Bolstering its family of InBusiness small-business products, Intel's aggressively priced Storage Station looks like a winner. Our tests of a 12GB Storage Station re vealed a compact disk server that's easy to install, full-featured, and a boon to resellers and small businesses alike.
The Storage Station's one failing is it doesn't support RAID mirroring, which Meridian's competing Snap Server recently introduced in its 2.0 OS. And, if Intel included print-server support, the Storage Station would be all the server a small business needs.
Running an embedded FreeBSD OS powered by a surface-mounted Pentium 266 and an unexpandable 32MB of RAM, the pint-sized Storage Station, hardly bigger than a fat notebook, is designed to support up to 50 users running Windows 95, Windows 98 or NT 4.0. Intel reports supporting up to 40 users with no noticeable performance degradation. However, for our tests we used a network of 10 PCs, and it ran flawlessly.
Installing the Storage Station is so easy, you'll be tempted to boost your on-site first-hour rates to compensate. Plug in the Storage Station's power cord; snap in an RJ-45 cable leading back to a 10/100-network hub or switch, and power up. Next, install the Storage Station utility on a connected PC, which searches for connected Storage Stations via your Web browser. After logging in, you can either manually rummage through the main areas of Status, Share Folder, Manage Users, Manage Network, and Tools, or simply choose the Setup Wizard to move things along quickly. The Storage Station calls on a variety of Java applets to handle each of the setting areas, such as performing OS upgrades. It works well.
As you'd expect, the Storage Station can act as a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server, or DHCP relay if there's a DHCP server. There's the usual ability to create user groups and shared folders, and a private directory/ folder for each user, but several unexpected niceties show up, too. For instance, the Storage Station can e-mail you alerts about its status—terrific for client support—but more importantly, it can use an existing NT Primary Domain Controller server for user authentication.
Intel includes a five-user license for Second Copy 97 from Centered Systems (www.centered.com) with the Storage Station. Second Copy performs automatic backups of changed files and directories from workstations to the Storage Station. You can define and set the frequency and backup times. Second Copy also can store up to 25 archived versions of backups.
Intel offers the Storage Station in a 12GB single-disk model running a Western Digital UDMA IDE drive, and its big brother with twin 12GB hard disks for 24GB of storage. Both carry a three-year warranty. Unfortunately, Intel doesn't allow Storage Stations to be field upgraded to 24 GB.
Bottom line: The Storage Station is truly a viable and inexpensive option to setting up a full-blown NT or Novell server for small businesses, at least for file server. Now, if only the Storage Station added printer support ...
Intel InBusiness Storage Station
www.intel.com/ network/products/ inbusiness_storage.htm
MSRP: $999, 12GB single-disk model; $1,399, 24GB version