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Buffalo TeraStation Network-Attached Storage

Large capacity, low price

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Review The Network-Attached Storage (NAS) appliance may be the easiest way to communal storage to your network, but these products are often overly expensive, particularly for small businesses. Take Iomega's NAS 200d, for example. It offers an impressive range of storage management features but the bottom line is you're getting barely 500GB of hard disk space yet spending over a grand. Buffalo Technology is aiming to turn this notion on its head, as its compact TeraStation delivers a whopping 1TB for around £600. Even more remarkably, the appliance offers full support for a wide range of RAID arrays allowing you to implement fault tolerance as well, writes Dave Mitchell.

Buffalo TeraStation NAS unitThe TeraStation is reasonably well designed and will look good on any desktop. The front panel is home to an impressive range of status indicators showing general operations plus disk and network activity, but it will also keep you posted on disk errors and when the drives have reached full capacity.

The appliance is equipped with a 266MHz Freescale PowerPC processor teamed with a healthy 512MB of SDRAM. The network connection comes courtesy of a Realtek Gigabit Ethernet controller. Buffalo's controller board has all components hardwired so there's no option to upgrade. There's a basic Linux kernel running on all this hardware.

The storage is provided by a quartet of 250GB Western Digital ATA-100 hard disks mounted in a cage above the main board. It all looks good so far but you'll need plenty of patience when swapping out a failed hard disk. To access the hard disk cage you must first remove the unit's four rubber feet, the main cover, the front panel, the internal chassis side panel, the disk cage mounting screws, and all power and interface cables. Stay calm during reassembly - we dropped one of the last screws inside the chassis and had to dismantle the whole unit again to retrieve it.

Installation won't take long as Buffalo's TeraNavigator utility hunts down appliances on the network and leads you through initial configuration. You provide a name and IP address and then decide on how you want to use the hard disks. All four drives can be combined into a single RAID 0 stripe or you can opt for two RAID 1 mirrors which will halve capacity. For RAID 5, three disks are combined, with the fourth used to store parity data. Or you can use all four as individual devices, or JBODs (which stands for Just a Bunch Of Disks - honest). Four USB 2.0 ports add some extra versatility as you can add external hard disks or connect USB printers and share them over the network.

A client utility is installed on each workstation which displays all available TeraStations, their IP addresses and the status of the hard disks. You can view network shares and jump straight over to the web browser management interface. This is well designed and easy to use with all options accessible from a tidy menu on the left-hand side of the screen. Client support is basic but good enough for the target market as the TeraStation supports the CIFS/SMB and AFP protocols allowing both Windows and Macintosh clients to access it. It'll also function as an FTP server, and you can decide which options are to be active for each shared volume. Usefully, a Recycle Bin is provided for each share and can be enabled or disabled as required. These also apply to any USB drives as well. We tested these features using a Maxtor OneTouch and USB Flashdisk and the appliance worked fine with them, although it's worth noting that NTFS partitions are not supported.

Access can be controlled with usernames and groups, while read or write permissions can be applied on an individual basis or by group membership. Disk quotas aren't supported so you can't limit the amount of space a user can have. Back-up options are surprisingly good as up to eight full or differential tasks can be created to secure selected shares to another location on the internal drives or to an attached USB device. Each job can be scheduled to run at regular intervals and data can be compressed and encrypted. You can also copy data to another TeraStation and the management interface will show all available units on the network.

Verdict

The TeraStation offers a big serving of networked storage at a price well suited to small businesses and individuals on a tight budget. Access controls are more limited than the higher end NAS appliances and disk removal is a real pain but for the price the TeraStation is very tempting.

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Buffalo Technology TeraStation
 
Rating 95%
 
Price £617 inc. VAT
 
More info The Buffalo TeraStation site

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