Network-attached storage is suddenly everywhere, and incredibly cheap at that. The TeraStation family is Buffalo Technology’s take on the idea, with the “Pro” tag designating a specification suitable for SMEs as opposed to home users.

There are several TeraStation Pro models, which vary only in their capacity, currently 0.6 to 2 terabytes. They are also immensely good value if you aren’t worried about all-round component fault tolerance or availability, and it’s the data you’re looking to protect.

The matt-black chassis is solid, 7 kilograms heavy, with a single fan, four drive bays and various interfaces, including two USB ports (for adding additional storage) and the all-important gigabit Ethernet.

The unit has a backlit LCD status panel that gives a variety of basic status information though nothing mentioning temperature that we could find. The system itself can be set up to issue an error beep if temperature, disk or fan have experienced errors.

Getting drives in and out of their drive bay slots was simple enough, although the interface cable at the back of each drive has to be delicately disconnected from the drive – more expensive NAS designs will utilise simpler cable-less connection. The hard drives themselves were Western Digital SATA drives, 250 megabytes per unit, configured in RAID 1 (mirroring, which halves capacity), and are not designed to be hot-swappable. If one fails, the whole system will have to be powered down.

Other RAID modes include RAID 0 (HDDs configured as single, virtual volume), RAID 5 (the same but with parity), or run a simple storage server with four individual drives.

The TeraStation Pro’s impressively low price comes at the cost of cutting a few corners here and there. There is no redundancy aside from the drives themselves, and replacing something such as power supply or mainboard would involve taking the whole system apart. Ditto, the drive connection design we already mentioned. You can swap out drives but it’s not something meant to hold up to repeated removal.

The system can be hooked up via the serial port to a UPS, however, and the firmware boasts a “journaling” system to prevent data loss if the power is switched off during a data write.

Management and configuration software is typically good, as is the norm for Buffalo systems we’ve reviewed in the past. The integrated backup system itself, set up direct from the web management console, enables the usual scheduled backup to other TeraStations or attached servers or drives. Email notification of problems lets a remote admin keep an eye on the unit from afar.

The built-in support for Microsoft Active Directory makes it easy to import users and groups and from NT4 domains, a huge labour-saving feature if you have already been working with servers using a domain logical structure.

This is a sub-£500 RAID system that would suit any budding SME, and might just work for remote departments too. It can be remotely monitored and configured, and as long as 100 percent uptime is not a necessity, will do its job admirably. One of the best entry-level NAS products around.

OUR VERDICT

Network-attached storage usually comes at a price, and it is not wise to over-economise where such devices are concerned. Get the most redundancy you can afford and then worry about performance and cooling.