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Caption by: Alan Stevens
Best known for its desktop NAS appliances, Buffalo Technology also sells a rack-mount version of its popular TeraStation Pro II product, available in a range of fixed-capacity configurations. We were sent the remarkably affordable 1TB model; 2TB and 4TB versions are also on offer — the latter coming in at just under £1,000 (ex. VAT).
All are housed in a bulky 2U chassis with a lockable clip-on bezel at the front, behind which you'll find four SATA hard disks. Ours had 7,200rpm Samsung 250GB drives installed. However, despite being mounted in slide-in carriers, Buffalo has opted for standard SATA connector cables, which means having to power down in order to remove or replace a disk. On the plus side, you shouldn't need to change a disk that often and when powered up the TeraStation is remarkably quiet.
A single Gigabit Ethernet port is located on a protrusion round at the rear, together with a pair of USB 2.0 connectors. These can be used to take backups to external USB disks and to expand capacity, although external disks can't be included in an array. USB printer sharing isn't an option, but UPS support is available via a separate serial interface.
The Linux-based OS is loaded from flash memory and also striped across the disks in protected partitions. This provides support for RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and 10, with facilities to configure multiple arrays. However, you can't change level without losing the data, and there are no dynamic expansion or hot-sparing facilities.
Having configured your arrays, you next define the network shares, which can be used by both Windows and Apple Mac clients. Linux users can also be included if they deploy the SMB/CIFS file sharing protocol and an FTP server is also built in.
User access can be controlled via a built-in account database with support for Windows workgroups plus NT domains and Active Directory. Plus there's an integrated Samba 3.0 server, enabling the TeraStation to act as a domain controller if required.
The usual web-based GUI is provided for administration. It's not the most intuitive we've used, and at times proved very sluggish. However, it gets the job done and isn't that difficult to master. Unfortunately the supporting documentation proved sparse and appears to be written with home users in mind.
On the plus side, built-in backup software enables backups to be taken to USB disk, another TeraStation or a network share, with options to take full or differential copies. Tools to enable users to map drives to the TeraStation are also included, together with Memeo software to enable users to back up their data to the TeraStation. However, this last option comes with a single user license which means forking out extra to use it more widely.
In terms of performance, the TeraStation with its single Ethernet interface struggles to keep up with the best of the competition, although it compares well overall and would be fine on a small-business network. The lack of hot-swap and sparing facilities could be an issue, however, and the size of the unit and its construction quality could also put many customers off.
Caption by: Alan Stevens