Nexon Technology's desktop-sized NexonNAS 1000 has a Network Storage Processor said to be manufactured specifically for the NAS environment. The device as offered has 1TB of storage standard at under £1/MB. Let's take a quick tour of its pieces.

It has a 32-bit RISC processor, with RAID (0, 1 and 5) functionality, four Serial ATA channels and Gigabit Ethernet all integrated. There are two USB ports and it is said to be WiFi-ready. There is 128MB of SDRAM fitted. The operating system is NexOS, which has been streamlined to fit on a 64Mb compact flash module. It is based on a Linux-Kernel and not, as many are, on the Windows Storage Server 2003. (Microsoft has elected to appoint selected OEM's only, which, somewhat restricts choice for buyers if Windows is the preferred platform).

The unit is very compact, weighing 9kg and measures a mere 20cm high by 22cm wide by 27cm deep. Cooling air is vented quietly through the front panel behind which are four drive bays. Our model was fitted with four Western Digital 7200rpm 250GB Serial ATA drives.

It supports the CIFS/SMB, NFS and AFP file-sharing protocols to communicate simultaneously with Windows, Unix/Linux, NetWare and Macintosh volumes. This makes it useful for small and/or mixed environments.

Upon delivery we had it installed and operating in less than a quarter of an hour. Once out of the box all that is needed is to attached the Ethernet cable provided to the hub, and the power cable to the mains. Turn on the power and install the designated CD provided, and run a software wizard. You can be in business in under 10 minutes.

Nexon supplies the unit ready configured with RAID 5 for data striping with parity, and if you are content with that and do not have a need to change, then you will be up and running in no time. Discovering the unit on the network is made simple by a neat little utility called RAIDar, as it obtains a random DHCP IP address.

You manage the unit through the supplied FrontView graphical user interface.

Nexon has added snapshot, RAID sync and data journalling features which means that data on the device is well-protected against hardware failure and outages generally.

The snapshot feature stands out. Tape backup suffers from time constraints and reliability problems as well as interupting online availability. Inevitably backup is usually carried out in the wee hours, to avoid "open file" syndromes and interruptions to daily operations. Snapshots avoid the need for this. They are fast point-in-time copies of volumes. Up to one terabytes of data can be backed up in less than a second this way. It is the ultimate solution to satisfying short-term backup needs.

Snapshots can play an important role in backing up data, disaster recovery and populating a secondary server with live data. Using snapshot technique requires some location where the snapshot metadata and copied data can reside. This location is referred to as a "diff area" short for difference area. The NexonNAS has made an allowance for this and has allocated 34MB to the "diff area"; the size can be increased if necessary. The snapshot feature also has an inbuilt scheduler that leverages continuous replication of snapshots with no manual intervention.

Another feature is "Background RAID sync" which lets the RAID sync process work in the background whilst releasing the use of the volume without having to wait for hours. Smart "sync resume" is a feature that allows you to continue from where you left off, in cases of a power outage, or any accidental loss of power during the RAID sync process.

There is a "Disk Quota" feature. Storage allocation can be set per user, or per application. It can be password-protected if required. This is dictated by the security setting level selected.

"Data Journaling" is another data security feature. It means that changes to the contents of a file are written to a separate journal file. In effect writes are double buffered to ensure they can be recovered, just like metadata. If there is a problem while data is being written to the device then the journal can be used to recover data.

The NAS1000 also has UPS monitoring that continuously monitors a UPS attached to the NexonNAS and sends alerts whenever a power outage occurs and the UPS battery takes over. When the battery runs low the NexOS shuts down to avoid potential file corruption. Alerts are sent via email, not only for UPS monitoring but for all issues relating to problems occurring with the appliance.

But a word of caution, if a power outage does occur; it is highly unlikely your system will be operational to receive email alerts, so dependency on this should be minimal if power outages are an issue in your location.

Another feature for users that is useful is Print Server readiness. This allows for printers to be attached via the USB port and instantly recognised by FrontView, the GUI management portion of NexOS. It then automatically creates print shares.

The icing on the cake for us was the bundled backup software, GBM Pro Network from Genie-Soft. Backups can be achieved from any windows system directly onto the NexonNAS and automatic scheduling makes it easy to ensure backups are timely.

Any user that currently does not have a structured backup solution will do well to get the NexonNAS 1000 as it offers everything that is required for a cost effective backup solution. Genie-Soft is offering a competitive upgrade to the full version of GBM Pro at a special discounted price for Nexon users. We were unable to confirm upgrade pricing at the time of going to press.

Our performance testing was done by mapping a volume to a Windows Server 2003 system, and using the open source Iometer. Over the Gigabit Ethernet Iometer reported a transfer rate of 72MB/s which is good, as it compares with other NAS appliances in its class.

This is where the comparison ends. The NexonNAS 1000 form factor is appealing as it can be tucked away neatly without being obtrusive. It offers a huge helping of network storage, at a price that will appeal to small and medium sized companies, where ease of use plus the built-in dynamic expansion, snapshot and backup facilities make it an excellent choice.

The price and specification of the NexonNAS 1000 sets a benchmark that other vendors will struggle to match or beat. It is an excellent NAS device.

OUR VERDICT

A good device for medium to small enterprise needs that provides a terabyte of well-protected storage in a desktop form factor.