NAS appliances cover the middle ground of extra storage

The Lab tests 5 systems and finds generally good performance and easy setup

It's not uncommon to see the storage needs of a particular workgroup increase faster than that of the rest of an organization. In these situations, adding a huge storage server or storage-area network for a single group could be overkill, not to mention expensive. On the other hand, a single external hard drive, while ideal for a single user, probably wouldn’t be enough of an upgrade if an entire workgroup needs the space.

In this GCN Lab comparison report:

What is a RAID?
A breakdown on common RAID configurations
Buffalo TeraStation III
LaCie 5big Network
Sans Digital EliteNAS
Seagate BlackArmor NAS 440
WD ShareSpace
Gaining Virtual V-locity

Network-attached storage (NAS) appliances are a good middle ground between too much and too little. Administrators generally can set them up within an existing network architecture, and the appliances are usually easy to install. They often come with a variety of Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) settings, making it possible to pick the one that best suits a workgroup’s needs. And at $200 to $300 per terabyte, a NAS can fit into most organizational budgets.

We received five NAS appliances for this review, from Buffalo Technology, LaCie, Sans Digital, Seagate and Western Digital. Four of the appliances had four drive bays, each with a 1T drive, for a total capacity of 4T. The LaCie had five drive bays and a 5T capacity.

We tested to see how easy it was to set them up and connect them to our test network of 10/100 port switches. Then we conducted transfer tests by copying a 2G folder of files of various sizes to the NAS from a networked computer (upload) and back in the other direction (download) while the NAS was in RAID 5 mode.

In addition, we looked at the appliance's additional features, such as backup software. We also considered the price compared to the devices' performance.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Sep 17, 2009 George Lakewood, CO

Reviews of NAS devices really need to cover compatibility with FDCC specifically: 1. Support for SMB signing, 2. Support for NTLMv2 which is a function of Samba 3.x, and 3. Ability to join a domain without using domain admin credentials. I have yet to identify a low to mid range NAS device that supports SMB signing.

Thu, Sep 3, 2009 Editor

Good question on security. While these products do not provide NTFS directly, all of them have the CIFS/SMB protocol, which is completely Windows-compliant. Also, as all of them integrate with Active Directory, it should be easy enough to isolate a file share from alternate methods of connection. However, as always, we recommend you bring this issue up with any manufacturer you are considering purchasing from, to make certain your specific needs will be met. -- Greg Crowe

Thu, Sep 3, 2009

Greg, re security of these RAID NAS devices. DO they provide NTFS sharing and security? Can we setup a link to the folder from within an NTFS share on a server? And can we control or limit access to that folder from only the link?

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