information in the License Agreement.

It took me about 30 minutes to back up 100GB of data, but that has more to do with my connection speed than the ASUS backup service. The speed really doesn’t matter, though; the point is to make sure that your really, really important data (tax information and digital pictures, for example) is available in case your Home Server burns down with the rest of the house.

The ASUS TS Mini is a good Home Server. The included add-ins really add value to this already inexpensive device. There are plenty of USB and eSATA connections on the back of the server for external drives (more than the HP models).

I am concerned that the case misses the mark as a true “Home Server” targeted to the average non-technical user. There are simply too many screws, and the drive bay is too difficult to align back up with the case to ensure that the daughter board connects with the motherboard (heck, I probably lost half of my audience just trying to explain it). If you decide that the TS Mini is for you, then I would recommend that you have an experienced computer friend help you add a second hard drive for redundancy, and then never open the case again.

If you have a Home Server other than the HP or ASUS, I’d like to hear about your experiences. Drop me a line!

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