The flavour of the month in network storage seems to be advanced NAS devices aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. D-Link's ShareCenter Pro 1200-05 falls firmly into that category, offering a 5-bay bare enclosure that, if populated with 3TB SATA drives, can provide up to 15TB of shared storage.
It's a compact tower unit that resembles the old DSN-1100 model, with a lockable door that opens to reveal the five hot-swappable drive carriers. Drives are secured in the quick-release carriers with four screws. Below the door is a small 128-by-32-pixel OLED status display showing the IP address, system status and error messages. Each drive has a small activity light visible — although not that easily in daylight — through the door.
At the rear are the twin Gigabit Ethernet ports, which support a variety of network link aggregation, adaptive load balancing and failover protocols, plus two USB ports with storage and printer support. Two fan outlets provide ventilation, with automatic or manual fan speed control. We noticed very little noise in normal operation with two disks, and even at full speed the fans were not excessively noisy. The unit can be configured to hibernate after a set period, and daily power-down and power-off times can be scheduled.
After installing the two 1TB Hitachi HDT721010SLA360 drives provided by D-Link for this review (the system is sold as a bare enclosure), we ran the EZ-Search discovery utility to gain access to the web configuration interface. A System Wizard quickly walked us through the basic steps of configuring the network interface and file-sharing protocols before asking what type of array to create. We chose a RAID-1 array, and the entire setup was completed in well under five minutes. Two other wizards take you through the process of creating users, groups and shared folders. All the wizards are reasonably simple, but they lack explanations of more advanced settings such as 'oplocks' and 'map archive'. The PDF manual helps a little, but more detailed guidance for NAS novices would be useful.
The ShareCenter Pro supports RAID 0-6 (with hot spares and auto-rebuild capabilities), plus JBOD concatenation modes, and arrays can be easily extended, expanded or migrated between compatible RAID levels at any time. Volumes can be encrypted and unlocked either at system start or when a USB unlocking key (an optional step in the volume creation process) is inserted.
D-Link's EZ-Search utility lets you partition and format drives, and map shared folders
Mapped shares and iSCSI targets can be enabled concurrently, and after enabling an iSCSI target in the web interface (with optional CHAP authentication), drives can be partitioned and formatted using the EZ-Search utility if you don't want to use Windows' own tools. EZ-Search can also be used to map shared folders. Virtual volumes can be created by combining other iSCSI targets on the network.
AjaXplorer lets you remotely manage files and set up simple file-sharing functionality
The configuration menu is admirably uncluttered and fairly easy to follow — but again, spending time with the contextual help pays dividends. For example, at first glance it's not entirely obvious what Web File Manager and Download Manager do. The help file reveals these are remote file access and file download scheduling features, and they work very well. Users can log into the AjaXplorer application remotely via a web browser to upload, download and organise shared files. The Download Manager supports either FTP and HTTP downloads.
Remote backups can be made to either another D-Link NAS or an Rsync server; volume snapshots, local file/folder backups and backups of external USB drives are also supported. A single-user copy of FarStone Total Backup Recovery Server software is bundled for client imaging, backup and restore. A recycle bin can be created for each shared folder for protection against accidental deletions.
To integrate with larger networks, an SNMP MIB is provided on the CD, and network discovery using either UPnP and LLTD ensures compatibility with Windows Vista/7's network map. All common file sharing protocols are supported. Smaller businesses will appreciate the dynamic DNS support, using either D-Link's own service or DynDNS. Email alerts for a variety of system parameters (such as a full disk or overheating) and errors can be configured, and log files can also be sent to an administrator on a regular basis. User management is particularly easy, with the ability to batch-create users or import from a text file. Disk quotas can be assigned to each user.
We did run some performance tests using Passmark Performance Test — but, as mentioned, the ShareCenter 1200-05 is sold unpopulated so these results only apply to our specific review setup. With our 1TB RAID-1 array, on a mapped folder, a single File Server workload thread returned throughput of 38MB/s, dropping to 17MB/s for four simultaneous threads. The standard disk test returned a Passmark disk score of 445, with sequential reads of 54.6MB/s, sequential writes 39.6MB/s and random seeks and read/write performance of 28.9MB/s. These figures improved when repeated on an iSCSI target, giving a Passmark disk score of 508.4 (with component scores of 67.7, 38.8 and 34.1MB/s respectively). A single-thread File Server workload test achieved 41.5MB/s.
The ShareCenter 1200-05 is a capable NAS enclosure that does a decent job of straddling the divide between consumer-level NAS and more complex enterprise systems. Its ease of use and advanced RAID capabilities makes it an attractive, if expensive, option for the smaller network, and some administrators will no doubt welcome the lack of consumer-focused add-ons such as media servers that tend to clutter up many general-purpose NAS boxes.