New HP MediaSmart home servers automatically back up Macs

Company adapts its MediaSmart servers to work with Mac OS X's Time Machine

Bowing to burgeoning sales of Macintosh computers to North American consumers, Hewlett-Packard Co. is adapting its latest MediaSmart Windows home servers to back up customers' Mac computers using the OS X's Time Machine auto-backup feature.

Time Machine was introduced in October 2007 as one of the features in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.

The original MediaSmart servers were introduced a month later. Running an enhanced version of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Home Server operating system, the central administrative consoles in the MediaSmart EX470 and EX475 can perform automatic backups of photos, video files and other data stored on networked Windows XP and Vista PCs. The servers can also stream out music files to iTunes running on either Windows or Macs.

Before, backing up files from Macs was a more manual process, typically requiring users to use Time Machine or other backup software from each individual Mac. The new EX485 and EX487 models rectify that by letting users set Time Machine backups from the server consoles.

"This makes the Mac a first-class citizen," said Glenn Roberts, a product marketing manager at HP.

That could make the MediaSmarts attractive to homeowners running both Macs and PCs on their home networks, said Joyce Putscher, an analyst at In-Stat Inc. But she also said that sales of home servers such as the MediaSmart remain small and amount to a tiny slice of the total network-attached storage market.

"It's still early-adopter days," Putscher said, adding that sales could be hurt as consumers pinch pennies because of the economic downturn.

Vendors "need to get the message across [that] 'yes, we're a little more expensive than a network drive, but you're going to be glad you spent the extra money because of x, y and z,'" Putscher said.

HP is trying to do that by touting other features exclusive to the EX485 and EX487. Besides compatibility with Time Machine, the new MediaSmarts can be set to back up to Amazon.com's S3 Web-hosted storage service to provide an extra layer of data security.

Users can also set the MediaSmart servers to automatically detect and back up photos stored on networked PCs and enable those to be easily published to popular Web sites such as Google's Picasa, Facebook or Flickr, Roberts said.

While most PC vendors are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the home server market, HP has dived in head first.

It was the first to release home servers running the Microsoft OS when it launched the MediaSmart EX470 and EX475 more than a year ago.

The EX485, with a price tag of $599, comes with 750GB of storage, and the $749 EX487 has 1.5TB. They sport relatively modest Intel Celeron 2.0-GHz 64-bit processors and 2GB of DDR2 RAM.

Those are still upgrades from the original EX470 and EX475. They were released last year with AMD's Sempron 1.8-GHz 64-bit CPUs, 512MB of RAM, and 500GB and 1TB of drive space, respectively.

HP is heavily discounting the EX470 and EX475 now, selling them for $449 and $549, respectively.

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