- Rich feature set;
- can act as complete gateway for a small network;
- fast RAID-based storage.
- Lacks usability in places;
- requires some effort to get the best out of it.
For a small, DSL-connected network, this tidy-looking box could be the only appliance you need. The hardware consists of an eight-port 10/100 Ethernet switch and a wireless router/switch in addition to two 120GB hard disks that can be set up as RAID 0 (a single, striped volume for extra performance), two mirrored RAID 1 volumes for greater redundancy and data protection, or as two separate volumes.
From a software perspective, you get IP services such as DHCP, NFS and FTP, a print server, and the ability to connect to a wide range of clients, since the NAS-2108R speaks Appletalk and NetWare IPX networking protocols, all of which are individually switchable. You can also use this device as the primary router on an ADSL-connected network, since it will perform network address translation (NAT) and connect using PPoE and PPTP. The router element of the device allows you to set up a virtual server, one-to-one NAT if you have more than one public IP address, and configure it to allow two-way communications to certain applications such as online games and conferencing systems. Finally, this firmware-upgradeable device also offers Web content filtering and a firewall, and can act as both a DNS and a DDNS server.
The front of the box features an LCD panel that shows the IP address, network ID, disk activity and errors, plus a row of LCDs showing the activity of the 10/100 Ethernet ports on the back of the box. Also on the back are a secured power input for the external 12-volt power supply, a WAN port for connection to the DSL modem and a parallel port for a printer.
You can perform basic configuration from the front panel and, once set up with an IP address (static or dynamic), management is browser-based. Not only can you configure almost everything about the box, but you can also manage files -- which opens up the possibility of Web-based remote access. Backup facilities are useful, allowing you to replicate onto another IP device on the network. However, the firewall will take a degree of configuring if you're to make best use of it, and the manual is of little help here; the Web content feature is also very rudimentary, filtering only on keywords that you need to enter one at a time. Fine-tuning this box as a complete network protection system could occupy considerable time.
Ergonomically, the NAS-2108R is reasonably quiet and attractively styled and takes about a minute to boot, which is not excessive. It’s a sealed unit though, so if a mechanism goes down or you want to expand, you'll have to invoke Evesham's warranty.