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In an effort to appeal to a wider market we're now seeing a number of desktop storage vendors packaging their main products in rack mount chassis. Netgear got the ball rolling last year with its excellent ReadyNAS 1100, Thecus dived in a little later with its 1U4500 and now Buffalo joins the club with its latest TeraStation Pro II Rackmount.
This move makes perfect sense as we've watched a lot of smaller businesses dropping compact rack cabinets into their offices to reduce floor space wastage. The Rackmount appliance fits a standard 19in rack and although it's built well enough Buffalo's design bods haven't been overly clever; as although the chassis supports no more than four hard disks, it is 2U high - most four-bay rack appliances, or servers for that matter, are only 1U high.
The main reason for this extra height is undoubtedly the large LCD display in the centre of the front panel, which can show the status of the hard disks, the type of RAID array and the IP address of the appliance. From the management web interface you can change the brightness of the display and let it cycle through the various settings. Usefully, the front panel and disk drives behind can be secured against wandering fingers although the power button is left unprotected.
The Rackmount is identical in the hardware department to the desktop TeraStation Pro II as it also sports a 500MHz Marvell Orion SoC (system on chip) partnered by a modest 128MB of SDRAM memory. The system on review is the 1TB TS-RH1.0TGL/R5-1 version that came equipped with a quartet of 250GB Samsung SATA hard disks. Note that although the hard disk carriers are removable they're not hot-swappable. Instead, Buffalo uses a quick swap feature where the drive carriers have a combined SATA/power connector cable which must be unplugged manually from the rear of the drive.
Buffalo advised us that if a drive fails the unit must be powered down before it can be replaced. Buffalo offers a next day replacement service and the new drive arrives complete with carrier. It's not as elegant as true hot-swap but the process of replacement won't take too long as it's completely tool-free and once the new drive is in place the appliance will automatically rebuild the array.
Buffalo's NAS Navigator takes light work of installation as it finds the appliance on the network and helps with initial setup. You have a good choice of array options as with four drives you can go for RAID-0, -1 -10, -5 or JBODs and the appliance supports two separate arrays so you could have a couple of dual-drive mirrors instead. Bring a good book when creating an array as we found a four disk RAID-5 array took over seven hours to build.