Two Contrasting NAS Products for SMBs
When it comes to NAS units for small and medium-sized businesses, you have a couple of different form factor options.
First, there is rack-mounted storage, which has pretty much reached the commodity stage at this point in time. You can buy a 2U or 3U storage rack with support for up to sixteen disks.
On the other hand, there's something to be said for a small, compact unit you can sit in a corner and use to provide disk storage for an entire small office. Those are the contrasting form factors we'll examine in this review.
Enhance Technology has added a number of features to its rack-mounted products to make them stand out from the pack. Redundancy typically differentiates consumer storage products from those targeted at small to medium-sized enterprise environments. The Enhance ES3160P4 has two redundant controller sections which boast four GbE ports, plus a management port, in addition to dual redundant power supplies.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Iomega StorCenter ix4-200d, a compact four-bay NAS that comes in 4, 8 and 12 TB versions. It has two GbE ports which can be bonded for higher I/O throughput. While it has features that would appeal to the home consumer, it also provides things like full iSCSI and NFS support for handling virtual workloads with VMware or Hyper-V.
Configuration and Setup
In order to use the multiple network paths available on the ES3160P4, you'll need to do some configuration. We tested the system using a Dell R715 server running Windows Server 2012. We had to add the Multipath I/O role using the Windows Server Manager. Once this process completes and the server reboots, you must launch the Multipath I/O app and enable iSCSI support. The Dell R715 came equipped with four GbE ports which we connected to the ES3160P4 using two 8-port Gigabit switches. Two ports from R715 were connected to one switch along with two ports each from the two independent controllers on the ES3160P4.
Once you have everything connected you must assign IP addresses on the server to match up with the addresses on the storage box. By default, the Enhance ES3160P4 uses IP address settings of 192.168.1.1, 192.168.2.1 up to 192.168.8.1, which you might need to change to match your needs. With that complete, you must configure the iSCSI initiator on the host machine to use the multiple paths.
The ix4-200d has one setting on the network page with a box that must be checked to enable port bonding. It does require that the two Ethernet addresses be on the same subnet before you change the configuration. Once that's done you should see an improvement on any system with more than one GbE port. We tested the performance using the same Dell R715 and found it to be more than adequate.
Enabling other protocols, such as NFS, requires just a few mouse clicks. The Iomega Web-management interface provides icons for access to a number of categories on the left-hand side of the page, along with an All Features icon to show everything at once. If you perform repetitive copy operations, such as copying a number of files from the server to an external drive for backup purposes, you can set up a Copy Job using the Web management tool to repeat the operation with a click of a button.
As with many of the other rack-mounted storage products on the market, the Enhance Technology ES3160P4 uses a Web-based interface as the primary method to accomplish management and control. As an added feature, a small LCD and four buttons on the rear of the box make it possible to change some of the basic settings manually. The LCD displays any fault messages along with the current IP address of the management port.
We liked the simple management interface for the iSCSI features of the ES3160P4. It made it really easy to change things like the IP addresses of the different ports. About the only thing we didn't like with regard to the management interface was the noticeable sluggishness when moving between different Web pages.
By contrast, the Iomega px4-300d provides a much more responsive Web-based interface with a number of additional options. While many of those options are consumer-focused, like the Youtube active sharing feature which automatically uploads videos to Youtube for you, it has an equal number of features that should appeal to an SMB user. These would include utilities to back up files automatically to Amazon's S3 or the Mozy service, as well as a personal cloud feature. With the personal cloud, you can actually make the designated files on the device available to the Internet with appropriate security.
These two devices are obviously designed for different types of uses with the Enhance Technologies ES3160P4 much better suited for a highly available requirement. In contrast, the Iomega px4-300d provides up to 12 TB of storage at a very reasonable cost. Both products do what they do well and would be worth consideration for any small business.