There are a number of manufacturers out there that sell Windows Home Servers – HP, Acer, etc, but only one of these is British – and that is Tranquil PC. Tranquil have been around for a while and sell all sort’s of cool kit, including PC’s, Windows Home Servers, and more. Did you know for example that Tranquil actually sold one of the first Windows Home Servers?
Well that was then, and this is now. Tranquil’s latest offering is the SQA-5H Home Server. Well actually there are three variants – the 1000 (with 1GB ram and a 500GB HDD), the 2000 (with 2GB ram and 1TB HDD) and finally the 3000 (with 2GB ram and 2TB HDD).
The first thing you will notice about this unit, compared to pretty much all the other Windows Home Server’s on the market is that it is white. That’s right folks, its not black or grey its white! Ok, if you really want it in black you can, but actually there is something kind of retro about the white look.
As well as the colour options, when you place your order you can also order additional hard drives (at quite reasonable prices, unlike some of the other WHS manufacturers).
Inside the Box
When you first receive the box, even that has a picture of the SQA-5H on it, which I think goes to show how much Tranquil want to make a good impression.
Once you get inside the box, you have the SQA-5H itself, an 80W power supply, an Ethernet cable and a Media Pack. This Media Pack contains the initial setup DVD, Connector software and Server Recovery DVD, along with a silver credit card looking object, which is in fact a USB key used for Server Recovery – but more on that in a moment. The initial setup DVD also contains instructions and manuals for setting up the SQA-5H. Now when I say manual, what I mean is actually a 38 page presentation that presents you with simple easy steps to follow, and they are just that.
Every single item in the box has been checked and tested by Tranquil prior to dispatch, so if there is anything wrong or damaged, it is likely to have happened during transit. And if that is the case, they are very quick to put things right (from what I have read in their forums and discussions with Tranquil themselves).
Again, a change from the norm when it comes to Windows Home Server is the fact that the SQA-5H has 5 internal drive bays, instead of the usual 4, so that’s just one more internal drive you can use if you have it.
The observant amongst you have probably noticed a small panel on the back of the unit below the USB ports. Well this is the service plate, and if you remove it you have access to some additional connectors, including a VGA connector for troubleshooting problems, if you need them!
The drive bays are very simple to use, and are a bit like the drive bays on the HP MediaSmart servers.
Just one little click releases the handle, pull that down, slide the bay out, clip the drive in and slide it back into place – very simple, and no fuss whatsoever.
There are also a number of LEDs on the front panel which signify a number of different things – but don’t worry as Tranquil include a label on the underside of the SQA-5H to explain each one. You can even tell how much storage has been used by checking the LEDs, and you can even dim them if you so wish.
Finally there is a blue button on the front panel called Backup. This is used to run a server backup to an already configured backup drive. This server backup is initially configured from the Windows Home Server Console, but instead of continually going back to the console to run the same backup again at a later stage, you can just press the button – which is nice.
For those of you interested in the exact specifications, below are the specs for the 1000.
Installation and Configuring
Taking it all out of the box and plugging it together is simple and within a few minutes you can be up and running. Just pop the server initialisation DVD in and follow the instructions.
For those of you who like to see the screenshots, here they are:
Then its the usual Server configuration:
Now unlike most other Windows Home Server’s you have to type in your product key here rather than it already being entered for you. Important thing to note here is the Product Key is actually on a sticker that is on the underside of the SQA-5H so either write it down before you start the installation, turn the unit upside down now, or don’t enter the key now and do it later from the Windows Home Server Console (you have 30 days to do this, so don’t worry!).
Currently the SQA-5H comes with Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 so you will have to perform some updates to bring it up to date with Power Pack 2 and all the usual updates, although because it is already PP2 the updates shouldn’t take that long.
And that is it, you are ready to roll – or rather do your first backup and install those add-ins that you feel you want and need.
So do you remember earlier I mentioned the silver credit card looking USB thing? Well, this, along with the Server Recovery DVD, is what you use if you have to perform a server recovery – so whatever you do, keep it safe!
It is very simple to use, you just push out the little USB clip, plug it into the SQA-5H, switch the SQA-5H on, pop the recovery DVD into one of your networked computers and start the process.
You have two options – a recovery keeping your data (assuming you had more than one hard drive)and a full factory settings restore, which completely wipes your drive (this is the one you would use in the event of a primary drive failure).
The process is pretty slick – it searches for your server, and when it finds it the drive is wiped and repartition for you. When this process starts you can pull the USB key out and just sit back.
The process itself can take anywhere from about 10 minutes to half an hour on a clean drive. Once this is done you just pop in the server initialisation DVD again and start from scratch.
Just don’t make the same mistake I did and rush to do that final step – you need to be patient and wait until the SQA-5H reboots and is ready. My problem was I didn’t notice it at first as it’s rather quiet! Watch out for the lights on the front of the unit to know when it is ready.
UPDATE : Inside the SQA-5H
Here are some images of inside the SQA-5H:
Thoughts and Conclusions
I really like the SQA-5H, it has some very unique qualities about it, from the retro white look, to the backup button on the front panel. It is quiet (partly because of the Green drives that Tranquil ship with it) and it has 5 internal drive bays (which are so simple to use), plus the usual USB ports and an eSATA multiplier port, which once again beats out the current HP MediaSmart EX48x series as it can be used to connect several drives to it instead of just the one drive that HP now support. Plus throw in the USB recovery key and you are on to a winner.
Also, Tranquil offer a 36 month return to base warranty provided you have registered it within 28 days of purchase.
The 64 bit processor that is used also ensures that it will be upgradable in the future when the next version of Windows Home Server is shipped, not to mention that is makes it really fast now.
This is certainly the best Windows Home Server you can currently buy in the UK – and Tranquil will even ship this outside of the UK if you need that.
Tranquil have done a really good job with the SQA-5H, and I am eager to see what they come up with next.
Pricing wise, the 1000 starts at £439 (excluding VAT), the 2000 starts at £499 (excluding VAT) and the 3000 starts at £679 (excluding VAT).
UPDATE: As of the 3rd August , Tranquil have reduced the prices to £419 for the 1000, £469 for the 200 and £599 for the 3000 (all excluding VAT).
To see more information about the different SQA-5H units, and to place an order, click here.