Server Management and Computer Backups
Although you handle the initial setup via a browser, you perform ongoing server management using a Dashboard utility. This isn’t nearly as convenient as being able to control the server from the browser on any PC (as is customary with NAS devices these days), though you do have the option to install the Dashboard on every computer along with the Launchpad.
From the Dashboard you can do things such as create user accounts and shared folders (a number of standard document and media folders are set up in advance) and determine what kind of access -- read, read/write, or none -- users will have to each folder. Many NAS devices put forth less-than-intuitive interfaces for doing this kind of stuff, but performing these tasks via the Sentinel DX4000’s Dashboard wizards is exceedingly simple.
In addition to creating new user accounts on the Sentinel DX4000, you can opt to join it to an existing Windows 7 HomeGroup or to a Windows Active Directory domain. (The key word here is "existing" -- you can’t create a new HomeGroup or domain.)
Another thing you can do via the Dashboard is restore data from the nightly backups that the Sentinel DX4000 automatically performs on every networked computer. Moreover, you have the option to create a bootable USB Flash drive from which you can do a complete "bare metal" restore of a computer in the case of a complete hard drive failure or similar catastrophic event. We successfully performed both folder and full backups in our testing.
The Sentinel DX4000’s capability to comprehensively backup and restore client computers makes it a standout in the segment, which is why its inability to backup itself is such a disappointment. Due to a limitation of WSS’s built-in server backup utility (it doesn’t work with volumes 2 TB or larger), the utility has been omitted from the Sentinel DX4000.
This leaves no out-of-the-box way to back up the contents of the server (including any computer backups it’s storing) to an external hard drive. WD is working on a fix for a future firmware update, but there’s currently no timeframe for its release.
For the time being, therefore, the only way to back up a Sentinel DX4000 is via an optional third-party add-in utility from KeepVault. This subscription-based software will back up the contents of the server to both a local drive and the cloud, and prices start at $300 annually for 250 GB of online storage. (Costs rise to $999 a year for 1 TB of online storage, but you can back up as much as you want locally no matter how much online storage you buy).
Although the added cost of having an off-site backup is entirely justifiable, it’s unfortunate that the Sentinel DX4000 effectively requires you to pay extra for something as rudimentary as on-site backup capability.