- Inflexible access control
- CIFS-only file serving
The DNS-343 from D-Link is a small network-attached storage (NAS) appliance aimed at homes and small businesses. As well as networked storage, it features a built-in USB print server plus multimedia sharing capabilities. Although it costs less than other similar devices, it also has some quirks that could make it more difficult to manage and get the best out of — particularly for larger numbers of users.
D-Link's DNS-343 is a four-bay NAS box with a built-in USB print server and muoltimedia sharing capabilities.
The DNS-343 can accommodate up to four drives, and D-Link claims that hard disks of any capacity are supported. We tested the unit with three 1TB Seagate Barracude 7200.12 drives. Although the DNS-343 uses Serial ATA drives, it doesn't support hot plugging, which is disappointing rather than a deal breaker. If avoiding downtime is important to you,however, you should consider a different class of storage appliance to this. Drives are fitted to the unit by removing the rather loosely attached front panel and sliding the bare drives into the four slots. No rails or other fittings are needed. You eject drives using levers on the rear, which are flush with the case but are easy to locate without having to look or turn the unit around. The DNS-343 has an external power supply, and carries a single Gigabit Ethernet port and one USB port on the back panel.
The front panel features an OLED matrix display that delivers summary status information such as the IP address, temperature and free space. You can shut the unit down safely using the power button, but no other configuration is possible.
The DNS-343 is managed using a web-based interface, and a search utility is supplied with the unit that will locate it on the network. It also supports UPnP, so you can also locate the appliance using a UPnP browser. The unit has a web interface with the same look and feel as other D-Link devices.
When you add new drives to the unit, the web interface prompts you to configure them. You have the choice of Ext2 or Ext3 filesystems, which the interface tells you, correctly, are better for performance or reliability respectively. Ext3 is a journalled filesystem, and so is far less likely to get corrupted if the power fails or there's some other mishap.
New volumes can only be created with added drives; you can't add drives to any existing volumes. If you want to expand the capacity of the DNS-343 drive-by-drive, you can only use each drive as a separate volume — or copy all your data off the device, reconfigure the drives and copy the data back again. If you want to use the DNS-343's RAID capabilities you'll have to populate the appliance fully before you start. Note that you can't choose the names of any volumes you create, although you can later create shares with names you choose.
Once you've configured your drives into volumes you can assign user rights to them. On a network where security isn't an issue you can simply allow anonymous access to the volumes. Otherwise a fairly standard system of users and groups is used to grant permission to folders, although there are some oddities. You can share any folder on any volume in the unit separately, and assign permissions to a single user or group to that share. However, you can't have more than one user or group assigned to a share, and each user can only belong to a single group. The only way to give different permissions to different people for the same files and folders is to create separate shares for each person. These need different names, so different users may end up accessing the same files on different paths.
In addition to SMB file serving, the DNS-343 provides an FTP server, an iTunes server and a UPnP media server. No other standard file serving protocols, such as NFS, are supported — despite the appliance apparently being Linux-based. The FTP server is configured in much the same way as SMB shares, using the same usernames and groups. The iTunes server makes the contents of a folder available over the iTunes shared library protocol, with optional password protection. The UPnP server performs a similar function.
The DNS-343 can automatically download files and folders from remote locations via HTTP or FTP. Unfortunately, it can't do this if it's part of a Windows domain.
The lack of flexibility in the DNS-343 is disappointing. Even on a low-cost device there should be greater control over the configuration of the drives and shares, and user permissions. Smaller companies that are likely to use a device like this will suffer more from the copying backwards and forwards that's needed to expand this device while still making best use of its facilities.
The DNS-343's strong points are its minimal setup time and compactness. Its drawbacks are its lack of flexibility, particularly for business users. If you're buying storage for home use, the DNS-343 is fine. For the office, we'd recommend spending more money on a higher-end product, as this will pay off in the long term.