D-link’s forays in the NAS appliance market haven’t met with a great deal of success so far. Its DSM-G600 delivers a good range of features, including wireless access, for the price - but we found the bundled backup facilities comparatively weak, and we weren’t impressed with the compatibility problems we uncovered with certain IDE drives.
The DNS-323 represents D-Link’s next stab at network storage, and this time it has gone for SATA drives instead. The appliance is one of the smallest we’ve seen and its compact, matt-black aluminium chassis is designed to accept two SATA drives of your choosing. The entire installation process is completely tool-free - simply push the front cover upwards to release it and then slot in a couple of drives. The rear panel has a lever behind each bay to aid drive removal.
There’s not much else to see, as the appliance provides merely a single Gigabit Ethernet port for LAN connectivity and a USB port which can only be used to connect a suitable printer for sharing. For the price, we would have expected the option to attach external USB storage devices.
For testing, we used a pair of 250GB Western Digital WD2500 hard disks. After power up, we used the bundled Easy Search utility to hunt down the appliance on the network, discovering what IP address our router has assigned it. If you’re not using DHCP, the appliance uses its default IP address. From the utility you can go straight to the web interface, which kicks off by asking how you’d like your disks served up. You can opt for two separate drives, a single linear drive, a RAID-0 stripe or a RAID-1 mirror. Either way, you make your play, select your file format and the appliance sets them up and formats them ready for use.
As with the DSM-G600, the appliance only supports the EXT2/3 file systems and not FAT32 or NTFS. We opted for a RAID-0 stripe and EXT2 for the best performance and the appliance took around six minutes to create the array.
Once the appliance has rebooted, the web interface offers a quick start wizard for setting the administrative password, time zone and workgroup details. The web interface is nicely designed, but despite a graphical refresh it’s clear that the DNS-323 is running virtually the same firmware as the DSM-G600 with just a few enhancements.
A feature becoming more common on consumer NAS appliances is the ability to function as an iTunes server, and this is one of the enhancements added to this firmware. The server is enabled by default, and you can select a location on the appliance where you want to import your music. With the iTunes client loaded up, the server automatically appears in the source side bar with all your downloaded tracks ready for playback. The appliance also offers UPnP media services for streaming to suitable media players.