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ZyXEL NSA-2400 - EXCLUSIVE REVIEW

Traditionally associated with network communications ZyXEL now tries its hand at the network storage market and in this exclusive review we take a first look at its NSA-2400. This is a four bay appliance that accepts SATA hard disks, which moves it into direct competition with the likes of Infrant Technogies ReadyNAS NV and Buffalo’s TeraStation Pro and we see whether ZyXEL has what it takes to stand up to the main players in this market.

This large mini-tower exhibits good build quality as the chassis is made of solid steel and the drives are held in sturdy hot-swap carriers, plus it can be purchased diskless. This gives it an edge over the TeraStation Pro which cannot be supplied empty and only supports cold-swap drives as the carriers are wired directly through to the interfaces on the appliance’s motherboard. It doesn’t look as good on the desktop as the diminutive ReadyNAS NV but it is just as sturdy. We did find one annoying problem as the front door is held in place with metal rods and the lower one kept falling out leaving the door swinging free although to be fair this was an early review sample.

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The NSA-2400 is equipped with a decent 1.3GHz Via C3 processor teamed up with 128MB of memory which can be upgraded using standard DDR 333 modules. You get a single Gigabit Ethernet port and a pair of USB 2.0 ports at the rear with a third USB port on the front panel. All three USB ports can be used for connecting external storage devices but the appliance doesn’t support sharing USB printers. On connection a USB device is automatically shared on the network with NTFS file systems restricted to read-only.

Whereas Infrant has aimed its desktop appliances at the home and small business market, ZyXEL has primarily targeted businesses. Consequently, you don’t get media streaming services or features such as an iTunes server. What you do get is an extensive range of backup facilities as the appliance can copy selected folders to an external storage device or to another NSA appliance. It can also create volume snapshots for point-in-time backups so you can roll back a selected volume if required. In both cases a scheduler is provided for managing regular backups and snapshots.

ZyXEL also bundles an unlimited version of Genie Backup Manager Lite 7.0 enabling users to copy data regularly from their workstations to the appliance and restore it back again. It’s particularly easy to use, with plenty of wizards to help. You can select a range of sources including file and folders, the Registry, favourites and so on and secure them to a local destination, the appliance or to an FTP server. Note that to support local removable media, tape drives and the online backup feature you’ll need to upgrade to the full version.

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