Overview: Quantum's SnapServer Network Attached Storage Line



Quantum is one of the vendors that started manufacturing Network Attached Storage (NAS) servers early on. Their SnapServer product line features a broad range of different models with different disk configurations and storage capacities. The Snap Server 1000 is offered in 20GB and 40GB capacities, the Snap Server 2000 provides 80GB, and the Snap Server 4100 comes with up to four 75GB drives, configurable up to 300GB, depending on its RAID configuration. The theoretical maximum capacity is actually dependent upon available drive technology. Quantum expects increased drive capacities to become available in the future and plans on releasing higher capacity SnapServers once these drives are commonly available.

The models at the lower end of the SnapServer product line either feature a single or dual disk configuration, and, starting with the SnapSever 2000 you also get control over how the disks are configured. You can either separate them into two separate volumes, mirror disks in a RAID 1 configuration for instant backup and data protection, or stripe them into one large disk by using RAID 0 for high performance and efficiency.

The SnapServer 4100 has all that and more as it combines the RAID features of the SnapServer 2000 with the added possibility of using RAID 5, offering both high performance and data protection at the expense of just a single disk. RAID 5 can be configured by using a minimum of three disks, whereas the fourth disk can be used as either a single unit or as a spare, to automatically replace a failed drive in the RAID 5 array.

SnapServer Security

All of Quantums SnapServers naturally have all the necessary security features built in to ensure that your data is kept safe with security restrictions that control who can access the files and folders stored on the server. The default configuration allows all users on your network full access to the server. If you want to enforce security, you can define users and/or groups and identify which of them may access the SnapServer. SnapServer can either secure an entire disk, whether as an array or a single unit, or just selected folders. Before you can give or deny users access to a SnapServer however, you need to define who the users are. The SnapServer allows you to define network users, local users and user groups:

  • Network users are users whose information the SnapServer obtains from a Microsoft or Novell network domain. These services allow you to define users in a central location and use those definitions across your network
  • Local users are users you define on a specific SnapServer. All of their user information is stored on the SnapServer. If you have other SnapServers on your network you can easily import these users from one server to another
  • User groups can either consist of network users of local users, if you've denied network users access, only local users will have access to the SnapServer
  • Naturally the SnapServer has a much broader range of security options in combination with the network it is connected to. All of these are either operated and enabled/disabled from the main server or through the 'security' menu in the SnapServer. The SnapServer menu allows you to set a whole range of options actually, not just security and can be easily accessed through your web browser by anyone with valid administration rights.

    Supported Network Environments

    Although the SnapServer supports a broad range of different network environments its operation is not indifferent to the network environment it is connected to. For example, operating it on a UNIX network is different from operating it on a Windows NT network. The following specifics apply to the network environment used:

  • Microsoft Networks--the SnapServer operates in a manner similar to a Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 file server. If you configure your SnapServer to use Microsoft domain security you don't even need to set up all your network users as local SnapServer users. By default the SnapServer is configured as part of a workgroup
  • Apple Networks--the Snap Server operates in a similar manner to an AppleShare 6.0 file server. The interoperatibility is equivalent to that of a Windows NT 4.0 server with 'Services for Macintosh' enabled. The SnapServer supports cross-platform access to application specific files, thus allowing Macintosh and Windows-based files to interoperate transparently
  • Novell Networks--the SnapServer operates in a manner similar to a Novell Netware 3.12 file server. You can link SnapServer security to that of another NetWare server, meaning that all of the users and groups will be automatically accepted as network users or groups. A network share on a SnapServer is equivalent to a volume in a NetWare server
  • UNIX NFS Networks--the SnapServer supports NFS clients in a manner similar to PC/NFS running on a Windows NT server. The SnapServer supports version 2.0 of the NFS protocol. The SnapServer does however not support file locking nor does it support symbolic or hard links
  • In addition to providing administrative functions through the web, the SnapServer can also operate as a web server, providing web access to files and folders. The SnapServer supports direct read-only web access to its files using the HTTP 1.0 protocol, and as such doesn't support Java scripting, animations, streaming video or anything that would require an application or service running on the server.


    Traditionally, you have to properly set up a server by installing the software and configuring the operating system, which is both time-consuming and simply a lot of work. Configuring a SnapServer is a matter of plugging it in, uploading the data to the SnapServer and then accessing that data from anywhere on the network.

    The fact that it can be configured through a web browser adds significantly to its flexibility. You no longer have to install third party software on your servers or workstations to be able to set it up properly.

    Another great feature is the fact that the drives mounted inside all but the SnapServer 1000 can be used in a number of configurations, either optimized for performance or data protection or a combination of both. This greatly adds to the flexibility of the SnapServer as it can be tailored to fit your needs. From a performance perspective even a single drive is able to saturate the 100-baseTX network interface as the IDE drives used average around 15 MB/s in throughput which is more than the 11.9 MB/s the 100-baseTX interface is capable of. So even if you run all four drives in a striped RAID 0 configuration you simply won't be any faster than a single drive, as your network interface simply becomes the main bottleneck.

    The combination of a number of fast hard disks, some dedicated hardware to handle disks I/O and networking creates a low-cost device that can easily compete with most multi-purpose file-servers at a much lower prices. If you're looking to save money and a simple way to upgrade your network storage capacity be sure to give the Quantum SnapServers a good look. They might fit your bill.

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