What Do We Mean by Entry-Level?
If you are familiar with the NAS market, you might wonder why we consider the products selected for this roundup entry-level. There are many low-capacity NAS devices on the market, generally with less than 120GB of storage, for significantly lower prices (roughly $800 to $2,000) than the products included in this story. Those units lack the expandability and management found in the ones we reviewed. And in a computer market where 60GB hard drives are commonplace in desktop computers, the value of adding an external NAS device that is the same size or slightly larger seems inconsequential.
Even in a small office with only a peer network, the cost of a tiny NAS device is tough to justify when you can plug a 120GB USB 2.0 hard drive into any new computer on your small network and add it as a network share.
The NAS units reviewed here are priced and configured for maximum capacity and througHPut performance (though some can use 160GB hard drives rather than 120GB hard drives giving them a total capacity of 640GB). Some of the models in this story can be purchased in low-capacity configurations to let administrators grow storage capacity with their needs.
The only way to scale the devices weve reviewed is to buy additional units. So if you expect your centralized storage needs to grow rapidly beyond their capacities, then you should consider buying a multi-U, rack-mounted NAS device with high-end hardware controllers that you can populate with hard drives as your needs increase.
The management tools bundled with the 1U boxes in our roundup let you manage as many units as you like, but you end up paying for the same basic level of intelligence—the built-in computer running Microsoft SAK or Unix/Linux—and its concentration in a single rack multiple times over. This can be an advantage if you plan to use these devices as departmental storage tools or as part of a distributed storage model. In those cases, the inherent ease of installation and deployment is compelling.
It is actually very simple for a central IT department to configure NAS devices with all of the tools and applications needed by a remote office and then ship the unit out to the remote site. Once you plug in the device to the network at the remote location, it can be easily managed—even over a 56-Kbps dial-up connection.
We have reviewed six NAS devices for this roundup. First Internet Alliance (FIA) and Iomega offer virtually the same product, so we cover them in a single review. Though there are some slight variations in the devices, they all performed within the parameters of a typical small-office environment running office productivity applications.