HP Media Vault 2120 Linux Based Home serverWe finally got our hands on the brand new HP Media Vault 2120 Linux-based home server. For those of you that have been following HP and their entry into the home server market, this is the second generation of their Linux-based home server and is a sweet little box and does almost everything the Windows-based HP MediaSmart does, but MUCH more hackable for you Linux folks! Best of all, the HP Media Vault does not have that nasty data corruption bug that has been a thorn in Microsoft’s side since the release of Windows Home Server.

The new Linux-based Media Vault servers from HP come in 3 models, the MV2120, MV5140 Pro and the MV5150 Pro. We urge you to check out Lee Devlin’s site with a detailed comparison chart between the old and new generation Media Vault servers. One major difference is the 5100 series comes with NTI Drive Backup – a product that does a complete disk image and allows complete PC Recovery if a hard drive fails, similar to that of the Windows-based MediaSmart servers. The MV2120 series only includes a file based backup, NTI Shadow. For a more detailed comparison chart, please see http://www.k0lee.com/hpmediavault/mvgen2/

The Media Vault series are all built into a small 2 drive bay chassis and looks like the “mini-me” of the HP MediaSmart. See the 2 compared side by side below.

Side by Side comparison of the Media Vault and Media Smart

You can see that the Media Vault on the left is about ½ the height of the Windows-based MediaSmart

The Media Vault uses a Marvell processor and the RAM is fixed onboard at 128MB. We were disappointed that we couldn’t upgrade the RAM, but it’s plenty for what it was designed for, and the Linux-based OS is lean and mean using much less RAM than a comparable Windows based system.

The cage is quite small but has similar LED’s and status lights as the MediaSmart provides. There is a single USB port on the front and the back of the device includes a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, another USB port and the power button. The power button is a “soft” button, and this device also seems to suffer from the same power on issue as the MediaSmart servers – not powering back up after a power failure…something we like to have in a server.

The MV2120 is shipped with a single 500GB ESATA 7200 RPM disk. An additional drive bay allows for simple disk expansion, allowing another disk up to 1TB in size. For added reliability, this second disk can be activated in mirror mode (RAID 1) to mirror the data across both disks.

Setup: Setup is somewhat similar to the MediaSmart servers where you install a Media Vault monitoring program from CD on the administrator’s computer to setup the Media Vault. The HP Media Vault monitor resides in your system tray and allows popups with information about the status of the Media Vault. Double clicking on the application in the system tray will launch the HP Media Vault Control Center – providing quick access to many of the features of the server.
Media Vault Control Center
The HP Media Vault control center application allows fast access to most features
The most important part after the setup is to set up an administrator username and password. We were somewhat surprised that there is no prompt to set this up directly and there is no default username and password, so if you don’t set this up, and you setup remote access, someone could login and take over your server by setting up an administrator account and password.

Setting up the Administrator Username and Password

We feel that this isn’t stressed enough in the setup, so we include a mini-tutorial as part of this review. To setup the administrator username and password do the following:

Step 1) Open the HP Media Vault Control Center
Step 2) Click on TOOLS & then Click on CUSTOMIZE HP MEDIA VAULT
Step 3) You will be presented with the Status Screen of the Media Vault, Click System button to go to the system settings page
Step 4) Click the green EDIT button in the bottom right corner
Step 5) Enter in a username and password – this will be the “administrator” password – the main password that has all rights on the server. We highly urge you to set a STONG username and password if you plan to enable remote access to your server. The username can be anything – we selected ours to be called “administrator” and selected a strong password. You should then use this password to setup the other features of the server, add users, create shares and more.

Media Vault Software Features: The Media Vault 2120 includes many of the features of the HP MediaSmart server for much less. It includes automated file and folder based backup for local networked PC’s (Windows based) and provides file and folder sharing options very similar to those features found in other home servers. Also included is an ITunes server for music streaming and media aggregation backs up your local ITunes library and playlists to the server.

One of the biggest differences is the total system backup (drive image) – this is only offered in the Media Vault Pro servers 5140 and 5150 models. The Media Vault 2120 offers NTI Drive Image 3 – file/folder based backup, so it won’t recover from a total system/disk failure like the MediaSmart offers in all versions. The MV2120 also has an option to backup the Media Vault directly to a local USB disk. This feature doesn’t backup the OS of the MV2120, just the shared folders: Photos, Videos, Backup, Documents, Music. The MV2120 also has a great recovery CD for reinstalling the factory drive image should you have a problem with the OS.
Simple backup
Simple Backup can be used to backup your local PC files automatically

Bonus feature: No data corruption! Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves…This is for those of you that have been keeping up with the critical data corruption bug in Windows Home Server based products…

Remote Access Features: Another feature very similar to the MediaSmart is the remote access features powered by TZO.COM. The Media Vault servers do not have the option for a “custom” domain name integrated directly into the device as the MediaSmart servers do, but they do offer a Free 1 year of the TZO powered HP Branded domain names as shown in the screenshot shown below. Although this server doesn’t offer custom domains directly integrated, TZO has Media Vault tutorial that explains you can order a custom domain name service from TZO and use the personal domain to update both.

