Feature Rich NAS for the SMB

One of the first, if not the first server that a growing business will get is a network attached storage server. As we discussed in our recent article “SMB NAS Requirements”, these systems should be able to provide several important functions to the SMB data center. They need to be able to store data, protect data and enable collaboration on that data.

The WD Sentinel DX4000 promises to do that and they recently sent Storage Switzerland a test unit to put the system through its paces to see if it can live up to expectations. When our unit arrived we unboxed it and had it connected in the lab in less than five minutes. From a size perspective the DX4000 is 8” tall and 6” wide.

Hardware

From a hardware perspective the unit can be configured with two power supplies and two 1GbE network adapters. Our system came with 4 2TB hard drives configured in a RAID 5 configuration for approximately 6TB’s useable. I like reliability and redundancy. The hardware of the DX4000 has those well covered, something that many SMB storage servers lack.

The rest of the hardware configuration should be more than enough for the task at hand. It included a power efficient Atom D525 1.8 GhZ Dual Core processor with 2GB of RAM installed. The system also has 2 USB 3.0 ports.

Installation

The next step was to power the unit on and begin the installation process. As with all of our SMB test drives we try to see how far we can get without reading the manuals. It seems to be the fairest test of ease of use and most real world scenario for the SMB IT person who does not have the time or patience to read through a manual. The DX4000 passed this test with flying colors. As you will see in the video above we were able to click our way through the installation process with no problem at all.

The only complaint we had was that the software configuration process was a bit sluggish. There were several points where we had to wait for the operating system to configure itself and probe our network. This is not WD’s fault but Windows Storage Server’s weakness. That said the richness of features that you derive from using Windows Storage Server is impressive to say the least, so in our opinion it is worth the wait.

Storing and Collaborating

The first step for most users of a storage server is going to be creating users and sharing data. As we show in the video below this is easy to accomplish and does not require Active Directory or even workgroups be established. Users can be manually created by the GUI as can additional folders can be created to be used as file shares.

In the next video we also tested accessing the Storage Server with a Mac client. While the Microsoft Connector client does not support Mac OSX 10.7 yet, you can easily connect with OS X 10.7’s SMB capabilities for complete sharing between users regardless of platform. In our next test we will also connect in a our Ubuntu Linux servers.

Further collaboration will need to be tested in the future test drives as well. The Sentinel has a unique capability that will allow you secure access to your files even when you are not in your office. Possibly eliminating the need for cloud sharing services that so many small businesses uncomfortably trust their data to.

Protect

The third requirement is often the most important initial use, protecting data from connecting systems. While the software today only supports Windows desktops and servers it is a very impressive effort and my favorite of the Sentinel so far. As part of the Connector software installation connecting systems are automatically added to the backup queue. Using Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy the Sentinel is able to perform live backups of connected systems. After the initial backup, subsequent backups only backup the changed sub-components of data and as a result go very quickly.

Storage Swiss Take

The WD DX4000 test drive is off to a great start in its tests in our lab. We are leveraging the system to help with collaboration, it is protecting critical Windows Servers and is being used by a variety of our platforms for storing data. While we have not put it through hard core performance testing as of yet, it seems to be performing well thus far. The key for the Sentinel is the richness of its feature set as well as its outstanding focus on providing a reliable and resilient storage server experience.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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