It happens every day. A company runs out of storage space but has neither the IT budget nor the time to add another expensive, multipurpose file server to its network. If this predicament sounds familiar, you might want to check out the Quantum Corp. Snap Server 2200, an easily configurable NAS (network attached storage) server that allows administrators to quickly add storage capacity to a new or existing network. And because the Snap Server is optimized for file sharing, it can be maintained with very little overhead and almost no human resources.
Although we found the Snap Server 2200 to be a decent storage solution for budget-strapped shops, the server’s price is greater than that of competing products from Maxtor and could easily be matched or even beaten with low-end commodity hardware and a free operating system such as Linux or FreeBSD. Furthermore, the product suffers from a few rather serious security imperfections and administration flaws, which prevented us from giving it better than a wary score of Consider.
On the plus side, the Snap Server supports Windows Networking, NetWare, and NFS (Network File System), which allows it to fit into almost any environment with relative ease. The product boasts such a compact footprint – smaller than two stacked shoe boxes – administrators can place it under a desk and forget about it. Best of all, if you’re running a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) or BootP server, you can plug the Snap Server into your network and have it ready for configuration within five minutes.
With dual 80GB drives and a 100MBps network adapter, the Snap Server provides impressive capacity and bandwidth for a strained network or branch office. The device offers a variety of networking options and supports file access via TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, AppleTalk, Microsoft Networking, HTTP, FTP, and NFS. Quantum mainly concentrates on Windows connectivity, offering support via NetBEUI and allowing the importation of users and groups from a Windows NT/2000 domain.
Unfortunately, the product lacks a command line interface, an oversight that forces administrators to perform bulk operations individually. For example, the interface does not allow users to create multiple shares at once, so the theoretical five-minute task of selecting directory names and defining users might take more than an hour for an unfortunate administrator who must input the information piece by piece.
We found this limitation especially aggravating during NFS configuration. Because the Snap Server only allows NFS access on a per-user basis, it is tremendously inconvenient to set up a public share. Nor is there a way to map NT domain accounts to NFS accounts, for example, a limitation which becomes especially problematic in mixed environments, because Quantum specifically advises against creating a local account with the same name as a domain account.
In addition, no support for GIDs (group identifiers) means that Unix groups cannot be assigned access rights at all. Paradoxically, it is possible to constrain security for a particular user very tightly, allowing access only from a single host or network.
Perhaps the product’s most obvious defect is its absence of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption in the Web interface. Quantum’s use of plain-text access to the administrative portion of the interface is irresponsible at best, considering that anyone with a packet sniffer could easily acquire the administrative password for the server and gain complete access to the contents of the drives.
The Snap Server ships with four separate accounts with administrative access, which neophyte administrators may not think to secure or to delete. The bottom line here is companies should think twice before using the Snap Server 2200 for storing confidential or business-critical files.
On a positive note, the server was very responsive to network requests and handled large amounts of throughput with aplomb. We configured our sample unit with RAID Level 0 disk striping for maximum performance and capacity. We also could have set up RAID Level 1 disk mirroring, or configured the disks to operate separately, but we were shooting for the maximum possible space, which turned out to be roughly 150GB after formatting.
Although multiple large transactions sometimes caused noticeable lags in performance, the Snap Server admirably handled large chunks of data submitted by single systems in conjunction with regular traffic from other machines.
The on-disk copy was substantially slower, supporting our suspicion that the drives are simply commodity PC hardware with a reasonably fast ATA bus and not much in the way of cache. The Web interface failed to respond during this process, which suggests that the product’s embedded operating system is not capable of handling such intense I/O.
Unfortunately, the device itself has no built-in monitoring mechanism, which prevents administrators from supervising throughput, errors, cache hits, or anything else for that matter, except by keeping an eye on the lights on the front panel of the box.
Nor is the device scalable: Quantum makes no provision for add-in cards or additional drives, which means that if you run out of space on your first Snap Server, you will need to buy another box.
Despite these drawbacks, the Snap Server remains a viable option for companies looking to add low-maintenance storage space to their networks; it is especially valuable for housing non-sensitive data that does not require copious protection from prying eyes.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Business Case: This NAS server carries very little overhead but leaves critical data vulnerable to hackers.