Thursday, November 05, 2009

Iomega StorCenter NAS is great for backups

You can never be rich enough or thin enough, and you can never have enough storage.

I’ve been playing with Iomega’s brand new StorCenter ix2-200, a 4TB network-attached storage/home server that totally kicks NAS!

Not only is it a nice big target for Time Machine backups, it’s also an iTunes server. It plays nice with the Mac, and is dead easy to set up and use.

Aimed at small business and home users, Iomega’s StorCenter ix2-200 offers cheap network storage AND a media server. It’s a killer combo: you get a big roomy drive for Time Machine and a no-setup server for storing gobs of music and movies. Your media is accessible by any Mac or PC on your home network — as well as the Apple TV and the kids’ Xbox. Your files are also accessible over the internet.

Best yet, it’s a torrent machine, able to download and store torrents in the background. You just double-click on the torrent jobs you want downloading, and the ix2-200 does the rest. It’s fast and doesn’t clog your internet connection like a lot of Mac clients. Plus you don’t have to leave your machine on while you wait for the torrents to finish downloading. There’s also a built-in video player so you can watch downloaded torrents through the ix2’s browser interface. It plays video encoded in popular formats like .avi and divx, so no need to download VLC or Perian.

The ix2-200 is available in 1TB to 4TB capacities. Starting at $270 for the 1TB model, it costs $370 for the 2TB version and $700 for the 4TB version (two 2TB drives are still pretty expensive). That might sound pricey, but a comparable Hewlett Packard MediaSmart Home Server also costs $700 but offers only 1.5TB of storage. Yeah, the HP offers more performance, but it’s probably overkill in a typical home setting. According to Iomega, the ix2-200 can serve five simultaneous HD video streams at the same time, and support about 20 users at the same time.

It serves up media not just to Macs, Windows and Linux PCs, but UPnP devices like networked TVs and game consoles, including the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s preconfigured to share through iTunes and automatically shows up in iTunes as a shared device.

Setup was a breeze. I plugged it into the wall and home/office router, then ran the setup utility on my Mac. A few clicks later, and there it was in the Finder as a shared drive. Open Time Machine, and it’s available for backups. Dead easy. Another NAS appliance I’m reviewing wasn’t nearly as easy to set up..

The ix2-200 is configured through a browser interface, which is very intuitive (also unlike the other NAS appliance). Easy to add users, shared folders, set storage quotas and setup an FTP server.

The only problem I’ve had is with the browser interface, which is a little glitchy. Sometimes it jumps to a “configure network settings” screen, which disappears if you hit the Home link. It’s annoying, but not a deal breaker.

It’s got a gigabit connection and two drive bays. Drives are user replaceable, and it’s easy to add extra storage — just plug external drives into the three USB ports (one in front; two in the back).

Iomega says the ix2-200 is pretty green. It uses new green drives and automatically spins them down when not in use.

It also supports Bluetooth for backup and storage for smartphones, but alas not the iPhone until Apple adds for support for Bluetooth file sharing. It will work with jailbroken iPhones though. Requires a separate Bluetooth adapter (price TBD).

There’s a front panel “quick transfer” button for automatically copying files to and from USB thumb drives, flash memory cards and external USB drives. It can also initiate pre-set network copy jobs, which is useful for things like offsite backups.

There’s a bunch of other features for business users I’ll likely never use — like iSCSI for fast data transfers and support for up to five networked security cams.

But that’s all good. The iX2-200 is a great, full-featured package that’s not just a dumb hard drive but a capable addition to any home or office network. Recommended.

Overland Storage Launches NEO 200s and NEO 400s Autoloaders

Small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) face some tough choices right now. Disk-based backup is definitely on the rise and has many appealing features, but it can come with a price tag that these organizations simply cannot afford and may not meet all levels of data protection needs. Many SMEs are using tape as a primary backup target or leveraging tape as an archive in a disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) scenario. It is these requirements that the new NEO® 200s and NEO® 400s entry-level tape libraries announced this week from Overland Storage are designed to address.

There is no doubt that the price of disk-based backup has dropped dramatically over the last few years, even as its acceptance as a backup target has risen. But in small IT shops, tape still has appeal. It is portable, available in a small form factors and its upfront and ongoing costs are minimal, especially if needed to back up only a few hundred gigabytes (GBs) or up to one terabyte (TB) nightly. It is for reasons like these IT offices with budget, space and resource constraints are still purchasing entry-level tape libraries.

But as they look for new entry-level options, their appetite for more capacity and more features is increasing. Growing data centers and few or no IT personnel to manage backups means that hardware and software features once only found in midrange and enterprise tape libraries need to find their way into entry-level tape libraries.

To satisfy this growing hunger, Overland elected to leverage its proven NEO tape library family with the addition of an entry-level offering. The NEO 200s and NEO 400s entry-level tape libraries are the first products in this new line. While they do not possess all the features one will find in the NEOe product line, end users find the following features appealing for backup and archive applications:

* Web-based remote management and diagnostics
* Integrated bar code readers
* Choice of SCSI, SAS or native FC interfaces
* Easy rack installation
* Removable magazines with user-configurable mail slots

Of these features, Overland's decision to continue to support SCSI is notable because many of its competitors are moving to entry level tape libraries that only offer SAS or FC. While SAS interfaces certainly appear to the be wave of the future and are supported on these new Overland systems, continuing to offer a SCSI interface option still makes sense for SMEs since for now SCSI is still more prevalent and standardized than SAS and can provide sufficient throughput for smaller environments.

The NEO 200s and NEO 400s also diverge in a number of ways. The NEO 400s is a larger capacity, more full featured tape library while the NEO 200s more cleanly fits the definition of an autoloader/small library. Some other ways in which the NEO 200S and NEO 400s differ include:

* The NEO 200s supports both LTO-3 and LTO-4 tape drives while the NEO 400s only supports LTO-4 tape drives. Smaller organizations are less likely to have a need for the higher capacities and faster throughput that LTO-4 tape offers plus LTO-3 tapes are, on a per cartridge basis, lower cost than LTO-4 tapes.
* Redundant power supply option on the NEO400s. Overland has learned over the years that SMEs and data-intensive environments have a heightened need for data availability. The ability to add redundant power ensures a "backup" power source and ongoing access to data in the event of a primary power supply failure.
* Planned future options for the NEO 400s. For organizations faced with rapidly changing environments requiring an extra degree of flexibility, Overland is planning to provide a scalability solution that allows them to start with a NEO 400s with 48 slots and add capacity at a later date as needed. An encryption option also is planned to accommodate additional data security and compliance requirements.