Small Business NAS Review: WD Sentinel DX4000 - Page 3

By Joseph Moran
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Remote Access

Providing easy access to files from outside the office isn’t always something at which small business NAS devices excel, but the Sentinel DX4000 does a good job of it. This is due to the Remote Web Access (RWA) feature of WSS, which lets you access shared folders and stream media through a very attractive and well-designed browser-based interface.

As an added bonus, you can use RWA to remotely control desktop Windows PCs, a feature most small business NAS devices don’t offer. The catches are that it only works with business versions of Windows (i.e. no Home editions), and because it uses an ActiveX control, it requires Internet Explorer (general file/media access can be done with any browser, however). 

To enable access to your Sentinel DX4000 from outside the office, a RWA setup wizard will take you through the steps of setting up the server with a new or existing domain name (which may involve added charges) or creating a complimentary subdomain at Microsoft’s remotewebaccess.com domain (e.g. yourservername.remotewebaccess.com).   

Storage Expansion and Maintenance 

The 4 TB Sentinel DX4000 comes with its two SATA drives configured as a RAID 1 mirror, leaving about 2 TB of usable storage available. Thanks to the Sentinel DX4000’s automatic RAID migration feature, when we added an additional 2 TB drive to the unit, it converted itself to RAID 5 in the background without disrupting access.

Performance, however, was noticeably degraded during the conversion process, which took an exceptionally long 25 hours to complete. Suffice it to say this should be considered a weekend rather than a weeknight job. When we pulled out a drive to simulate an abrupt failure and then replaced it, the rebuild time was considerably shorter -- about six hours.

Drives slide in and out of the Sentinel DX4000’s storage bays without the need for trays or tools, but it’s important to note that the Sentinel DX4000 only supports specific WD enterprise-grade (higher reliability) 2 or 3 TB hard drives -- the unit won’t work with other brands or even WD’s own consumer/retail models. (We tried inserting a Seagate Barracuda, but it wouldn’t even fit into the bay.)

By the way, neither the Sentinel’s access door nor the individual drive bays have any locking mechanism, so it’s important to keep the entire device in a secure location. (You can also "lock" the drives by assigning a password via the Dashboard, which WD says will prevent them from being accessed from outside the Sentinel DX4000.

Bottom Line

The 4 TB Sentinel DX4000’s $949 list price is more or less in line with competitors such as the Iomega StorCenter px4-300 (4 TB/$999) and LaCie’s 5 big Network 2 (5TB/$899), and those products don’t offer  networked computer backup, remote desktop access or the option for redundant power supplies.

Of the Sentinel DX4000’s shortcomings, the inability to back up the server to an external drive without an extra-cost subscription is probably the most troublesome; hopefully WD will get that fixed sooner rather than later.  

Price: $949 (4 TB), $1,499 (8TB)

Pros: Automatic migration from RAID 1 to RAID 5 when adding drives; dual AC connectors enable redundant power supply; does full backups of networked computers; good remote access features, including remote desktop to Windows PCs.

Cons: Setting up computers can be time consuming, error-prone when not up-to-date; RAID migration takes an extremely long time; can’t back-up server itself without optional add-on software.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on January 03, 2012
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