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Weighing NAS options

Mar 31, 20034 mins

Is Linksys or Snap Server best for your small office?

This week, we’ll compare Snap Appliance’s new Snap Server 1100 and Linksys’ EFG80, seeking product shadings that could make a difference once you bring the product home.

Decisions determine business success. Unfortunately, only cartoons and partisan politics present decisions in black and white.

This week, we’ll compare Snap Appliance’s new Snap Server 1100 and Linksys’ EFG80, seeking product shadings that could make a difference once you bring the product home. Note, I recently tested the Linksys EFG80.

What do you think?

Join our discussion on the Snap and Linksys NAS options.

Both network-attached storage (NAS) units offer 80G bytes of hard disk storage, easy installation and reliable performance. Both offer browser-based administration and are priced similarly (Linksys about $500; Snap closer to $600). But dig deeper and differences surface. Here’s a quick list: 

Snap Server 1100

  • Not expandable
  • Supports Macintosh
  • Emulates NetWare 3.x server
  • Lacks print server
  • Includes back-up software
  • Lacks DHCP server
  • Fits in briefcase

Linksys EFG80

  • Expandable

  • Lacks Macintosh support

  • Lacks NetWare emulation 

  • Includes print server

  • Lacks back-up software

  • DHCP server 

  • Too big for briefcase

Going down the list, the Linksys box offers room for two disk drives. For the price difference, you can add a 120G-byte hard drive to the Linksys for 200G bytes of storage. Bumping up the Snap Server storage means buying the Snap Server 2200 (240G bytes of storage), which costs nearly $1,500. 

But if you have a mixed network including Macintosh systems, Snap becomes your favorite. Linksys and Snap both use an embedded Linux operating system and support Windows, Linux and Unix systems. But Snap includes Macintosh support while Linksys promises Macintosh client support in a coming version. Also, Snap emulates a NetWare 3.x file server, so companies with NetWare client software on all computers will have a familiar connection model. However, NetWare 3.x emulation is too old to help many customers, so I call that a wash. But for client support, Snap wins.

The Linksys device includes print server software and a printer connection plug. Windows systems can share this printer on the network printer instead of bogging down a Windows client system hosting the printer. If you do a lot of printing, this feature might push you toward Linksys.

Snap Server includes DataKeeper backup software from PowerQuest. I believe NAS products aimed at small businesses should include back-up software and mentioned that in my Linksys review. The DataKeeper software provides fault tolerance by copying files to the Snap Server and keeping track of changed files in a special directory on the local hard disk. While not much help if your hard disk dies, the redundancy used by Snap and DataKeeper addresses the most common file restoration process, which is recovery of accidentally deleted files. Unlike the LockStep Workgroup Backup software we discussed recently , DataKeeper doesn’t require a server process on any network computer. DataKeeper isn’t as intuitive as LockStep, but works well in its own right.

DHCP servers assign IP addresses to network devices as they boot up and join the network. This feature ensures duplicate IP addresses don’t appear on the same network and cause weird network failures because of addressing problems. The Linksys and Snap devices both include DHCP clients, but only Linksys includes the server software. You want to choose a DHCP server that’s running constantly, and a NAS box fits that description. On the other hand, so does a network router, so you may already have DHCP services under control. Give this a wash.

Snap makes a big deal of how small the Snap Server 1100 is. Then again, Linksys uses removable hard disks, making the data-holding portion of the EFG80 more portable than the Snap. If you want to use the NAS for offsite backup while keeping the main unit in the office, the Linksys works better. But if you want to shuttle the NAS box between your home and small business office, go with the Snap. 

Which of these units should you buy? Both work well, depending on which items you checked off as important. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for a NAS system that includes either a tape drive for easy offsite backup storage of data or an online component for offsite storage.