HP Media Vault Pro Review: Small-biz NAS for HP fans

Photo of author

Bill Meade


At a Glance
Product HP StorageWorks Media Vault Pro (mv2040)
Summary Small-biz version for dual-drive NAS with bundled "bare metal" and online backup solutions
Pros • Gigabit Ethernet
• NTI Backup Software included
• 2GB of online Spare Backup included
Cons • Jumbo frames not supported
• Spare Backup is a work in progress
• Only one drive is user-replaceable

HP Media Vault Pro

HP recently added a new member to its Media Vault NAS line. The Media Vault Pro is intended to appeal to small business owners with expanded storage capacity (1 TB) and a bundled online backup storage service.

With the mv2040, HP’s Media Vault line now includes 3 models:

  • HP Media Vault (mv2010 / mv2020)
    • 300GB / 500GB of storage
    • Bourne Identity movie included
    • 2 free downloads from CinemaNow
    • NTI Backup
  • HP Media Vault Pro (mv2040)
    • 1TB of storage
    • Spare Backup CD and service (2 GB storage included, more available for additional cost)
    • NTI Backup

Jim Buzbee reviewed the mv2020 last November and liked it a lot. Since he covered most of the features of the base Media Vault, I’ll be concentrating more on the "bare metal" backup option provided by the bundled NTI Backup program and Spare Backup online storage feature.

Most NAS vendors now use some sort of tray to ease insertion and removal of SATA drives. HP also uses a tray for the single drive that is user-replaceable (the other drive is obviously not intended to be customer-replaceable since it requires disassembly of the enclosure).

As you can see in the product picture above, the tray has both a front pull release lever, and a round twisting lock above the drawer. The twist lock requires a tool (a dime worked for me) to unlock the tray, allowing the drive to be removed and reinserted. But you can also leave the lock unlocked and the drive works just fine. Belt-and-suspender award to HP for physical security.


Write and read speeds of the mv2040 in JBOD mode are shown in the following four figures compared to the mv2020, Thecus N5200, and Synology CS-406. You can generate these or other comparison plots for yourself using the NAS Charts. If you have not tried generating charts, you are missing a tool that is both fun and useful.

So, today’s homework assignment is to replicate figures 4, 5, 6, and 7. Go to the NAS Charts and check the boxes of the NASes compared here (mv2020, mv2040, Thecus N5200, and Synology CS-406), and then click the "Throughput vs. Filesize" button to plot out comparisons. Figure 1 will pop out first, and then you need only choose a drop down to select Figure 2, Figure 3, and Figure 4. Easy? Absolutely!


  • Firmware version tested was
  • The full testing setup and methodology are described on this page
  • To ensure connection at the intended speeds, the iozone test machine and NAS under test were manually moved between a NETGEAR GS108 10/100/1000Mbps switch for gigabit-speed testing and a 10/100 switch for 100 Mbps testing.

100 Mbps Write comparison

Figure 1: 100 Mbps Write comparison

100 Mbps Read comparison

Figure 2: 100 Mbps Read comparison
1000 Mbps Write comparison
Figure 3: 1000 Mbps Write comparison
1000 Mbps Read comparison
Figure 4: 1000 Mbps Read comparison

In read and write performance, the mv2040 looks to be about the same as the mv2020 with the exception of 32M reads (although this could just be more of an iozone repeatibility issue). However, it’s clear that both HP NASes are slower than the Thecus 5200 and Synology CS-406. This is most likely due to the Media Vault’s use of the Broadcom 4785 processor and only 64 MB of memory vs. 256 MB in the Thecus and 128 MB in the Synology.

In my review of the Synology CS-406, I was pleased by how cool (temperature) the NAS seemed to stay at all times. But the mv2040 gets so hot when working that I would not be comfortable putting it on a bookshelf. The mv2040 will need an open space to breathe if you are going to exercise it a lot.

One problem I had with the mv2040 was that in JBOD configuration, the iozone file test failed 5 times out of 6 that I ran it. But Tim Higgins had no problems running his iozone tests in RAID 1 and JBOD modes. To check whether my problems was related to the computer that I was running iozone on, I ran iozone on USB hard drives and on my Clarkconnect Enterprise 4.1 server without failure (2 runs each). Try as I might, I couldn’t make the mv2040 behave when configured in JBOD. So the mystery is unresolved, although I’ll note that the mv2040 otherwise performed just fine.

While the mv2040 is slower than the Synology and Thecus NASes, it also has a much more valuable bundle of features (for Windows users) than either of those units. You can see the NAS immediately, there are no chmod 755 commands needed, and you can start moving files and backing up within minutes.

What’s Got Your Back Up?

