Anthology's appliance does NAS well and lots more

Reviewing terabyte-plus network-attached storage appliances.

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The good part of the 400r is that it uses Microsoft Storage Server 2003 appliance software. The bad part is that it uses Microsoft Storage Server 2003 appliance software. If you're comfortable with Microsoft server controls, you'll feel at home. If not, you'll find the Iomega controls more big business oriented than the other units, with correspondingly more complex administration.

Smaller companies stepping up to their first NAS or pseudoserver may be slightly overwhelmed, especially if they don't already have a Windows Server system. Companies already in the Windows mind-set will appreciate the Volume Shadow Copy Service for automatic file copies and user/group integration with existing Windows directory services. Novell NetWare file and print server emulation software is included on the unit as well. The 400r supports Windows, Linux and Macintosh clients. Folder access restrictions worked once we drilled down through the multiple administration screens.

Nice touches from Iomega included its excellent Automatic Backup software (with unlimited client licenses) and dual Gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0 ports on the back of the unit. The 1.6TB unit we tested included a print server. Iomega recently added a 400e disk expansion unit with 1TB capacity, three of which can be run by one 400r unit.

Although it was the most expensive appliance in our test, the Iomega looked the most businesslike. If such appearances matter, or you want a global brand name on your storage appliance, this will be your choice.

Sabio's CM-4

Sabio Digital CM-4

One of the newest players in the terabyte NAS market, the Sabio CM-4 comes in a no-nonsense black box with an austere red stripe. The four disks in removable trays shipped separately, and the front of the unit opened for easy disk installation. Operating software was preloaded on our disks, but the 34-page "quick" start guide provided pages of directions for users to install the operating system. We hope that's rarely necessary, because all the other units we tested shipped ready to work.

Although we had issues with installation, the discovery utility found the system immediately on our network and opened Firefox to start configuration. However, the browser-based and Java-powered administration software was sluglike. Additionally, the default name of the unit was long and complicated (although the system does give you a chance to change it). The setup forced us to find, copy and type in a 16-digit serial number, which was annoying because the software isn't any good without the hardware (Sabio promises to eliminate this step in the next upgrade).

Once operating, the CM-4 worked well. Created user accounts don't have home directories created for them, but user access controls worked as expected inside the Folders & Sharing page, including a tab labeled Permissions. We found a glitch, though, as access restrictions worked on Windows systems and Linux systems using Windows directories, but Linux clients using NFS could see our restricted folders.

We weren't familiar with Detto ReSet, the backup software that came with the unit, but it worked fine. We could connect external USB drives to the CM-4 to back up the unit. There's no unit backup information in the administration utility, as there is with the Buffalo and Infrant appliances. All modern clients were supported - we liked that installation utilities for Linux and Macintosh shipped with the installation CD along with Windows utilities.

If Sabio can clean up the installation process and speed the administration utility, this system will be a strong player.

The bottom line

There are no bad choices in this group. The entry-point price is less than $1,000 for 1TB of storage (reduced to around 700MB by RAID-5). Some units have hot-swappable drives; although few small companies need that level of uptime, it's effectively free.

If you want a NAS to act as an entry-level file server, these products will do so. File servers offer detailed access controls, so if that's your goal, verify that the unit you like offers folder access restrictions. If you can live with segmenting access by volume rather than folders, all units will work for you.

NW Lab Alliance

Gaskin is also a member of the Network World Lab Alliance, a cooperative of the premier reviewers in the network industry, each bringing to bear years of practical experience on every review. For more Lab Alliance information, including what it takes to become a member, go to www.networkworld.com/alliance.

Gaskin writes about technology and real life from his home office in the Dallas area. He can be reached at readers@gaskin.com.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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