In this example, we selected a free HP domain for our remote access setup and also enabled Internet File Browsing so we can access our files and folders via our browser as well.

For those of you that are interested in remotely controlling PC’s on the home network as you can with the HP MediaSmart, the Media Vault line of servers do not include remote access to PC’s.

Media Vault Remote Access TZO Domain Configuration
The HP Media Vault Remote Access setup screen
We liked that fact that HTTPS is disabled by default and end user selectable, something There is no solution at this time for SSL Certificates for folks that enable HTTPS mode on their server. This is an improvement over the MediaSmart which forces all web connections via HTTPS.

Webshare – Photo and File Sharing: HP also ported over their Photo Webshare application for sharing photos with friends and family members. From first looks, the photo sharing appears to have the exact same features and functions of the MediaSmart servers. Internet Explorer users can install an ActiveX component to select and upload photos quicker than users with other browsers, and the server also has email notification of new photos and albums, using TZO servers for outbound email notification. This is a nice feature provided by HP – it makes it very simple for novice users that don’t know what their SMTP server settings are.

Adding Photos using the Media Vault Photo Webshare
The Webshare application works best in Internet Explorer browser
In order to test the Webshare Photo sharing functionality, we setup a user to be a photo share manager, and then attempted to login to create albums and upload some photos. We logged into the Media Vault by clicking on the Photo Webshare link as shown in the screenshot below.

HP Media Vault 2120 Main Screen
The HP Media Vault main screen when accessing with your browser

Once clicking on Photo Webshare, we expected to be presented with the standard HP Photo Webshare login but we continued to get this error screen shown below that says :”We’re sorry, but remote access is not configured correctly for the HP Media Vault”

Media Vault Webshare Error
Shot of the HP Media Vault Photo Webshare error screen
We scanned the remote access setup and browsed through the manual but still couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t add photos! After some more searching and emailing a few questions to HP, we discovered that this above screen means that there has been no “external” hits from outside IP’s to the Webshare – thus the Photo sharing features was disabled. Only after we setup remote access and forwarded ports, then left the location and hit the domain name from an external IP did we get the login for photo webshare. A trip home shortly afterwards also showed that it “unlocked” the photo sharing so we could log in from our local network. It seems that it blocks the local subnet at first from loading the webshare. If another subnet makes a request, that seems to do also unblock it. It’s probably a good idea that when adding photos to the Photo Webshare, you do this as the last step in your setup. We also suggest that you read the manual thoroughly as we failed to do! 

Some users will not run into this issue if they setup the router and the router support loopback, using the domain name internally should do it. If it doesn’t, your router may not support the loopback and it may take a trip somewhere else or give a friend or relative a call and have them try to load up your domain name from their browser.

Here is a shot of the “success” screen that shows you can now login to the webshare. See the tip below on how we fooled the Media Vault into unlocking the Webshare by never leaving our network.
Webshare Success
Shot of the HP Media Vault Photo Webshare success screen
We do hope in the near future that HP clears this message up and makes it easier to understand what the exact error is. If the Media Vault is used for backup in a small company, and no remote access is planned, this means that the photo sharing portion probably won’t be “activated” from an external source. This effectively removes this feature unless it can be hit from an external IP, or using the tip below.

HP Media Vault Photo Webshare
Shot of the HP Media Vault Photo Webshare in Action
Photo Webshare activation tip: After some testing on untouched Media Vault servers, it seems that it does NOT have to be a true “external” WAN IP address to enable the webshare. We ended up trying a request from a different internal subnet to the internal WAN IP of our Linksys router and this worked. Although it’s not an ideal scenario, you can “fool” the Media Vault into unlocking the Webshare, so not all hope is lost if your ISP blocks all inbound ports or if you plan on using the Webshare as an intranet photo share.

File Sharing: The HP Media Vault server also has file browsing capabilities so users with proper permissions can upload and download files into designated folders. This is all done without FTP, using a standard web browser. File and Folder sharing can be disabled separately from Photo sharing. An example of File browsing function in your browser can be seen in the screenshot below. We liked that this feature didn’t require Internet Explorer and ActiveX, we could upload and download files using any standard browser such as Firefox.

HP File Browser
The HP Media Vault File Browser makes it easy to upload and download files
Closing Thoughts: Overall performance was good for the short duration that we’ve been playing with it. The remote access worked perfectly after following the proper steps to set it up and the Photo Webshare also worked well. We also played around with uploading and downloading files via the Internet file browser and that was easy enough that a novice could use it. The Media Vault also worked well streaming audio locally using the integrated Itunes server, but we didn’t have any large video files on hand to play with. For users that are looking for a similar feature set of the HP MediaSmart server but for almost half the price, we think the Media Vault 2120 is a smokin’ deal! For those that like to hack and tweak with a Linux-based OS, this little guy could be a dream come true. We plan on exploring ours and changing a few settings. We have root access and have already changed the Web Server port….tutorials to follow soon! Happy Home Serving!

HP Media Vault 2120 – $299.99
Call HP directly at (888) 999-4747 for availability
Available for pre-order at Amazon.com, Shipping April 1st

Related Links:
Media Vault Product Page
Media Vault Manual
Lee Devlins Media Vault site
TZO Remote access information and pricing