Media Serving

June 21, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Backup, Computers, Design, Hardware, Media, Technology | Leave a comment

One of the fascinating trends of recent years is how servers are showing up more and more in homes. As media collections, numbers of household computers, file sharing, and backup grow in requirements, consolidation begins to look like a great option. Why not have your entire music library available in your bedroom, living-room, and so on? Why not be able to watch that movie anywhere?

The solution is a media server. This is basically a computer dedicated to storing and sharing data. Set up properly, it also backs it up automatically.

This means that computers around the house are more about applications and outlets or media terminals. They can have specialized uses but also act as access points, kind of like a mini-Internet. Bringing computers out of the office and into living spaces means many are much more styled now, and more compact,  like the Mac mini.

If you’re technically inclined, it’s not hard to set up an old computer in the basement as a server. Linux can be had for free and requires less resources. Using a KVM switch or remote access, it doesn’t need a screen, keyboard or mouse.

Microsoft got on the bandwagon with Windows Home Server. This gets good reviews and offers the simplicity of buying it ready to go.

Another product range that’s aligning more with media serving is NAS, Network Attached Storage. Typically used for data and backup, it’s easily adapted to media serving. Recently, I was looking at the excellent QNAP line for a client. The TS-219, for example, is designed to automatically mirror the drive, giving you real time server style data backup. It can be used as a file server, FTP server, web server, backup system (with software), iTunes server, blog server, data replicator, database server, remote surveillance center, even a Torrent server for large file serving. Or several of the above. You can create virtual drives that appear as local on attached computers, even for their boot drive. It has all kind of cool features, like deletion protection, scheduled uptime,  and IP blocking. It supports game platforms like PS3 and Xbox, iPods,  and on and on.

One of the reasons I was looking at this model – it includes a print server for 3 USB printers. They become available to everyone on the network. Even print to your home office from overseas.

Interestingly, features like virtual drives and data storage mean the accessing computers can become more like the dumb terminals of yore  – inexpensive access points to shared content.

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