Iomega’s supremacy with removable storage products is unquestionable but the marketplace reached saturation point a few years ago resulting in a general slowdown. Realising it needed to diversify, Iomega moved swiftly into the world of NAS (network attached storage) and now delivers a comprehensive range of appliances. Despite its high noise levels Techworld was mightily impressed with the enterprise-level NAS P850m and now we move down and see what Iomega has to offer the smaller business or local office. The NAS P440m on review represents to top end of Iomega’s SME offerings and delivers a tidy 494GB of raw storage in a well-designed slim-line 1U chassis. The four 123.5GB Hitachi IDE drives are fitted in solid hot-swap carriers but the appliance does not provide hardware RAID as this is handled by the embedded Windows NAS 2.0 operating system. You can implement RAID-0, -1, -10 or -5 arrays along with hot-standby but there will be some performance overheads as the host system is expected to do all the processing. Nevertheless, the P440m delivers a good specification coming equipped with a 2GHz Pentium 4 processor and 1GB of PC2100 SDRAM memory. Six small cooling fans are dotted around the chassis but rest assured that although still quite loud these don’t emit anywhere near the noise levels of the P850m. A single PCI slot is converted to a horizontal mount and occupied by a single-channel LSI Logic Ultra160 SCSI adapter which can be used to connect external devices. The network connection is well-endowed with a pair of Broadcom 1000BaseT Gigabit adapters and these can be linked together into a fault tolerant or load-balanced team although the utility required to achieve this was hidden on the appliance and this feature is not documented. Although the appliance has the full complement of user ports at the rear it’s not designed to be managed locally although with Windows 2000 Server in the driving seat you can boot into safe mode if things do get desperate. For general installation Iomega adheres to the NAS philosophy of speed and simplicity as you load its Discovery utility which displays any appliances it locates on the network. Once you’ve assigned an IP address you can use web browser management where you’ll find a well-designed interface that is common across most Windows-powered NAS appliances and presents a neat row of tabbed folders for easy access to each feature. Volumes, shares, users and groups can be created swiftly and six file sharing protocols are supported so the appliance can be accessed by Windows, Unix, Macintosh, NetWare, FTP and HTTP clients simultaneously. Security is good as local user, domain authentication and access control lists can be implemented while active and passive disk quotas can be used at the file and directory level to either enforce space limitations or to monitor usage. File screening will prove a useful administration tool as it allows you to block specific file types from being copied to the appliance. A number of features including disk administration, network services and the rusty old Windows Backup utility cannot be accessed directly from the browser interface and require a Terminal Services session although this is fired up automatically and is not an inconvenience. Backup options are plentiful as you get the Persistent Storage Manager feature which takes snapshots of volumes and is considered an optional extra by some other NAS vendors who will make you pay extra for it. You can also use the appliance to secure workstation data with Iomega’s Automatic Backup software which uses a local utility that monitors disks for any file changes and automatically secures modifications in real time or at specified intervals. There’s no doubt that Iomega is making a strong attack on the NAS market with an good range of appliances. This technology is frequently criticised for being overpriced but the P440m shows this doesn’t have to be the case as it delivers a fine range of features and plenty of RAID protected storage for the price. The only thing you might want to wait for is the appliance to be powered by Microsoft’s Windows Storage Server 2003 as this offers a number of improvements and performance enhancements.

OUR VERDICT

The concept of the NAS appliance at the SME level is that it offers a cost-effective chunk of storage that can be swiftly added anywhere on the network without any impact on productivity. From this perspective the NAS P440m delivers on all counts although you might want to wait for Iomega to implement Windows Storage Server 2003.