- Review Price: £514.64
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.
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.
There’s more, as you also get the Genie Backup Manager Server Edition 7.0 as well which enables Exchange and SQL Server installations to be secured to the appliance. The interface is almost identical to that presented by the Manager utility but automatically adds instances of SQL Server and Exchange to the backup source list. We tested using SQL Server 2000 and had no problems running backups of our databases to the appliance. The software is licensed only for a single system but other than this, it is the full version. It supports removable media, password protection plus encryption and provides an agent utility that enables scheduled backups to run without opening the main interface.
We did find the appliance’s web management interface a tad sluggish at times but it is well designed and easy to use. You start by configuring your hard disks and with four drives in the mix you have a good range of RAID options as the appliance supports RAID-0, -1, -10 and -5 and for the latter you can create a three drive array and keep one aside as a hot-standby. Each array is regarded as a volume within which you can create multiple shares. Security options start with a local user and group database but the appliance can use NT domain and Active Directory authentication as well. Furthermore, each local user can have a quota applied to limit the space they can use on permitted volumes.
General real world performance looks good with a 690MB video file copied to the appliance at a write rate of 17.7MB/sec and restored at a read rate of 20MB/sec. A 460MB mixture of graphics files returned read and write speeds of 18.4MB/sec and 13.5MB/sec respectively. Backup performance using the Genie Manager software was reasonable with a 3.6GB mixture of files secured to the appliance over Gigabit Ethernet at 11MB/sec. Be careful when using compression as the maximum setting reduced speed for the same backup job down to only 5.3MB/sec although it did save around thirty per cent of storage space on the appliance.
Easy to install and configure, the NSA-2400 represents comparatively good value and comes complete with plenty of access controls and a fine range of backup tools ideally suited to small businesses
The appliance is bundled with plenty of backup tools and a useful discovery utility.
The web interface opens with a detailed status screen of the appliance and all storage devices.
The appliance supports a good range of RAID arrays and which are easy enough to create.
Snapshots can be created for selected volumes and run regularly to a schedule.
The bundled Server Manager software makes light work of securing and restoring Exchange and SQL Server installations.
Score in detail