Network attached storage (NAS) is generally too expensive for single users or very small businesses to consider, but the Classic SL Network Drive offers an interesting and cost-effective alternative. Alas, the storage industry suffers from more than its fair share of acronyms and Freecom adds yet another to the mix in the shape of NDAS (network direct attached storage). This offers a completely different angle to shared storage as it allows the hard disk to be connected to the network and yet accessed as though it were a locally attached drive.
A key feature of this solution is that, unlike NAS, it doesn’t use TCP/IP to allow workstations or laptops to access the drive over the network. Instead, Freecom uses a proprietary protocol called LPX (Lean Packet eXchange). This requires an extra network protocol driver installed but as you’ll see this method does offer some interesting security options.
Freecom offers a selection of drive sizes with the model on review kitted out with a 160GB ATA hard disk. The metal casing is reassuringly sturdy and is also fitted with a tiny internal fan to aid cooling. A Fast Ethernet network port is sited at the rear and you also get a USB 2.0 port as well so the drive can be locally connected to a PC but note that the NDAS mode cannot be used at the same time.
Installation for NDAS takes a few minutes as you need to load an administration utility before the drive can be accessed. You can choose between the USB or NDAS drivers and for the latter, the routine takes you through setting the drive up on your network and loading the relevant software. There’s more to do as the new Device Management utility requires each Network Drive to be registered with the client using the 20-character ID code found on a sticker on the base of the unit. This allows read only access to the unit and a second five-character key found in the same location must be also be entered if write access is to be granted.
Next, you can choose to mount the drive in read only or read-write mode. We opted for the latter and our Windows XP notebook immediately spotted the drive as new hardware. It was disappointing to see the drivers hadn’t even passed the Windows Logo test but once they had been loaded Device Manager identified a new NDAS SCSI controller and hard disk while Windows Explorer revealed a new local drive already preformatted as NTFS and ready for use. A quick check in the Network Properties showed the LPX protocol support had been loaded as well.