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Closing Thoughts

Maybe its just me, but I don't feel that the MSS is the breakthrough product that Microsoft and HP would have us believe. In fact, it pales in comparison with other "server" NASes from much smaller companies such as Qnap and Synology, which have tiny development budgets compared to HP and Microsoft.

The biggest and most curious omission is the lack of a print server. This is especially puzzling given HP's desire to dominate the consumer printing market. Although producing a print server that supports printing from multiple OSes and even just a handful of printers is a daunting task, I would have expected at least a token effort from HP.

Here is the perfect opportunity to support only HP printers and even upsell (or bundle in) select HP printers with the MSS, and HP is taking a pass. Hell, they could even get away with supporting Windows printing only, given the Windows-centric design of the MSS. This omission leaves me scratching my head.

You would also think that the MSS would provide support for Flash drives other than using them for BIOS recovery. How about being able to plug in a flash drive and have it automatically backed up, or even a (HP) camera?

Or how about support for automatic downloading, like the built-in Torrent, FTP and HTTP clients that are found in an increasing number of NASes? Yeah, the whole file downloading thing still has the faint stench of illegality wafting around it. But I'm sure that between HP and Microsoft, they could find some partners willing to throw in to promote their media download services.

The MSS even misses the boat for little things, like idle disk spin down and programmable shut down and start up. And if I can dim those lovely front-panel light bars, why can't I get them to blink to indicate disk activity?

My last beef is that the MSS ignores the whole issue of server backup. Sure, all those clients may be safely backed up to the MSS. But what happens when the MSS power supply dies or the MSS gets killed by fire, flood or theft?

If you're really going to pitch Mom and Pop on data security, why don't you offer them the assurance of some sort of automatic offsite backup service. Or even just provide the ability for automatic MSS to MSS backup? Unfortunately, HP's only answer to this is in its MSS FAQ, which suggests selective manual file backups to an external drive and offers that the WHS Folder Duplication is a form of "internal backup".

Maybe some of these holes will be plugged by WHS Add-Ins that Microsoft is trying to promote the development of. But the first three resulting from Microsoft's Code2Fame challenge don't address the issues above and it will take time for more to appear.

Pricing is a mixed bag. Street pricing looks like it will be around $750 for the 1TB EX475 and $600 for the 500 GB EX470. You can get a Terabyte two-drive NAS for under $300, while four-drive RAID 5 capable products start around $600. On the other hand, Netgear is currently trying to get almost $1000 for its four drive ReadyNAS NV+ with two 500 GB drives—the same configuration as the EX475.

I have to believe there is a premium for the Windows Home Server OS in the MSS' price somewhere, but it doesn't seem too obvious. If you're on a budget, the 500GB EX470 is probably a better deal, since you can pick up a 500 GB SATA 3.0Gb/s, 7200 RPM, 16MB cache drive for a little under $100. This is less than the $140 - $150 difference in current pre-order pricing.

So would I buy it? All things considered, no, I wouldn't. While it is a nice looking product, with performance that places it near the top of our charts, its feature set falls far short of what you can get from many less-expensive products. In my case in particular, its once-a-day approach to backup doesn't meet my needs and I'm definitely not a fan of all the crap stuff I have to install on my system to even administrate the little beastie.

Of course, if you're a WHS fanboy—and judging from the links in the official Windows Home Server Blog and posts in the WHS Forum, you're out there—your wait for HP's pretty box and an early Christmas is almost over. As for me, I'll wait for Santa.

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