The burgeoning home and small business NAS appliance market is now so lucrative that many manufacturers that have traditionally avoided this area now can't resist its allure. We saw the mighty Hewlett Packard sneak in recently with its MediaVault mv2020 and now notebook supremo Acer steps up with the Altos easyStore.
At their foundation most NAS appliances are simply standalone boxes that serve up shared storage to the network. Some do it much better than others - take Netgear's ReadyNAS NV for example - but the easyShare holds a few more aces in its hand that makes it quite unusual. Along with basic NAS functions the appliance offers slick data protection facilities and bare metal restoration tools. What's even more interesting is it does it over iSCSI (Internet SCSI) - a protocol not normally supported by budget priced NAS appliances.
This isn't a new concept and we've already seen an earlier version of this when we looked at the Escon (formerly LapiStor) RAIDMate NAS, which is also used by Intel for its Entry Storage System SS4000-E. By using the later model the easyStore offers a better specification and build quality is also superior. You get a 600MHz Intel XScale processor in the driving seat, which is teamed up with 256MB of memory. The Linux based operating system is held on 8MB of Flash memory but Acer doesn't currently offer a diskless version of the easyStore.
The bundled Storage System Console automatically locates the easyStore appliance on the network and offers quick access to its web console. This is well designed and kicks off with a wizard that helps with array creation and you can choose from RAID-0, -1, -10 and -5 and for the later you can have a triple disk array and hot-standby. Next, you decide how much space to set aside for shares and workstation backup. It's easier at this stage to leave shared space at the default value of 200GB as you can expand this into unused space later on when you know how much room your backups will take.
NAS features aren't particularly exciting with the appliance supporting Windows, Linux and Macintosh clients. Local user and group membership sorts out share read and write access privileges and we upgraded the easyStore with the latest firmware to enable it to support Active Directory. The appliance can act as an FTP server but you can only publish the default public folder and each user's private folders.