Buffalo's Strong, Affordable NAS

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted February 10, 2006

In case you haven't noticed, there are a lot of (Networked Attached Storage) devices currently on the market. Many (if not most) of the ones targeted at, and priced for, small businesses are typically single-drive setups used for backup or file serving duties. Yet, single drives don't offer any real redundancy, so what do you do when your single drive backup fails?


Buffalo TeraStation NAS

That's where Buffalo's Terabyte Networked Attached Storage appliance comes in. The appliance goes above and beyond the norm and offers a killer combination of power, storage capacity, fault tolerance, connectivity and price.

What It Is — Features, Features and More Features
Buffalo Technologies' TeraStation NAS is a solid, small-foot print appliance (6.6 x 8.7 x 9.5 inches) that looks like a safe. It includes four hard drives that can be configured in four different ways. The TeraStation is currently available in three different capacities, 0.6 Terabytes, 1 Terabyte and 1.6 Terabytes. We reviewed the 0.6 TB model.

The unit's four 160 GB, 7,200 RPM ATA hard drives can be configured as four separate 160 GB shares, spanned into a single massive volume, mirrored in a RAID 1 setting (two 160 GB shares) or configured as a (RAID 5) setup.

RAID 5, which is the default setup, provides a more-than-adequate degree of data protection for most circumstances. In RAID 5, should one of your drives fail, you don't lose any data, all you need to do is swap out the failed drive. An additional degree of protection is provided by the default XFS file system, which is a high-performance journaling file system.

A key part of a NAS is, of course, on the network side and the TeraStation again goes above the norm. On the external interface side, the TeraStation includes Gigabit Ethernet ((GbE)) connectivity including support for Jumbo Frames. The appliance also provides visual cues regarding network speed. The front LED on the appliance lights green for a 100 Mbps connection and blue for a GbE connection.

The TeraStation also includes four (USB 2.0) ports, so you can connect those single-drive NAS devices you may already have with the TeraStation. The USB interface can be used to plug in a USB printer as the TeraStation also includes Print Server functionality.

The device supports regular (TCP/IP) and (AppleTalk) as well as providing SMB ((Samba)) protocol support. To top it off it can also function as a standalone server (FTP) as well.

Administration
Handling the great power of the TeraStation is relatively straightforward thanks to its Web-based management interface. The online administration tool includes tabs at the top level for: Basic, Network, Disk Management, Shared Folders, Group Management, User Management, Print Server, Disk Backup, PCast (streaming media server), Maintenance and System Status tasks. Most of the admin tasks are self-explanatory and simple tasks — like creating a new shared folder and setting appropriate user permission — are easy.

Backups
NAS appliances are, of course, commonly used for backups. At first glance, we would have thought that the Disk Backup tab on the Web administration tool would handle all our backup needs. Unfortunately, that's not quite the case. What the TeraStation installed backup actually does is provide an interface to create backups of the TeraStation itself, which is certainly useful. It does not directly handle PC backups — though that's not to say that Buffalo doesn't leave you empty-handed.

TeraStation includes an evaluation disk for the Memeo backup utility. As opposed to many other typical low-cost backup solutions, Memeo automatically backs up files as they are changed on your PC. It's not exactly (Continuous Data Protection) but it's not that far off. Memeo runs in the background and can be configured to back up specific types of files as opposed to just backing up your entire drive blindly.

It's unfortunate that Buffalo provides only an evaluation and not a full version of Memeo bundled with the TeraStation. That said, Memeo is only $30 for the full version, which is well worth the money. You can also choose one of the many other PC-based backup solutions, including the default Microsoft Windows XP solution.

Give It a Rest
In many cases, there is no real need to keep your TeraStation on and ready to serve files 24 hours a day. That's where the Disk Sleep function comes into play. You can set the TeraStation to go to sleep and wake up at specified time, which ultimately should help maximize the life of your drives as well as help to reduce your overall power consumption.

Though the Web-based administration tool is reasonably complete, it's missing a Web-based logging feature. You can setup the device to send e-mail notifications of errors and such though the feature requires that you have an (SMTP) server. It sure would be a whole lot easier if the TeraStation had its own built-in mail server (SMTP or otherwise).

The manual for the TeraStation is also good, though it would have been nice if Buffalo had included some form of context-specific help.

Rock Solid Performer
In just over a month of use, we found the Buffalo TeraStation Terabyte NAS to be a reliable and easy-to-use appliance. Simply put, it works as advertised. The appliance was easily recognized and connected to both Linux and Windows PC in our test environment over both 100 Mbps and 1,000 Mbps connections in different scenarios without issue.

We would have liked to have had a PC backup managed directly through the TeraStation's Web interface as opposed to just backups of the TeraStation itself. But that's a relatively minor issue considering the long list of ways you have of setting up backups for your PCs.

The Buffalo TeraStation Terabyte NAS is a sleek-looking performer that brings a strong, reliable RAID 5 solution to small offices. If you're looking for more than just the "likely-to-fail-at-a-bad-time" one drive backup, than you probably should consider this NAS appliance.

Pros:

  • RAID 5
  • XFS file system
  • Gigabit Ethernet support
  • 4 USB ports
  • Print Server

    Cons:

  • Built-in logging is lacking
  • Doesn't support Active Directory

    Price (as tested): $589.99

  • Adapted from PracticallyNetworked.com, part of the EarthWeb.com Network.

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