We’ve seen a fair few NAS appliances over the past year but Freecom’s latest FSG-3 Storage Gateway takes the accolades for offering more features than you can shake a stick at. On the storage front you get an internal hard disk with a choice of capacities and the appliance offers this to the network as shared storage for Windows, Macintosh and Linux users. Four USB 2.0 ports are provided for adding more external devices and these accept any combination of flash disk, external hard drive or optical drive. You can also add USB printers for sharing over the network as well.
The appliance also has an eSATA (external SATA) port for attaching high-speed external hard disks. This is a relatively new standard that’s designed to get SATA (serial ATA) ‘out of the box’ and supports 3GB/sec interface speeds so it’s up to six times faster than USB 2.0. Note that the external interface is different to the standard SATA plug as it’s a shielded version and doesn’t have an ‘L’ shaped key. At the moment eSATA external drives are very thin on the ground and Freecom advised us that it plans to launch eSATA external drives early in 2006 which will use the same enclosure as the FSG-3 so will be stackable.
The FSG-3 incorporates four Fast Ethernet ports with one acting as a WAN port for connecting an external ADSL modem. An internal DHCP server dishes out IP addresses and DNS details so LAN clients can have Internet access and this is protected by an SPI firewall. It’s a well built little unit that’s much smaller than the Shared Storage Drive and Netcenter drives from Maxtor and Western Digital. Status indicators are plentiful as the large blue button at the top of the unit shows the status of the OS and whether the unit is booting whilst a ring round the outside reveals hard disk status and activity. Separate LEDs are provided for the eSATA and WAN ports and a button below the USB ports is used to shut devices down ready to be safely unplugged.
The amount of electronics packed into the appliance means heat output is high and the cooling fan is a little intrusive. However, you can opt for three different cooling modes where the standard mode switches the fan on as required while maximum cooling mode leaves it on permanently. There’s also a ‘hot and silent’ mode which conjures up all kinds of connotations but is not worth using. The manual specifically advises against selecting this as it’ll probably reduce the longevity of the appliance and internal drive.