Network Attached Storage Round-Up (Part 4) - Wireless NAS

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Capacity On A Budget

If you're looking to serve a lot of data over your NAS but don't want to spend a lot of money, D Link's ShareCenter Pulse is hard to beat. Costing just $81.6, this dual bay NAS supports up to 6TB and supports any normal SATA 3.5" drives. The ShareCenter looks good as well, with the ubiquitous glossy piano black finish and surprising build quality for such a modest price. In terms of features, it's respectable, with the usual UPnP and DLNA streaming features, iTunes library support, BitTorrent, HTTP and FTP servicing capabilities. There's also a one-touch back up facility that will automatically copy the contents of a USB-attached storage device to the NAS. Where compromises have been made is in performance. In our reading and writing tests, the ShareCenter could only manage a sedate 14MB/s read speed and 12MB/S write. This makes it only really suitable for 100Mbps networks rather than gigabit, where your performance will already be bottlenecked by the throughput of your network.

Description: D Link's ShareCenter

Performance Business User

If you need a high-performance NAS box for your business and don't mind paying for the privilege, the Synology DS1511+ is the fastest NAS we have reviewed. In a RAID 5 configuration, which combines performance as well as protection against disk failures, we managed to record a transfer rate of 110MB/s when reading and 104MB/S when writing. This is comparable in performance to an internal hard drive (providing you have the necessary gigabit networking infrastructure to get the best out of it) and will mean you'll be able to back up even 1000GB of data in less than two and half hours - an order of magnitude faster than entry-level NAS boxes. Naturally this performance comes at a price. As a five-bay NAS, the DS1511 isn't a cheap model, and at $1350.4 for the enclosure without drives, you can expect an overall spend of close to $2000 to fully take advantage of its features. Fortunately, there's more to the DS1511+ than just speed, because it provides a whole host of features as well. As you would hope, FTP/HTTP serving is provided, it doubles as a media streaming server, has support for multiple user accounts, offers Active Directory, and can accommodate even more storage with the addition of external hard drives. A print server is included and you can even turn it into a video surveillance device by connecting up to 20 IP attached cameras.

Description: Synology DS1511+

A final feature of this exceptional small business NAS is its expandability. By hooking up a DX510 expander, you can add a further five bays, increasing your potential storage capacity to a massive 30TB.

Wireless NAS

Description: LaCie

Ethernet cables trailing across the floor simply isn't feasible in some homes, particularly if you live in shared accommodation and don't have access to the router directly. In this kind of property, wireless technology is the only feasible option.

Fortunately, there are now a number of wireless NAS drives on the market, which could be ideal for your requirements. LaCie provides its 'Wireless Space' product in a number of capacities. As well as providing you with backup facilities over the air, the LaCie has several other clever tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, it can double up as a wireless range extender, so you can set the LaCie at a good intermediate point between the router and the limits of your existing coverage, boosting range. It can even double up as a router itself, as it has four Ethernet ports on the rear (one in, three out). This won't be suitable for ADSL users, but if you use a cable modem or need to connect your network to another one, it could be a useful feature. As you would hope, the LaCie supports the latest 802.11n wireless standards for snappy transfer rates, and in our testing it surprised us with its unexpectedly good performance. With read speed of close to 30MB/s and with writing not much slower, it's actually faster than some wired NAS boxes.

Description: iConnect

Iomega also offers a wireless storage product, but it doesn't actually include any storage. The iConnect Wireless Data Station instead converts USB products you already own into a wireless NAS solution or, indeed, a wired NAS solution via the built-in gigabit networking support. It supports pen drives, external USB hard drives and even printers, all over 802.11n wireless. Performance isn't great, but at $110.4 it's an affordable way of adding some centrally served storage to an existing wireless network, all the while utilising USB storage devices you probably already own.

Built-in NAS Support From Your Router?

Quite a few routers now ship with USB ports in the back. On some devices these are only used for diagnostic or data connections, but in some cases they can allow you to connect an external USB 2.0 hard drive and share it over your network. Even the much-maligned BT Home Hub offers this functionality, although it's extremely limited. Drives have to be formatted as FAT32 rather than NTFS (unless using the latest Home Hub 3.0) and performance is pretty poor at just over 4.5MB/s. Nevertheless, this could be just the ticket if you just need a quick and dirty way of sharing some files over your network. Also, as this is essentially free functionality, you can't complain too much if the performance isn't brilliant!

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