Iomega, the backup and storage vendor acquired by EMC earlier this year, has released a remarkably cheap network storage appliance aimed at the small business and home markets.

The Iomega StorCenter ix2 houses two SATA-II drives, and although it has been around now for a year or so as a storage device, it now incorporates EMC's Linux-based LifeLine software, which has broadened the features it can offer both the small business and consumer.

"This is a product that was selling for the last year already, but we have profited by taking EMC's very nice (LifeLine) software and putting it on the product," said George Melissargos, product manager, EMEA, Network Storage, Iomega International. This software provides centralised storage and on-board security.

Iomega says that with just four mouse clicks, users can configure up to two terabytes of storage.

"One of the challenges with this product, has been to address both the consumer and small business sectors, and make it appeal to both," Melissargos said. "We have put features into the box to address the needs of both markets. For example, for consumer something like the media streaming capability will appeal. For small businesses, there is also an interesting mix of features."

On the consumer side, Iomega has built-in support for Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)-certified devices, which will allow for electronic devices to be easily plugged into the home network, so they can connect with each other reliably and simply. The StorCenter ix2 can act as a 'home hub' or 'media server', which can stream or play music (it also has a built-in iTunes server) and videos. It can display photographs, and other digital content to any connected device (such as television or laptop).

"For consumers, the nice GUI is much more user friendly than our systems in the past," said Melissargos. The StorCenter ix2 can be configured with optional Bluetooth support, so users with mobile phones can store their files, pictures and even their address book contacts on the device. There is even the option to also connect compatible Axis video surveillance equipment, that will provide inexpensive real-time viewing and recording of activity inside or outside the home or office.

"For small businesses, the StorCenter ix2 can be used as a file server," said Melissargos. The NAS is much easier to administrate and manage, with many more tools for network administrator, and reports can be generated via email and SMTP,"

The StorCenter ix2 integrates EMC Retrospect Express backup software, and the Mozy online backup service is also included. During the set-up process, users can choose files and folders for scheduled automatic backups from all the PCs and Macs on their network. After that, any changes or additions are updated and saved automatically.

The device comes has 128MB of RAM on board, and has a 1Gbit Ethernet port, along with two USB ports. Melissargos says that more storage devices can be added, in case 2TB is not enough backup capacity.

The ix2 is protected from viruses or malware during upgrades or installs by security technology from RSA.

The Iomega StorCenter ix2 is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and Linux PCs, and supports up to two printers or external hard drives. It costs just £219 ($382), including VAT, for the 1TB version (featuring two 500GB SATA drives), whereas the 2TB version (two times 1TB drives) costs £309 ($539) including VAT. It will ship the new device on 30 October, 2008.

Iomega says that it intends to offer users remote file access in the future, as well as new security enhancements.