HP loaned me a Data Vault to try out in a small business setting. Data Vault is basically a HP MediaSmart server, re-envisioned as a backup solution for small businesses lacking the traditional client server configuration you might find at larger companies. Where HP MediaSmart focuses on making it easy for you to play music and movies, access photos, and backup files on your home network (all things Data Vault can also do), the primary focus of Data Vault is backing up files in a small office network.
The simplicity of setting up Data Vault for backups is both a blessing and a curse. You can literally configure any Windows computer for backups with the Data Vault in minutes, making it perfect for guaranteeing the ability to backup employee computers to prevent catastrophic data loss. If you occasionally work from home or travel, you can also configure remote access to the Data Vault, allowing you to recover files when you are away from the office. Simplicity also brought a bit of frustration on my part, because after configuring Data Vault I wanted it to do more.
I don’t have a print server configured on my network, because I don’t print very often. This has resulted in my sharing a printer out from one of the computers on my network, which often means I break printing when I reconfigure something for a test. Data Vault seemed like the perfect place to set up a print server, because I had no intention of doing any wacky configuration changes to the Data Vault after setting it up. There is no option to create a print server relationship from the Data Vault browser interface, which means making changes at the Windows operating system level (something the product recommends against) are required in order to make it function as a print server.
Another area where Data Vault shines is the ability to add additional storage. I cut my teeth in an IT world where you had to configure RAID across multiple drives in order to have an effective backup solution. Like the HP MediaSmart server, the HP Data Vault uses multiple drives to store multiple copies of a file as a means of preventing against data loss. If you need more storage, you simply add another hard drive to an open drive bay or connect an external drive via either USB or eSATA. No special IT knowhow is required to maintain the Data Vault.
If what you’re looking for is an easy way to backup a small office of computers, I recommend HP Data Vault as a viable solution. If what you want is a small server to handle things like backup, printing, and user account management, there are other products you should consider instead, although I’m hopeful HP will expand the features of Data Vault in the future. You can contact HP for more details on the Data Vault product line.