If we could get people in small offices to do one thing more with NASes, what should it be? My vote is for laptop backup. We’ve all been guilty of not backing up our laptops; some of us have lost laptops and paid the price. The mv2040 has an excellent set of backup tools for people in small offices to stop feeling guilty about not backing up.

Seems like we’ve been backing up with Windows XP Pro’s backup utility for forever. We all know the drill. You back up. Your drive at some point fails or becomes too cramped, so you put a new drive in. But you first have to install XP Pro before you can restore the image. The whole process seems like it takes forever—my personal record is 34 reboots to restore an XP Pro laptop image on a Toshiba P4 laptop after XP service pack 1 came out.

The big deal about "bare metal backup" programs is not so much what it is, but, what it allows you to do. Bare metal backup programs allow you to image your drive like you can with other programs such as Norton Ghost. But you don’t need to reinstall Windows or any application to restore the disk image. Instead, bare metal backup programs create a boot disk that is capable of starting the computer, finding the source (NAS) of the backed-up image and restoring it.

The psychic cost of backing up is lower by not having to think about the need to install a copy of Windows that you will immediately overwrite. Maybe you have no problems with backup, but knowing that I’d have to restore XP Pro has prevented me from backing up as often as I should.

So bare metal backup enables more backups. And it enables more complete backups because full-image backups are easy to understand and do than incremental restores. For me, bare metal backup is a NAS killer app.

Before reviewing the mv2040, I had used Acronis Trueimage Home. Acronis has won lots of awards, and at $50 it is easy to justify buying. But NTI Backup comes with the mv2040 and it seems to be not that different from Acronis.

NoteNote: Norton Ghost also has a system recovery feature using a System Recovery CD that comes with it. But I’ve never been able to get it to work. Acronis worked the first time and every time since.

Confession: In the past 9 articles I’ve written for SmallNetBuilder, I’ve used pieced-together desktop computers running XP. I’ve felt a little guilty because I haven’t been using systems that come with WinBloat and professionally pre-integrated components. So, trying to be a good boy scout, I looked-up dealnews deals on laptops and found an Acer 9410-2028 at CompUSA for $600 after rebate. The 9410 has gigabit Ethernet, 160 GB drive, 17" glossy screen, and… Windows Vista Home Premium.

I upgraded the RAM to 2 GB (news flash, the 9410 does not support 4 GB of RAM even though the spec sheet says it does), installed the mv2040’s software and… started running into walls and falling into tank traps.

NTI Backup

I ran NTI backup to back up the entire hard drive image of the Acer 9410. First, I ran this backup wirelessly (802.11g) to get an idea of how long that would take. Answer: about 45 minutes for the 16 GB on the hard drive. Next, I re-ran the NTI backup doing the same image over gigabit Ethernet. Over the wire, the backup took 22 minutes. So, the wireless-to-wire backup multiplier is 2:1 for NTI backup. Good to know.

Next, I booted the Acer 9410 from the emergency NTI backup disk that comes with the mv2040, to see if I could restore from either of my disk image backups. Short answer is no, I could not restore. Instead, I received the error message in Figure 5.

NTI Backup Emergency Restore Disk Error

Figure 5: NTI Backup Emergency Restore Disk Error

When you click "OK" in Figure 8 you get to see the heart-breaking is it… wait…. wait… going to work anyway???… wait… wait… message in Figure 6.

Emergency Disk... not starting network services!

Figure 6: Emergency Disk… not starting network services!

Alas, no, It didn’t work. I was not able to restore the Acer 9410-2028 laptop’s disk image with NTI Backup. Next I tried Acronis True Image and had exactly the same problem. I could boot up the laptop, but not restore the disk backup image from the NAS.

When I talked with HP about what was going on, it turns out that the problem is the Realtek RTL8168/8111 gigabit Ethernet chip. A quick Google search on this chip shows that the Linux community is having heartburn caused by the RTL8168/8111, so NTI not having a driver is not a big surprise. HP said that a new image of the emergency boot disk will be available on their support site within a few weeks.

HP really wanted to see me try NTI Backup on a Windows XP machine laptop, however. Actually, if I had had a choice when I purchased the laptop, I would not have purchased Vista. But just try to find an XP laptop at retail!

HP actually sent me an XP laptop to test against NTI Backup. So imagine my surprise when I found a Windows Vista dv2000 laptop in the box! But, despite Windows Vista, the backup/restore on the mv2040 of the laptop worked fine, since it didn’t use the troublesome Realtek chipset.

TipTIP: The mv2040 has 3 CDs that come with it:

– PC Client Software Installation
– PC Recovery CD (Emergency Disk)
– Spare Backup install disk

Although the first 2 disks are available as images from the Software and Driver downloads page for the mv2020, HP hasn’t made them available from the 2040 support page. Having disc images that can be burned to CD is a great idea, and HP appears to be refreshing these images as their shipping software is revised. I just hope they soon get these links up when you go looking for the 2040.

