Iomega NAS P850m

  • Editors' rating
    8.8 Outstanding

Pros

  • High storage capacity;
  • easy to setup and manage;
  • excellent redundancy.

Cons

  • Very noisy;
  • limited scalability.

There aren't many computer manufacturers who sell kit with price points ranging from £50 to £15,000, but Iomega is one of them. The company boldly entered the NAS market about a year ago and recently launched its second iteration of NAS (Network Attached Storage) solutions, adding five new devices to its range, which now offers capacities from 120GB to 1.44TB. The previous range was confined to the 1U form factor, while the current range now features two high-capacity 2U devices. We examined the P850M, the most fully-featured (and expensive) model.

As before, the Iomega NAS range can serve NetWare, Unix (NFS) and AppleTalk as well as Windows clients. It can also treat shared folders as Web or FTP servers. It can either exist as a stand-alone unit or connect to an existing Active Directory or NetWare bindery.

Users are offered a choice of operating, too: five servers have a ‘u’ suffix, signifying that they run under a flavour of Unix, while those bearing an ‘m’ suffix run under Microsoft’s Server Appliance Kit -- essentially a stripped-down version of Windows 2000 Server, optimised for file services. Either way, no client access licenses are required, which can amount to a considerable cost saving over a conventional server.

The P800-series NAS systems carry eye-watering price tags, but they still offer reasonable value for money. The P850m costs £14,870 for 1,440GB of storage, or roughly £10.30 per gigabyte. The smaller 960GB P800m is priced at £10,475. Both employ dual 2.4GHz Intel Xeon processors, 2GB of ECC/DDR RAM, dual Gigabit Ethernet cards and a 10/100 Fast Ethernet interface for fast user access to files. The P850m also includes the Alacritech TCP/IP Offload Engine (TOE), which offloads network I/O from the CPU, boosting network performance over the P800m by about 20 per cent. You can either connect the dual Ethernet ports to different segments or set them to fail-over mode.

The P850m uses high-capacity, low-cost ATA drives to achieve high capacity. They’re configured as RAID 5 by default but can also support non-RAID and RAID 0 and 1 configurations. Unlike most other ATA drives, these are hot-swappable. You can also set up one of the device's hard drives as a hot spare that will instantly take over from a failed drive and configure it to send out an email alert.

If you’re looking for redundancy, you’ve come to the right place: virtually every piece of hardware that can be doubled up, has been. As well as the RAID and the dual NICs, you get dual redundant hot-plug power supplies and internal hot-swap fan modules, although you’ll have to yank the P850m half-way out of the rack in order to get at them. Backup provision is good too: with the Iomega Automatic Backup software loaded on each workstation on your LAN, it’s possible to set up the Iomega NAS unit to automatically back up every critical file on every workstation as it's created or modified. Persistent Storage Manager is yet another real brow-soother: part of the SAK, it takes snapshots of the server that can be instantly accessed and restored as the need arises. An Ultra160 SCSI port at the rear lets you attach other backup devices to the P850m.

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The learning curve for the P850m is relatively flat. Setting it up took less than 15 minutes, using the NAS Discovery software provided. Once you’ve established a TCP/IP connection, you can perform all management tasks through the Web-based interface or Terminal Services -- administrators familiar with Windows 2000 won't need additional training to manage this system.

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