Review: Maxtor Central Axis Network Storage Server

Maxtor’s latest network attached storage (NAS) device has a lot going for it – it’s compact, spacious, reasonably priced and, best of all, it allows you to remotely access files stored on it without a lot of hassle. On the flip side, getting the Central Axis Network Storage Server configured can be a frustrating experience due to confusing software functions and an extremely slow administrative interface.

Hardware Features

The Central Axis uses the same compact upright metal-and-plastic chassis design that Maxtor uses on its OneTouch 4 external hard drives. The front of the Central Axis sports a strip of indicator lights at the base of the unit, and on the back there’s a power switch, Gigabit Ethernet port and a USB port that you can use to connect a printer or additional storage device. (Note: As of this writing, the Central Axis product page on Maxtor’s Web site states the unit has two USB ports, but the device in fact only has one port.)

The $319 Central Axis (MSRP, but selling for well under $300 online) comes in only one capacity ‑ 1 TB. But it’s a safe bet that larger versions will be forthcoming, including multi-drive units that support RAID for data redundancy. RAID isn’t available on the current model, however, since it houses a single internal hard drive (7,200 RPM; 16 MB buffer).

Maxtor Central Axis Network Storage Server
The Maxtor Central Axis Network Storage Server offers 1TB capacity and easy remote access, but folder setup and the admin interface are confusing and very slow.

Setup and Administration

You manage most, but not all, configuration chores through the device’s browser-based administration console. Unfortunately it takes patience, because it suffers from extremely sluggish performance.

After selecting configuration options, we found it usually took six or seven seconds for pages to refresh, which can feel like an eternity as you’re trying to make your way through the menus. Things got even worse whenever we copied large amounts of data to the Central Axis. Two- or three-minute waits for page refreshes were typical.

The Central Axis comes with a Windows utility called Maxtor Manager, that you use to check the status of the device as well as to login to map a drive to a user’s shared folders. It also comes with a built-in backup utility and serves as a front-end to the browser interface for certain configuration options.

To setup accounts and folders and to access permissions on the Central Axis you can either go through the browser interface or Maxtor Manager. When you do it through Maxtor Manager, it automatically creates a series of folders for the account to store different categories of files, like movies, music, photos, etc.

If you specify that the account is for business rather than home use, the utility changes some of the folder names to reflect that ‑ instead of folders for movies and music you get ones for presentations and projects, for example.

But if you do account setup through the browser console, you don’t get the convenience of automatic folder creation. Rather, you must go to a separate menu and create folders manually. 

We like the idea of not having to manually create a series of subfolders to organize data, so using Maxtor Manager for account creation would seem to be a no-brainer. But Maxtor Manager doesn’t make the task easy because the software automatically tries to map the folders for any new account you create to drive Z. This causes cryptic error messages if you try to create an account while already connected to one.

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