- Review Price: £997.00
Evesham Technology’s latest SilverSTOR XS aims to deliver a simple NAS (network attached storage) solution to small businesses along with a good range of RAID options and a price tag just on the right side of four figures. This compact cube is based on a Thecus N4100 appliance and the model on review is equipped with four 250GB Western Digital WD2500 Serial ATA (SATA) hard disks to provide a full 1TB of raw capacity.
It’s a well designed unit that’ll look good on your desktop and also comes with a decent hardware specification. A 600MHz Intel XScale network processor sits in the driving seat and is partnered by 256MB of DDR-400 SDRAM and 16MB of flash memory. The hard disks are looked after by an embedded Intel quad-port SATA controller which provides interface management and hot-swap capabilities. The system runs a Linux kernel and this handles software managed RAID-0, -1 and -5 arrays.
Internal design is fairly simple as the disk backplane board is mounted on the removable rear panel and a proprietary slot to the side has the main board with processor, memory and SATA controller plugged into it. The system comes with a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports but an extra SO-DIMM socket on the main board also accepts an optional wireless network card which should be available in October. The first Gigabit interface can have a fixed IP address or be assigned one by a DHCP server while the second can only have a fixed IP address. The appliance can be remotely managed from either interface but the ports cannot be teamed together for a single failover link.
Accessed from the front panel, the drives are mounted in sturdy hot-swap carriers that can be easily removed and replaced and also key-locked for better security. This is one area where the SilverSTOR XS scores over Buffalo Technology’s budget priced TeraStation as a drive failure won’t require the system to be completely dismantled to replace it. Each carrier contains a pair of LEDs showing drive status and activity and the appliance itself has more LEDs for displaying system status, errors and activity.
You can start managing the appliance as soon as it’s connected to the network by pointing a web browser at the first network port’s default fixed IP address. Usefully, HTTPS is also supported so the appliance can be managed securely over the Internet using encrypted transmissions. The web interface is a simple affair with a row of tabbed folders providing easy access to each function. The home page opens with a brief rundown of the system name and firmware version while the System option shows CPU loading, total memory, and installed hard disks along with their model names and total raw capacity. RAID array creation is simple enough as you check the boxes next to the drives you want to use, pick an array type and leave the appliance to get on with building it.
Note that RAID-1 mirroring is only supported for two disks and you can’t mix array types. Furthermore, although the manual states that only RAID-5 arrays support hot-standby we were able to create a dual-disk mirror and assign a hot-standby drive to it. We then removed an array member whereupon the appliance used the spare drive and continued unaffected. However, if you have all four bays occupied the only way you can use all the drives is with a four-disk RAID-5 array or three-disk RAID-5 array with hot-standby. Array building is also a slow process as a four disk RAID-5 array took nearly seven hours to complete and access to the volume was denied during this phase.
The array auto-rebuild works well enough though. The default configuration is a four disk RAID-5 array and the appliance immediately acknowledged that the array was degraded when we removed one of the drives. The appliance continued to function normally in this state and when we replaced the drive it commenced an automatic rebuild. However, it did take over six hours to complete and during this time the load on the appliance’s processor rarely went below 100 per cent with a resultant drop in performance for general file sharing activities.
Only the CIFS/SMB protocols are supported and shared folders are created directly from the web interface where you can implement ACLs (access control lists) using local username and password combinations and group memberships. Good levels of control means each user and group can be denied access or allowed read only or full write access to specific shares. The appliance can also integrate with Active Directory (AD) where it becomes a domain member. This then allows you to allocate share access using the Windows domain controller’s own groups, users and policies.
At this level of the NAS market choice is becoming extensive. Buffalo’s TeraStation can’t be beaten on price while the more costly the NexonNAS 1000 provides better features including disk quotas and hardware managed RAID arrays. The SilverSTOR XS sits comfortably between these products and delivers a good range of RAID features along with hot-swap and hot-standby capabilities making it well suited to storing critical data.
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