- ✓Top-notch build quality
- ✓Web-based configuration
- ✓Dual disks, configurable as RAID 0 or 1
- ✓Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi connectivity
- ✓Built-in router and firewall
- ✕Hard drives are not hot-swappable
- ✕Not designed for demanding business use
The number of networked computers in the average small office is growing, along with the amount of accumulated data. Ideally, all this data would be stored in one central location that's accessible to all users, no matter which PC or notebook they are using. Secure access to this same data via the internet would be the icing on the cake.
Freecom's DataTank Gateway WLAN provides network-attached storage (NAS) and a secure connection for multiple computers to the internet via an external modem. The DataTank, which measures 9.6cm wide by 12.4cm high by 20cm deep and weighs 2.9kg, is a combination of external hard disk drive, file server (four gigabit LAN ports; one WLAN) and USB server (two USB 2.0 high-speed ports).
Supporting systems running Windows (98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003 and Vista) or Apple Mac OS (8.x, 9.x and 10.x), the aluminium-encased DataTank is powered by a 400MHz Marvell 88F5182 processor and 64MB of DDR RAM (512KB flash). Besides its striking industrial design, the most interesting feature of the DataTank is its 802.11b/g connectivity, which allows you to access up to 1TB of data wirelessly.
This multi-talented NAS box can also be used as a file server. Easily connected via the LAN or WLAN, you can use it to share data, presentations or private documents. You can also use it as a backup server, helping to protect all your files using the internal hard drives or by connecting additional storage devices via a USB 2.0 interface. The DataTank can even be used as a web server or FTP server to access and share your files online.
In addition, using the integrated router, you can share the device with anyone on your network. Furthermore, with the two integrated USB 2.0 ports, you can use a standard USB printer as a network printer and also add extra hard drives or other storage devices to increase the network storage capacity quickly. Thanks to the router function, sharing an internet connection is straightforward: just plug your DSL modem in the DataTank's WAN port and you have firewall-protected internet access from every computer in your network. The router supports PPPoE, PPTP, DHCP, fixed IP, port forwarding, RAID and proxy server.
The bundled Freecom Network Storage Assistant quickly performs basic setup of the DataTank. On startup, it displays all DataTanks available in your network and helps you configure the DataTank Gateway as a printer server or create network folders. You need to issue access rights for these folders — access control for all file access systems (FTP, HTTP and SMB) is structured around either group or user access rights (privileges). You can add or remove access rights at any time. If a group is assigned privileges or has them revoked, these are assigned or revoked for all users in this group.
The DataTank has two 500GB 3.5in. SATA hard disks, which you can operate either as 1TB of storage capacity (RAID 0) or as 500GB with the data mirrored on both disks (RAID 1). Freecom also supplies the DataTank with overall capacities of 800GB (two 400GB drives) or 500GB (two 250GB drives). All variants use drives spinning at 7,200rpm with 16MB of buffer memory.
Freecom bundles the DataTank with Acronis's True Image Home 10. Aimed at individual users, this software provides adequate protection from unforeseen events such as viruses, unstable software downloads and hard-drive failures. You can also create an exact copy of your PC for a full backup or backup only the important data and application settings of your choice. You can copy your entire PC, including the operating system, applications, user settings and all data, so, in the event of a system or disk crash, virus attack or other fatal failure, you can restore your entire PC in minutes, with no reinstallations required. Outlook support also means you can create a backup copy of your emails, contacts, calendar, tasks, notes, signatures, news folders, email rules and user settings.
Freecom's DataTank Gateway WLAN offers more than your typical SOHO-level NAS. It's not as powerful (or expensive) as a fully fledged business storage device, but is a very stylish and well-built network drive suited to individuals and small offices. However, business users concerned primarily with data protection and business continuity will generally require more. The two hard drives aren't user-replaceable, so hot-swapping in the event of hardware failure is impossible, and there's no dedicated power switch to help lower your company's carbon footprint. And although the blue front-panel LEDs are eye-catching, the lack of a proper LCD means you're never quite sure of the drive's current status. Still, if you don't need these more advanced features, the DataTank Gateway WLAN offers a lot for the asking price.