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.

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