Spare Backup.

In addition to the NTI backup, the HP mv2040 comes with a 2 GB Spare Backup account. Spare Backup is not just backup, it is:

  • Offsite, online backup,
  • A means of sharing files, with some security (username and password protected)
  • Automatic backup (out of the install it runs with a default set of files to save and default frequency of save)
  • A way to access your files away from your office via the Internet

2 GB of Spare Backup space comes bundled with the 2040. The 2GB service is valid for up to 3 years and may be shared by any number of users. According to an HP spokesperson, once a user approaches 80% usage of that space he/she is alerted and "offered the opportunity to upgrade to higher levels of service at very competitive prices".

The key challenge is how to maximize the benefit of backing up a subset of what is on your drive. Spare Backup is truly complementary to the NTI Backup. NTI allows you to image the entire drive. Spare Backup allows you to push critical files off-site and then access those files from anywhere on the Internet. So bundling both these backup programs with the mv2040 should please many small business users.

Because I was dealing with a pre-production sample, I had some problems with a missing web page on the Spare Backup website when I initially attempted to install Spare Backup. But those problems have since been fixed. By the time you read this, you should be able to buy an mv2040, install the software for it, and then obtain the HP Media Vault access to Spare Backup without any problems.

When you install the mv2040 Windows client software, you will find HP Media Vault and Spare Backup shortcuts on your desktop and an HP Media Vault icon in the task bar.

Aside on Annoying Taskbars

Having had several HP printers over the years, I normally don’t like HP’s nagging style of task bar. For example, I had an HP InkJet printer task bar icon that nagged whenever it could not see the printer. Not handy when you take your laptop on a trip. The Media Vault task bar software, however, doesn’t nag, even when I turned the mv2040 off. So the Media Vault software gets high marks for not being a task bar nag.

HP’s PC client installation process does not install Spare Backup. Insted, you get an icon on your desktop that, when clicked, runs an applet to take you to the Spare Backup web site. Once you are there, you download the Spare Backup software (which adds a second icon) and then install, leaving a third icon. This process leaves you with three essentially idential Spare Backup icons on your desktop, which is unnecessarily confusing.

Spare Backup uses a distinctive perspective on backup that I haven’t seen before, which groups file types, i.e..txt,.doc, etc., into backup types. Every file type is seen as one of nine backup types (Figure 7).

Default Backup Types

Figure 7: Default Backup Types

When you click on each file type (Documents, Graphic Design, Finance, etc.) a dialog box pops open that allows you to de-select the file types grouped into each category if you don’t want to back up those file types to your Spare Backup space. Operating system files, by the way, are not backed up by default.

These default backup types are used by Spare Backup instead of tree-structured directories. So when you access your files via the Internet after backing them up, you see them in terms of the nine default backup types. This makes document types easy to get at. But, got a bunch of word processor documents backed up? You’ll have to scroll through them, which can get very tedious.

A second aspect of the Spare-Backup-world-view is to minimize space used. Part of this is understandably driven by cost limitations on space and the limited upload bandwidth that most of our ISPs miserly dole out. But part of it is a philosphy of backing up only the working documents that have value to users. Instead of making sure that its backups don’t miss any files, Spare Backup works from a bottom-up philosophy of saving just the documents that are valuable.

Spare Backup Tour

Figure 8 shows the Spare Backup PC client program Status window. When you install Spare Backup, you can open this window and click on "Instant Backup" and Spare Backup will begin copying the default set of backed up file types to the remote server. You can see that my laptop had 1783 files backed up that took 575.13 MB of space. Remember, this is a brand new laptop that has exactly 2 folders of my work on the desktop. So it would seem that Spare Backup casts its net wide for files.

Main Spare Backup Window

Figure 8: Main Spare Backup Window

The next menu in Spare Backup is the Recover menu (Figure 9). It has three options: recover all; recover selected files; and a recover (Microsoft) Outlook.

Figure 9: Recover Menu

There are a lot of sub-menus tucked into the settings menu in Spare Backup. As I navigated around, I found myself thinking of the Spare Backup program as a web brower. It wasn’t irritating to use, but it has that feeling of wearing boxing gloves to pick flowers that web browser applications always give me.

Settings Menu

Figure 10: Settings Menu

The first time I opened the Settings menu (Figure 10), I recieved an interesting error message (Figure 11), but I subsequently wasn’t able to replicate the problem.

