Linksys has traditionally had a very low profile in the desktop NAS market making the NAS200 its very first, and only, proper appliance. It's a compact little unit that's only offered diskless and can accept up to two SATA hard disks of your choice. The base unit can be had for less than £100 making it look very competitive when stacked up against the likes of D-Link's DNS-323.
When empty, the NAS200 is a featherweight but it's nicely designed and will look good on your desktop. Adding hard disks is a cinch as you unclip the covers at the rear and slip them in making sure that the release ribbon for each one is accessible. No tools are needed and you can opt for one drive and add another later on if you wish. For testing we installed a pair of 150GB Western Digital Raptor SATA drives, which were accepted without any problems.
Network connectivity is going to be this appliance's Achilles Heel as you only get a Fast Ethernet port. As you'll see in our performance tests general file copy speeds are well below those of appliances endowed with Gigabit Ethernet making this a poor choice for impatient users. Storage can be expanded further as the two USB ports can be used to add external drives, which will be automatically shared on insertion. The button on the front panel is more interesting as it's linked to the bundled NTI Shadow backup software and pressing it fires up preconfigured jobs on the PC running the software.
Installation won't take long with Linksys' Setup Wizard on the case as this guides you gently through every step of the way. Next you move over to the browser interface which we found easy enough to use but frustratingly sluggish at times. The status screen provides a rundown on installed drives, total and used storage capacity and details of any USB drives. With two hard disks in residence you can opt for spanned, striped or mirrored RAID arrays or leave them as two separate drives. Access controls are limited to local usernames and passwords but you can apply quotas to each one to limit the amount of space they can have.
The NAS200 is geared up for Windows users as it only supports the CIFS/SMB protocol but it also functions as an FTP server. Shared folders are easy to set up and you can view them all in a list and decide on read and write privileges for each user. Linksys provides a useful shared folder mapping utility, which sits in the System Tray and also enables you to shutdown USB devices for safe removal. Usefully, we found Windows PnP-X worked fine so the default public disk share was automatically mapped to our Windows Vista system.