The HP X510 Data Vault is the business-oriented version of the HP MediaSmart Server, reviewed by Paul Thurrott in early 2009. The Data Vault looks just like the MediaSmart, aside from the name on the front, and it acts just like it as well, right down to running Windows Home Server (WHS). Relying on WHS is the Data Vault's big weakness for a business environment, because it isn't especially configurable.

I reviewed the 2TB Data Vault, which comes with two standard 1TB drives inside. Installing the Data Vault is just a matter of plugging in the power and Ethernet connections then installing some software. WHS automatically backs up entire computers, other than swap files, temporary files, and the recycle bin. You can set a time range for when WHS will perform backups, but that's pretty much all the input you give to the unit. The Data Vault is also compatible with the Time Machine backup software used by Macs, but I didn't test this feature.

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The Data Vault doesn't use standard RAID technology. Instead, according to information from HP all backup data is stored on two different drives. In my testing, however, I found WHS's data protection features insufficient in the case of drive failure. I simulated the drives failing by pulling them out of the Data Vault. Pulling the system drive knocked the Data Vault out—I immediately lost my connection to the WHS control panel and the Data Vault wouldn't do anything but blink its lights at me until I turned the unit off, replaced the drive, and turned it on again. Pulling out the second drive wouldn't crash the Data Vault, but without it I couldn't access my existing backups or make new ones (the WHS control panel said that the backup service wasn't running until I put the drive back in.)

HP's documentation claims all data is written to both drives, so a single drive failure probably wouldn't actually cause any data loss, but losing either drive meant I couldn't access my backups immediately. In a home environment, this probably isn't a problem, but in many business environments, losing access to your data for the time it takes to get the Data Vault going again could be a problem.

Because it runs WHS, the Data Vault can run add-in software and has a number of media streaming capabilities. I don't see these features being used in a business environment, but there's really nothing stopping you from doing so—the Data Vault has surprisingly powerful hardware (a 2.5GHz dual-core Pentium processor and 2GB of RAM), so you'd be hard pressed to bog it down by streaming music.

The Data Vault's hardware looks nice and is very small. It has room for four drives to fit inside, plus eSATA and USB connections for extra drives. The build quality of the hardware is pretty good, but I found adding and removing drives to take a bit more force than I'd expect. Also, I couldn't fully remove the second drive from my review unit at all—I could pull it out far enough to disconnect the SATA and power connections on the back of the drive, but not actually take the drive out of the Data Vault. I assume this quirk is unique to my review unit, because I can't find any other reports of this online.

Summary
HP X510 Data Vault
PROS: Easy installation and configuration, small size, powerful hardware, Mac support.
CONS: Limited configuration options; doesn't use RAID; if either drive fails, you can't access your backups; Windows Home Server doesn't seem to fit business environments.
RATING: 4 stars
PRICE: Starts at $699; $799 as reviewed
RECOMMENDATION: For very small businesses without IT staff, the Data Vault is a good hands-off backup option. Shops with any IT staff at all, however, can probably put together better solutions.
CONTACT: HP • www.hp.com • 800-334-5144

If you're shopping for a backup solution and you don't have any IT staff, the Data Vault is a good solution. If you're comfortable installing software using a Windows wizard, you're probably qualified to install it. If your business is large enough to have even a single IT pro, however, you could probably come up with less expensive solutions (say, an old desktop PC with some backup software and a couple of hard drives in RAID 1) that do everything the Data Vault does. The Data Vault is a well thought out and capable product for its target audience, but if you're reading Windows IT Pro, the chances are you're not in that audience.