Error message

Figure 11: Error message

If you have a few files that you need backed up and that you need access to when you are away from the office without a computer, then you can tune Spare Backup to grab just those files with the file and folder selector dialogs in the Settings menu (Figure 12). It seems to me that anyone who needs access to just a few files away from the office would usually be most happy taking a laptop with the files on it. But I’m sure there are scenarios where you don’t want to carry a laptop.

File and Folder Selectors

Figure 12: File and Folder Selectors

Spare Backup Tour – more

The Workgroup tab (Figure 13) in Spare Backup’s client application adds two degrees of freedom. First, allowing other users to access your files from the Internet. And second, adding file replication and version control. When you click on "Manage workgroup" in Figure 13 you are taken to the dialog in Figure 14. When you click on "Sync workgroup caches" you are taken to the dialog in Figure 15.

Workgroup Menu

Figure 13: Workgroup Menu

Figure 14 shows the add and delete user controls. In addition to adding and deleting users, the Envelope icon lets you send an install email to a user you are adding. The book icon allows you to edit the profile for a user. The document icon allows you to preset what groups of file your workgroup peers will back up (Figure 16).

Note that there is no help available on the workgroup features of Spare Backup inside the application. Even on the web site, the workgroup features are not described in the product features.

User Management

Figure 14: User Management

Workgroup Cache Syncronize Control

Figure 15: Workgroup Cache Syncronize Control

Figure 16 also shows the presets you can set for a user. To learn what these presets were, I logged into the on-line help. Aaron R was my tech support person, who was available at 12:04 AM Mountain Time on a Monday! Amazing. Help available when you are getting into trouble! It appears that there is one person at the online help desk in the small hours of the morning. The two times I used online help in a week’s time, both happened at midnight and Aaron R answered my questions both times.

User Presets for Files Peers will Back up

Figure 16: User Presets for Files Peers will Back up

When you access the online help, your account must be looked up to start. That took about three minutes and it was about 10 minutes total before I was helped by Aaron R.

In Figure 17 you can see my question. I was trying to learn whether Spare Backup automatically pushed files backed up from a master computer, down to "slave" computers in a workgroup.

Initial Query Entry Dialog

Figure 17: Initial Query Entry Dialog

Figure 18 shows Aaron R’s answer. He picked up immediately on my question. The only way the files from a master computer will be put on other computers is if the other computers do a restore operation.

Answer to Question

Figure 18: Answer to Question

So, it appears that Spare Backup’s workgroup functions are something like a shared mail box. You can put files in and take them out, but you have to manually work the process to make the files move.

Spare Backup Web Access

Spare Backup’s web access is shown in Figure 19. You can clearly see how Spare Backup X-rays the files on a hard drive and reorganizes them by backup type. Revisions are tracked, but I was unable to determine whether Spare Backup is keeping past revisions for safe keeping.

Spare Backup File Acces Via Web

Figure 19: Spare Backup File Acces Via Web

Spare Backup advertises up to 50 GB of storage for as little as $6 a month. Backups appear to be triggered at timed intervals and you’ll find the Spare Backup task bar icon (a silver rotating disc) popping up at intervals. But I wasn’t able to find the controls to change the backup interval.

Did Spare Backup work? Yes! Will Spare Backup solve big problems? That depends on your problems. Spare Backup is a complex system. There is a PC client piece and a back end server piece and it appears that both pieces are in flux. There is also not a good source of help information across all the Spare Backup pieces. There is definitely the feeling of rapid change and developing capabilities. However, what the product does today is pretty cool—if you can figure it out.


For a small business owner storing accounting, word processing, and media files, the mv2040 would make a great first NAS purchase. It *feels* like an HP product because it has bullet-proof networking, streamlined interface and a well thought-out Windows software bundle.

It also feels like an HP product because it doesen’t have any risky paradigm-changing features and it doesn’t leave any of Linux’s rough edges hanging out where we Linux wannabees will trip over them. Perhaps you could argue that the Spare Backup is a risky paradigm-changing feature. But if it is, it is a feature that only early-adopters will use. And it is implemented in such as way as to not bother first time NAS buyers.

If your laptop does not have a "bare metal" drive image backup, you should seriously think about this NAS. The NTI Backup didn’t work for me, but that will soon be fixed and I don’t hold it against the mv2040. Bare metal backups are the first killer app file type that small business NASes are made to hold. This is the first system I’ve seen that provides both the software and the place to put the bits in one package.

Related posts

QNAP TS-112P Turbo NAS Review

QNAP's TS-112P is a lot of NAS for only $120.

WD My Book Live Duo Reviewed

WD's My Book Live Duo improves on its single-drive sibling with dual drives and much easier-to-use remote access.

QNAP TS-412 Turbo NAS Reviewed

QNAP's TS-412 rounds out QNAP's new family of lower-cost Marvell-based NASes.