- Full 1TB of storage with RAID 0, 1 and 5 protection;
- hot-swap disks;
- dynamic volume sizing and snapshot facility;
- NDMP support;
- optional failover clustering
- Noisy fans;
- hardware RAID not used;
- iSCSI performance disappointing;
- no local scheduling of backups
Although there are good reasons for liking the Tiko Classic 340, it does suffer from something of a split personality. Most of the time it’s a Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliance, but it also has pretensions to be part of an iSCSI Storage Area Network, or SAN. And it’s not particularly clear why you would want both in one box -- especially iSCSI, which seems to add little to the mix.
The box in question is actually a 1U rack-mount SuperMicro Server equipped with a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor and 512MB of memory. A pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports provides the necessary network connectivity, while on the storage front you get four hot-swap Serial ATA disks with an impressive combined capacity of 1TB.
The disks are cabled to an Adaptec RAID controller on the server motherboard. However the hardware RAID facilities aren’t used, as Tiko opts instead to manage the storage array using software. Clearly this approach is less robust, but it does help simplify management, and RAID 5 support means that more of the available capacity can be used for storage. External iSCSI devices can also be incorporated into the storage array managed by the Tiko appliance.
Another bonus is the Linux based operating system, which has been optimised to fit into just 64MB of flash memory. This loads in under a minute, with all setup, management and monitoring done using an easy to follow Web interface with, importantly, SSL encryption enabled as standard for security.
The easiest way to start using the Tiko 340 is as a NAS server. Simply point a browser at its IP address, select the storage option on the menu and configure the RAID sets and volumes to use. On a Windows network you can then define SMB shares and use either local access control lists or Active Directory to manage access, with NFS (UNIX/Linux) and Apple file sharing also supported.
The 1TB of space gives plenty of scope and, assuming there’s enough space, volumes can be dynamically extended should the need arise. It’s also very easy to take point-in time snapshots -- typically used for backup and recovery purposes.
And talking of backup, you can attach a local tape drive and take backups manually. Or, if you have backup software able to exploit it, you can use the built-in NDMP (Network Data Management Protocol) support to include the Tiko appliance as part of a wider network backup system. There’s support too for failover clustering, plus built-in alerting and SNMP management facilities.
Unfortunately things aren’t so straightforward when it comes to iSCSI. On the plus side it’s not difficult to export disks for use on an iSCSI SAN or import remote iSCSI targets and share them via the Tiko server. The bad news is that configuring and managing the rest of an iSCSI SAN is unlikely to be so easy. Moreover, the fixed implementation on the Tiko 340 is limited in terms of both functionality and throughput. Indeed, in our tests we actually got better performance with the NAS setup than when accessing the storage at a block level using iSCSI.
As an NAS appliance, the Tiko Classic 340 is competitively priced to appeal to small and medium-sized companies, where ease of use plus the built-in dynamic expansion, snapshot and backup facilities make it a good solution. Whether those same companies will be interested in the iSCSI facilities is debateable -- especially given the lower throughput and the overall complexity of a storage area network compared to more straightforward NAS deployment.