Despite being one of the biggest hard disk manufacturers Western Digital has had a very low profile with NAS appliances. It dipped its toes in a few years ago with the NetCenter which didn't rock anyone's boat and was supplanted by the World Book series. The latest ShareSpace aims to recover WD some lost ground in the consumer and small business NAS appliance market and a key feature is ease of use and value.
Here we have the 2TB model which ships with a pair of 1TB Western Digital Caviar GreenPower hard disks, though a 4TB model is also available for around £620 including VAT which also seems pretty good value. The drives are installed in cold-swap carriers which means you'll need to power the system off to replace them.
Doing so requires the undoing of two thumbscrews at the rear and removal of the cover. The drives are easily accessible from the side but we found the plastic carriers need some physical persuasion before they would release. If you feel the need to add more drives the 2TB model comes with two empty drive bays.
Everything is embedded on a small controller board which sports a 500MHz Marvell SoC (system on chip) and offers a single Gigabit Ethernet port alongside a triplet of USB ports. The drives come preconfigured as a simple spanned JBOD volume for maximum capacity but no fault tolerance but you can change this to a mirror or a stripe and RAID-5 comes into play with three or more drives. A large fan at the rear handles all cooling and we found it to be virtually silent during testing.
Installation is helped along nicely by WD's discovery tool which automatically locates the appliance on the network. It offers direct access to the main web interface and other options for mapping network drives, viewing existing shares and creating desktop shortcuts for them. Ease of use is definitely a high priority as on first contact with the web interface a wizard based process is started which sets up the time zone, requests a new administrative password and sorts out IP addressing.
This web interface is a cheerful affair that opens with a basic mode view which provides swift access to simple device settings, creating users, setting up shared folders and checking on the system status. One feature that sets the ShareSpace apart from the rest is the integrated support for the MioNet service which lets you access selected files and folders over the Internet.
Once you've created an account and registered the appliance you can log in to the MioNet web site and copy files to and from the ShareSpace. There is a catch as the device only comes with 30-day trial of the full MioNet service and if you don't upgrade you drop back to MioNet Basic which doesn't allow you to remotely access your own resources.