Review: 3 NAS devices offer efficient backup for small offices

Network-attached storage is no longer only for enterprises. We look at three of the latest desktop NAS devices.

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Could Direct Attached Storage be enough?

While NAS is getting less expensive, Direct Attached Storage (DAS) drives -- external hard disks attached directly to your computer -- are still the kings of the cheap. If you're really trying to pinch pennies, you should be able to attach one of these external drives to one of your networked PCs and, after a few parameter changes, access it from other PCs on the network.

I decided to test the theory with the DataDock II drive from Fantom Drive. The 1TB DataDock II runs $280 direct from the vendor. A 2TB version costs $370, while a 3TB model will set you back $540. What's interesting about this particular device is that, unlike many DAS drives, it's a RAID box (capable of RAID 0 or RAID 1) and has four ports: USB, Firewire 400, Firewire 800 and eSATA.

NAS drives
Fantom Technology DataDock II

After setting up the drive, which is really just a matter of plugging it in and turning it on, I adjusted the network settings on two systems (one outfitted with an AMD Athlon 64 X2 running at 3GHz with 2GB RAM, along with the system used for the NAS devices) to allow it to be shared and started the transfers using eSATA (which, at a speed of 3.0Gbs, is the fastest of the four interfaces).

Writing 8.05GB of mixed data to the DataDock II took 5 min., 40.1 sec. -- only two seconds slower than Synology's DS409slim, which held second place among the three NAS units. Reading that same data from the DataDock II took 3 min., 18.6 sec., only 30 seconds slower than the fastest NAS unit, Netgear's $2,000 ReadyNAS NVX.

At this point, if you're a basic consumer looking for a single storage solution for multiple PCs, the DataDock II (or a similar drive at a similar price) is probably looking like quite an attractive option. It is, for an individual or a one-person office with multiple systems.

However, you won't get amenities like back-up timers, maximized capacity within a secure RAID variety (the DataDock II only offers RAID 0 or 1), or drive condition information. For those features, which are important to businesses, you're going to have to pay more.

Bill O'Brien is a freelance writer who has written a half-dozen books and more than 2,000 articles on computers and technology, including Apple computers, PCs, Linux and commentary on IT hardware decisions.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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