Now we are going to answer the questions we asked in the Introduction. What about Windows Home Server? Based on Windows Server 2003, this operating system doesn't differ from its ancestor much. The only formal difference is that it comes with a set of remote management utilities. An ordinary user won't ever need anything other than Windows Home Server Console and will never actually face the OS. The only downside is that this OS + console pair offers but limited functionality such as creating a folder, adding a user, assigning access rights. Such a solution is inferior from nearly every aspect to modern Linux-based NASes as it only offers SMB as a file access protocol, doesn't support network printers and UPSes, has no file download system, lacks a browser-based file manager or an all-format media player. No RAID (even though this feature is not important for home applications), no iSCSI, no video surveillance. It doesn't allow doing much with external storage devices and makes you use a special console for setting it up.
Some of these downsides can be solved by installing add-in modules or by using a remote desktop connection to install ordinary Windows software, but that’s rather tricky.
On the other hand, this server is good enough for working on a Windows-based network. Its most interesting feature is the built-in system for backing up data from client PCs. The abovementioned ordinary NASes can't do that by default (you have to install third-party software like that from Acronis). Another interesting feature is the remote access to files and PCs on the LAN. You may also find the access to ASUS’ online storage system useful.
Thus, we think that Windows Home Server performs in a different class than the NASes we reviewed before. It's like with Apple products that work perfectly with each other but may have compatibility issues with other platforms.
In terms of performance, this server doesn’t impress with its peak data-transfer speed of 40-70 MBps considering that it runs on an x86 architecture. This speed should be enough for most applications, but competing Linux-based solutions are generally faster.
Being a high-quality and problem-free product, the TS mini proves ASUS’ leading position among hardware makers. It may be interesting for beginner users who need an out-of-the-box solution for data backups including full copies of LAN computers’ disks. Enthusiasts and professionals may also be interested as they get a compact x86 system with a standard Windows OS to implement nearly any home server scenario they may think of.
The TS mini will come at about $300 for a configuration with one 500GB disk and 1 GB of system memory and at about $450 for a configuration with two 1TB disks and a 2GB memory module. We guess that’s quite appealing compared to other x86-based solutions available on the market.