- Review Price: £202.00
Storage maestro Iomega has traditionally focused on the higher end of the NAS (network attached storage) market leaving the home and very small business network arena to vendors such as Maxtor, Western Digital and Freecom. However, the unimaginatively named StorCenter Network Hard Drive signals a shift in focus to these very users with a family comprising just two slim-line desktop boxes offering 250GB and 300GB capacities. Its larger appliances have always impressed not just with their sleek design but also with an extensive range of features combined with ease of use and in this review we see whether the company can measure up to the established names at the entry-level of the NAS market.
The 250GB appliance on review is encased in a sturdy plastic chassis that looks and feels well built although it can’t match the sleek, brushed aluminium case of Maxtor’s Shared Storage Drive. However, it’s much smaller and despite tipping the scales at 1.2kgs is eminently more portable should you need to move around different locations. The smaller case means cooling is a concern but Iomega has fitted a small internal fan in the side panel. This only powers up when required but can be a little intrusive whilst running. Network support is tops as the appliance comes with a triple speed auto-sensing port allowing it to support Gigabit Ethernet for maximum file sharing performance. You also get a pair of USB ports for adding external storage devices for network sharing and they also support USB printers as well.
Installation kicks off nicely as the bundled Iomega Discovery utility searches the network for StorCenter appliances and configures them ready for use by assigning a drive letter to the device’s default share. The appliance only functions as a DHCP client and will need to be installed on a network with a resident DHCP server – something most ADSL routers provide as standard. General configuration is carried out from the appliance’s web interface and on first contact it’s clear Iomega only offers a basic set of features. The home page open with a status rundown on the internal drive and connected USB devices and for the latter you can stop them for safe removal.
Access controls are provided so you can create username and password combinations and usefully apply quotas to them to limit the amount of space they can use. The appliance is also designed to work with UPnP digital media adapters allowing multimedia files to be shown on a TV. The appliance maintains a database of media files and defaults to sharing all these files although the source folder can be changed if required.
Adding USB devices has some limitations purely because the two ports are so close to each other. We connected a Buffalo FireStix Flash Disk to the top port and found that there was barely enough room below to connect a standard USB plug for our test printer. However, once the printer had been connected it was recognised immediately and the Discovery utility made light work of connecting to it over the network by providing a simple wizard for this process. What you gain in printer sharing you lose in monitoring facilities as our Epson Stylus Photo 950 no longer showed its ink level status screen.
Iomega’s Automatic Backup Pro is the most useful of the bundled utilities as it provides a complete backup system that can be customized to suit. Just select the drives, folders and files you want secured, select the network drive as a destination and decide how often you want a backup to run. The utility runs permanently in the background and also provides a real-time backup facility as you can request that any of the selected files be copied to the appliance whenever a change is detected. Even better is the fact that you can store any number of revisions allowing you to go back and restore earlier versions if you wish.
Whatever you do don’t buy this appliance purely for its FolderShare features. This third party service is designed to allow you to share files and folders and synchronise them with other users over the Internet but at the time of review Microsoft had just acquired FolderShare, the service was in the process of being discontinued and as you can see from the accompanying screenshot Iomega hasn’t yet come up with another alternative.
Iomega measured up very well to the competition in the performance stakes over Fast Ethernet with our test copy of a single 690MB video file from a workstation to the appliance taking only 102 seconds for an average write speed of 6.8MB/sec – around twenty seconds faster that the Maxtor and WD appliances. Move over to Gigabit Ethernet and the appliance really stretches its legs with the same copy taking a mere 69 seconds.
The StorCenter Network Hard Drive comes up short on features when compared with similarly priced products from Freecom, Maxtor and WD. Network performance is very good and the bundled Automatic Backup Pro software will prove handy but user access controls are minimal and the FolderShare feature is now redundant.
Iomega’s Discovery utility automatically finds StorCenter appliances and maps the default share ready for use.
The home page provides a status report on the internal drive and USB devices
Ho hum – so much for the FolderShare features
Access controls can be implemented with user accounts and each one can have a quota applied
The Automatic Backup Pro utility can secure data to the appliance at regular intervals or in real time
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