Zetta Server is a software approach to the Network Attached Storage (NAS) market. Instead of buying an all-in-one appliance you buy the server hardware separately and then install Zetta Server on top. The package is entirely self-contained (it includes both a FreeBSD-based kernel and the higher-level software that deals with the fileserving operations) and installs from a bootable CD. The setup process takes only a few minutes and there's little or nothing to do. The installer screens have the familiar white-on-blue look of Windows ones, although as we've mentioned, this isn't a Windows machine. Once the software has copied there's a little bit of interaction required (most notably to choose which network adaptor to use and to select manual or DHCP addressing), but it's a very simple process. After installation, the console is largely redundant – the preferred means of administering the system is via a Web browser, though you can work with a command line interface, via SSH, if you so desire. When you first connect through the Web interface you're led through some initial configuration tasks, such as defining the administrator access password and specifying which Windows domain you want to connect to, if any. You're also asked for an email address and details of an SMTP server that the system can use to alert you to issues, if necessary. Part of the process involves connecting to Zetta's Web site in order to license the software. Although this didn't seem to work first time for us (we got a blank screen instead of the licensing options) it was OK at the second attempt and we put it down to IE having a bad day. Zetta's filesharing capabilities encompass both Windows (via standard Windows filesharing protocols) and Unix (using NFS). In a Windows world, the system can reside in a domain but this isn't a requirement (and in our lab we didn't link the unit to a domain – it defaulted to the workgroup "Zetta"). If you're not using domain authentication, you create users and groups via the Web interface, which is a simple enough process. When you create a shared folder you specify user and group permissions along with address restrictions (you can restrict access, either by user or by IP address). For those with the need for resilience Zetta provides a number of levels of protection. First off, as you'd expect, you can choose to run multiple disks in a RAID configuration (either hardware or software RAID) to protect against failure. If you're worried that the server itself may turn up its toes, the package also provides the ability to replicate its contents, across the network, to another Zetta server (or even for a pair of machines to swap their contents bidirectionally). It's an interesting idea, and it's one of the easiest replication schemes to set up that we've come across (it's really just a case of specifying source server, target server and authentication credentials). Zetta includes another useful feature with regard to data security – protection against the accidental erasure of files. The "snapshot" feature enables you to take snapshots of the state of each file in the system, either on demand or based on a schedule, so that you can go back in time and rescue something that a user shouldn't have deleted or changed. Snapshots are read-only, so you don't get confused by writing stuff back to an old version of the disk image. They're done intelligently (it keeps only one copy of each version of each file, rather like an incremental tape backup). You can also decide to exclude one or more directories from each snapshot, if that's what you want to do. By combining the snapshot facility with the replication function mentioned earlier, you can ensure that the files being replicated aren't open and thus inaccessible. We had a few issues in our review, which we conducted using an ageing PIII-450 with a single IDE disk. One little thing was that the shutdown function on the Web GUI didn't seem to do anything, though it worked fine on the command line. Another was that if you selected "I'll set up my disks later" in the installer, it told you that you could do it via SSH the volume manager later, but didn't give any clue how to do so (searching for "volume manager" in the otherwise good PDF manual yielded no results). Finally, when we stopped the server and added a second IDE disk it confused Zetta, which decided it ought to ask us all the setup questions again when we connected via the Web GUI. Zetta server is a very interesting concept and is, on the whole, well implemented. The user interface is a bit Andy Pandy, with its colourful icons and big buttons, but as a result is idiotproof. Setting up users and fileshares is simple, the disk management facility is good, and the snapshots, replication and software RAID support are all good ideas. Aside from the issues we came across, it's an interesting consideration for anyone looking for an appliance-style fileserver product.
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