The Quick Start utility also provides direct access to the MSS’ web browser management interface – a tidy affair that’s well designed and easy to use. A simple wizard runs though setting the language, date and time and administrative password along with a suitable name for the unit and the workgroup it should belong to. You can create and modify user accounts and decide what read and write access they can have for all public folders. You can also access existing shared folders, create new ones, modify access privileges and even suspend all access to selected shares as well.
USB storage devices are declared as public shares available to all but read only access can be set if you wish. When a device is plugged in it is automatically recognised and made available as a public share which can then be mapped to a local drive letter. For USB devices the MSS only supports FAT32 partitions but it handles them better than the WD NetCenter does. The latter requires you to claim the device before it can be used for creating public or private shared folders which will automatically reformat it to make it compatible with the NetCenter.
To test USB printing capabilities we connected an Epson Stylus Photo 950 to the MSS whereupon it was picked up immediately. We then used the Windows Add Printer wizard, searched the network, found the new network printer and were up and running in a couple of minutes. As always, with this method of network printing any local monitoring tools are unlikely to work and in our case the ink level bars in the printer properties page were all greyed out.
General performance is always going to be restricted by the network speed but the MSS produced some good results. Copying a single 690MB video file from a workstation to the Maxtor took 128 seconds for an average write speed of 5.4MB/sec – a second quicker than the WD NetCenter. Drag and Sort came into play here as although it didn’t recognise the .DAT file extension it still dropped the file into the My Software folder for us. Some extra tools are provided in the Advanced Settings page as you can access the system settings, modify network parameters and upgrade the unit’s firmware. Usefully, you can modify the power settings on the internal drive so that it’ll go into sleep mode after so many minutes of inactivity.
The 300GB Maxtor Shared Storage is competitively priced and compares well on value to Western Digital’s 320GB NetCenter. Network performance is in the same ball park but Maxtor’s build quality is far superior and its handling of USB storage devices is far superior.