LaCie's basic home server is easy to manage and use.

Home servers are becoming more popular with families who want to store music, videos, and photos in a central location and share them inside and outside the home.

We looked at LaCie's 500GB Ethernet Disk Mini - Home Edition server, and came away impressed enough to recommend it to anyone interested in taking the home-server plunge.

The LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini is not nearly as powerful as Hewlett-Packard's £400 MediaSmart Home Server, but at £150 the LaCie hardware lets you enjoy the core benefits of a home server without busting your budget.

The LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini server, which is about the size of a hardcover book, connects to your home network router via ethernet. You cannot connect to it over Wi-Fi or through a FireWire or USB port on your PC.

Setting up the LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini took about 40 minutes, mainly because we hit a snag when the installation software didn't automatically configure our Linksys router's UPnP settings. After following the instructions for setting it up manually, tweaking our router settings to allow remote access to our home server, it worked.

What's special about the LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini home server is its software, made by Axentra. You install the included HipServ application on any computer - Windows or Mac-based - that you'd like to use to access the server. The program turns the LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini into an adept storage device that provides permissions-based remote access and media server functions such as streaming video.

HipServ has basic backup features, but don't expect a robust data backup offering. A software feature called DesktopMirror can back up and restore files, and also allows you to schedule backups of folders. You can't use it to back up an entire PC, however, and it doesn't have any system recovery features.

NEXT PAGE: accessing content via the web > >

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LaCie's basic home server is easy to manage and use.

To access your content via the web, you create a URL in the form of "yourhipservname.homelacie.com". In our tests, streaming audio and video both inside and outside a home network worked well. When used inside your home network, the LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini unit supports iTunes, which allows you to create playlists.

On the other hand, streaming audio files over the web from your LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini server is not ideal, because in that case iTunes is not supported. As a result, you can't create playlists, and the server will stream only one song at a time. If you want to listen to an entire 16-track Sheryl Crow album, for example, you have to initiate 15 separate downloads, one after another.

You can designate any folder as private; the HipServ management software allows you to create user access rights, too. After you create usernames and passwords for family and friends, the software generates email invitations you can send to them. You can grant users permission to view only the contents of a folder you've given them access to, or you can give them rights to add and delete information.

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LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini - Home Edition Server: Specs

  • 500GB storage
  • 10/100/1000 LAN
  • 1 x USB2.0/1.1 Header
  • 44x160x173mm (WxDxH mm)
  • 1.5kg
  • 500GB storage
  • 10/100/1000 LAN
  • 1 x USB2.0/1.1 Header
  • 44x160x173mm (WxDxH mm)
  • 1.5kg

OUR VERDICT

Even with the setup snags, we liked the LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini Home Edition server. Its media sharing and remote access features are easy to manage and use. However, if you're interested in more-complete PC system backups, advanced remote access features (such as a remote desktop), and the ability to expand your network by adding extra drives, you'll have to dig deeper into your pockets for another product, such as HP's MediaSmart Home Server.

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