Buffalo Technology set the entry-level NAS world alight when it launched the TeraStation last year. This smart little box stuffed everything else on the market by delivering a full Terabyte (TB) of network storage at a price no-one else could even come close to. Well, it’s done it again with the TeraStation Pro. This desktop appliance also delivers masses of low-cost storage but goes one step beyond its predecessor by adding improved hard disk swap capabilities.
Physically, the Pro is around the same size as the original TeraStation but the new chassis has a key lockable front door that protects access to four hard disk bays. For the review system each bay was occupied by a 250GB Western Digital WD2500 SATA/150 drive fitted in a removable carrier. Up above the drive bays is a backlit LCD display and a button alongside enables you to cycle through viewing the status of the network connection and its assigned IP address, the date and time, which disks are in use and the current RAID configuration. As with the TeraStation you get a RealTek Gigabit Ethernet port, although the USB 2.0 port count drops down from four to two. These can be used to add external hard disks but sharing USB printers over the network is not supported on this product.
Costs are kept down by equipping the appliance with a simple 266MHz PowerPC processor and a modest 128MB of SDRAM memory. It uses a Linux kernel which is implemented partly on 4MB of flash memory. However, the kernel is also distributed across a protected 100MB partition on each hard disk. Consequently, if you try and replace all the drives with your own the appliance won’t run and you also can’t buy the appliance without any hard disks.
The quick swap feature becomes clearer when you replace a hard disk as the carriers do not have interfaces that mate with a backplane. Instead, each drive has a combined SATA/power connector cable, which must be unplugged manually from the rear of the drive. We checked with Buffalo who advised us that hot-swap is not supported, so if a drives fails the unit must be powered down before it can be replaced. Buffalo does offer a next day replacement service and the new drive arrives complete with carrier. The entire operation is completely tool free so the unit won’t need to be down for very long and once the new drive is in place the appliance will automatically rebuild the array.