Iomega has always been a force to be reckoned with in the desktop NAS market as it has consistently offered one of the biggest choices around. As its moniker indicates the latest StorCenter to join this extended family amalgamates wired and wireless networking as standard making it quite unique. The appliance brings together a quartet of low cost Western Digital ATA hard disks for a top raw capacity of 1TB and supports JBODs, mirrors, stripes and RAID-5 arrays.

The drives are fixed inside the chassis and to replace them you remove the lid, unplug all the drive cables and extract the complete internal carrier. The controller board incorporates an 802.11g wireless card while the wired connection gets a boost to Gigabit speeds. The appliance also sports a pair of USB 2.0 ports allowing both external storage devices and printers to be connected and networked.

Iomega’s Discovery Tool locates the appliance on the network and can automatically map a share to a local drive letter. It also allows you to go straight to the appliance’s web management interface. Network printing is made easier as it provides a wizard that’ll get your printer installed with the minimum of fuss. The web interface is easy enough to use and opens with a basic status summary plus options to restart or shut it down.

For drive configuration you select a RAID type and leave the appliance to get on with formatting it. A four drive stripe becomes available almost immediately and we timed a RAID-5 build at 6.5 hours. Unfortunately for us, at the time of testing Iomega released a firmware upgrade but beware when applying it as it’s totally destructive – users, groups, shares, RAID arrays and even data will be trashed during the update process. The update removes the option to have unrestricted share access and sets up a guest account and public shared folder.

To this you add your own users and groups and decide on read and write access for each one. The Windows networking setup has been improved as along with workgroup membership the appliance supports NT domain or Active Directory authentication.

Performance will depend entirely on your choice of RAID array. A software managed RAID-5 array takes its toll as copying a variety of files over Gigabit Ethernet to and from a Supermicro 3.2GHz Pentium D workstation running Windows XP SP2 returned read and write speeds of only 6.8MB/sec. We reformatted the drives as a RAID-0 stripe which returned superior read and write speeds of 10.8MB/sec and 9.6MB/sec respectively. FTP speeds were better as the excellent FileZilla utility reported average read and write speeds of 13MB/sec and 10.3MB/sec when copying a 690MB video file.

The wireless client option scans the network and displays all discovered access points where you choose one and add any required WEP or WPA/WPA2 encryption passphrases. Iomega was unable to advise us as to its reasons for removing the access point mode although performance could be a reason. Using a 1.6GHz Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook equipped with a TrendNET 802.11n PC Card we saw our test copies return a distinctly lacklustre 1.9MB/sec.

You can insert a USB storage device formatted in FAT or FAT32 and it’ll be automatically shared for read and write operations and there’s an option for copying pictures to a predefined folder from a digital camera when it’s plugged in. Iomega makes a passing nod to media streaming as it’ll work with UPnP digital media adapters and maintains a database of media files. A pity Iomega doesn’t include an iTunes server as this is now a very popular feature in competing products.

The storage outlook improves on the backup front as the appliance can manage scheduled full and differential jobs that can copy local data to a USB device or to another StorCenter appliance over the network. You also get EMC’s Retrospect Express included – a fine choice for backing up workstation data to the appliance. Wizards galore make light work of job creation and you can select a folder on the NAS appliance as a destination. Jobs can be scheduled and a neat feature of Retrospect is once it’s run a full backup it’ll only copy new and changed files on subsequent runs.

OUR VERDICT

Its low price is the main factor in this StorCenter’s favour and the integral wireless services add to its value. If you want a simple NAS appliance that’s easy to install then check this out but you can get a lot more features for a relatively small extra outlay from vendors such as Netgear, Thecus and Buffalo Technologies.