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Home Network Setup

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Hey guys, I need a little help setting up my home network to get optimal performance for media sharing.

 

Here is my current setup:

 

Router: DLink DIR-655 running the latest firmware. Supports UPnP.

All media is located on either internal or external drives connected to the PC in my sig. Connected to the network via Ethernet.

I have a Dell Zino HD serving as an HTPC for my TV (hooked up via HDMI). I am using XBMC as a media front end. Connected to the network via Ethernet.

Macbook has an external hard drive hooked up to it, used primarily for backup purposes. Connected to the network via Wi-Fi.

I also have an iPhone and an iPad, obviously hooked up wirelessly.

 

What I would ideally like to do is get a Windows Home Server, either the Acer Easystore or the HP MediaSmart EX495, and use it for backing up and storing media on it to stream to all of my computers/devices. I have about 4TB of media and probably 1TB worth of backups (games, documents, pictures, etc.). If possible, I would like to be able to remotely access the server when I'm away from home.

 

My question is which WHS I should get and what are the ideal settings for the server, the computers, and the router? Would a WHS even work if I plan on using XBMC? I've heard about something called DLNA but have absolutely no idea what that means for me, if it even applies.

 

Thanks guys, I appreciate any help you can provide.

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I've got an Acer Easystore...I currently have it set up as my media server/backup server. I only have one other machine (a laptop) that I use to access it. The Easystore was basically ready to run out of the box. It's been quite a while since I set it up, but I don't remember needing to do any special "settings." I've got mapped network drives on my laptop if I just want to browse files on the server. WMP on my laptop knows my media library is on the server. I also have the "Media Library Sharing" turned on, so other devices like an Xbox could play music or movies. I think that is the DLNA feature. My U-Verse DVR can show photos or play music from it with this turned on (no video unfortunately, stupid AT&T). Pretty straightforward operation in general; I don't do anything too fancy with it.

 

The WHS software runs daily backups on my laptop to the server. Pretty much makes the laptop useless while it is doing it though.

 

I can't comment on how well your Apple products would play with WHS, as I have none. My Droid has no problems with it though.

 

It's fairly speedy when downloading files, it'll stream HD movies no problem; but again, I'm only using one machine to do so. If you're putting larger files ON to the server though, it can be pretty slow. It's faster than most Network Attached Storage devices, but it's no corporate server.

 

The one thing that really bugs me about it though, is that is no way to plug in an external monitor. Due to this, installing a software firewall is a real pain, because you have to use remote desktop and if you don't get it set up properly, well, you get the picture.

It seems like it would be fairly easy to set it up for remote access outside your home network. I haven't really looked into doing it myself. I should one of these days...

 

Overall, I really like it. Hopefully this will help you some, I've just kinda been rambling. The Acer and HP are probably going to be pretty similar in operation since they both have WHS. The main differences are the hardware specs.

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Awesome, thanks! I assumed it would work right out of the box, but figured it wouldn't hurt to ask.

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I have another question. How hard is it to swap out drives once you're already underway? I'm especially interested in the process of swapping out the primary drive. The EX490 comes with a 1TB drive and the EX495 comes with a 1.5TB drive, if I wanted to swap those out with a 2TB drive, is that easily done?

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I haven't got time to look through them all, but the QNAP TS-459U-RP 4-bay NAS I use has a number of methods of providing shared media:

 

Samba (i.e. regular network file access)

uPNP Media Server (simplified hierarchical tree/library access)

iTunes Service (centralised iTunes library)

 

I don't know how XBMC works, but on 7MC/VMC (and any other PC usage) I just set up the libraries to point to the correct network location (e.g. \\TS459URP\Multimedia\Video\Comedy\ , \\TS459URP\Multimedia\Video\Series\ , etc.)

 

I can upgrade the hard drives (one-by-one) with the NAS still running... there is no "primary drive" to bother about, all the drives are used for storage

 

I can remotely access all the files, manage them through a browser based GUI file manager, manage downloads remotely (this is awesome as you can initiate a download before you get home)

 

http://www.overclockersclub.com/reviews/qnap_ts459u_rp/10.htm

 

 

I'd suggest checking out the QNAP NAS products as candidates for your shortlist, some of the consumer-market lines would be more reasonable priced than mine, and should feature most of the same management/configuration software

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I have another question. How hard is it to swap out drives once you're already underway? I'm especially interested in the process of swapping out the primary drive. The EX490 comes with a 1TB drive and the EX495 comes with a 1.5TB drive, if I wanted to swap those out with a 2TB drive, is that easily done?

I don't have any experience trying to swap the OS drive (which is also used for data storage), but the pure data drives are hot swappable. To change the OS drive, I think you would need to power down, replace the drive, then start the re-image process over your local network. My Acer came with a CD you put in another local computer, then you press a hold a combination of buttons are the server to get it into a mode for a reinstall over the network. Not difficult, but I don't know what would happen to any data stored on other drives.

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Thanks guys, you've all been very helpful. I'm feeling pretty confident about easily sharing files across the network. However, now I'm confused as to which device I should get.

 

The HP Mediasmart has better hardware and more software options plus a vibrant community, so I'll have access to lots of support and software addons. However, the Acer is cheaper and offers more storage to start with, which means I won't have to deal with the hassle of swapping out the primary drive sometime in the future.

 

Of course, now I also have the problem of whether a WHS device is what I need or whether a simple NAS will fulfill my needs.

 

I have a $600 budget. What's the best option for someone who wants to stream media to Windows, Mac, and iOS; backup files; access all the contents remotely; and allows for plenty of expansion?

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