The Acer Aspire easyStore H340 is a home server that allows you to share files and digital media across your network while also providing an easy way to back up all your PCs. The version we received for testing, the H340-M, costs around £360 and comes with two hard drives preinstalled, offering a total of 2TB of storage, but a cheaper 1.2TB version, the H340-L, is available for about £310.
Four hard drives FTW
The H340 performs a similar role to most network-attached-storage devices. It connects to your home network, and has space for four hard drives that can be used to centrally store your files, so they're accessible from any computer on your network. It can also be used to automatically back up the files stored locally on your PCs, and for sharing a printer that's connected to one of its USB ports. While most NAS boxes are built on the Linux operating system, the H340 runs on Windows Home Server.
Big black box
In terms of design, the H340 isn't especially attractive. It's a big black cube with a door on the front that opens to reveal the four drive bays, two of which were filled with 1TB drives in the case of our review model. Drives placed in the top three bays are hot swappable, but the bottom one isn't because it stores the server's operating system on a 20GB partition.
Around the back of the H340, you'll find the Gigabit Ethernet port for connecting it to your router, along with 4 USB ports and an eSata port for hooking up external hard drives. There's also an additional USB port on the front, along with a button marked 'USB backup'. Connect a drive or memory key to this port, hit the backup button and the contents will be copied across to a folder on the H340.
It's when it comes to setting up the H340 that the benefits of the Windows Home Server operating system become obvious, as it's much easier to configure than most NAS devices. You simply connect it to your network via the Ethernet port on the rear and then run the software supplied on the CD-ROM. The software automatically finds the server, configures it for use with your PCs, and sets up automatic back-ups of your computers. The H340 also has a built-in Universal Plug and Play server for sharing media with other PCs, consoles and networked media streamers.
You can add extra features to the server via add-ons. The server comes with a Lights Out add-on preinstalled, which lets you configure the H340 to turn itself on and off at certain times of the day. You can download and install other add-ons, including a uTorrent plug-in which allows the server to download torrent files while your computer is turned off.
Strong and silent type
The H340 is rather noisy when it starts up but, once it has fully booted up, it actually runs remarkably quietly. In fact, the noise level is similar to that of the quieter Freeview PVRs on the market.
Given the extra horsepower offered by the system's Intel Atom 230 processor, you'd expect performance to be above par and, thankfully, this turned out to be the case -- a standard Windows transfer of a large, 1GB file demonstrated a write speed of 26.1Mbps and a read speed of 29.4Mbps.
There are some downsides, however. Unlike most NAS units, the H340 doesn't support RAID. Instead, folders are simply duplicated from one hard drive to another. This is fine as long as the bottom drive that contains the server software doesn't fail. If it does, you'll have to reach for the rescue disc, whereas, with most NAS RAID systems, you just replace the dead drive and the system rebuilds itself for you.
Another annoyance is the fact that you can't uninstall the McAfee antivirus software that's loaded on the system via the normal Windows Home Server console, although, after a spot of digging, we found you could actually remove it using the remote desktop software.
The Acer Aspire easyStore H340 isn't the cheapest NAS box on the market, but it is one of the easiest for novices to set up and use. Its read and write speeds are good, and it's very quiet when it's up and running. As a result, we think it's an ideal solution for non-technical users looking for a way to centralise or back up their files.
Edited by Charles Kloet