BlackArmor NAS 440 is a Johnny-come-lately to the NAS market, but the manufacturer, Seagate Technology LLC, seems to have done its homework. Aimed at small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, this Linux-based appliance is full-featured and flexible, with the promise of further extensibility via freeware and open source widgets in the near future.
Unlike a great number of NAS offerings on the market, the Seagate BlackArmor NAS 440 is more than just a small Linux box with Webadmin slapped onto it. Although late to the crowded SMB storage market, the BlackArmor appliance is a solid filer with a level of polish that should make it welcome in any small office seeking a few terabytes of network storage.
Seagate, of Scotts Valley, Calif., has done a good job of catching up with the Joneses. BlackArmor boasts the now-expected features, including fully enabled drive trays for easy expansion (BlackArmor 420 comes with two drives, but four trays), print server (unidirectional), backup utilities, dynamic DNS, USB backup and drive mounts, and the now-standard NFS/CIFS/FTP trio. However, Seagate has wrapped and polished these features in a way that stands out from its foreign competition. You could easily create a functional equivalent to BlackArmor using Openfiler, OpenNAS, or just straight Linux, but you'd have to work very hard to build it for the same bucks, the same power draw, and the same polish.
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[The Synology Cube Station, a 2009 InfoWorld Technology of the Year Award winner, is another sweet low-end NAS. See the Test Center's review.]
My great frustration with testing NAS devices is that the available tools such as Iometer and IOzone are designed to bypass the bulk of the operating system and dive deep into the mechanics of the storage subsystems. As a computer scientist, what I really wanted was something that just about anyone could run and confirm my results. The answer turned out to be the new Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (see my review). It lets you run a wide range of tests -- from office document reads and writes to video playback and recording -- either separately or all at once, and it couldn't be simpler to use.
udos to the Seagate team for including both Windows and Mac setup tools -- Mac users are typically left out in the cold. Installation is literally as easy as plugging the unit into the network and letting it get a DHCP address. Seagate's Discovery tool will search your local network (same subnet only) and display all the BlackArmor servers it can find. Check the box next to your server, and Discovery will display all the shares, with private shares popping up a standard user authentication window. Just click the Manage button to open a Web browser to the administrator interface.