- Weak integration;
- poorly documented;
- poor Web front-end.
Networked Attached Storage (NAS) has never been more popular. Based on embedded thin server OSs, NAS boxes make it very easy to add additional storage to over-stretched file servers on small networks. TEAC, best known for its optical drives and audio tape decks of yore, has launched a range of ‘microservers’ under the Vendotto brand. And to make the Vendotto range stand out from the crowd, it has laden them with features, hoping to turn them in to multifunction ‘all-in-one’ solutions.
The basic idea of the Vendotto Wall is simple. In a housing little bigger than a thick book, TEAC has shoehorned an 80GB fileserver, driven by an embedded 266MHz Geode processor, 64MB of RAM and a built-in hardware firewall, courtesy of respected firewall vendor, SonicWALL. The Linux-based server provides both Windows and Apple clients with the usual file services and operates as a DHCP and/or DNS server, so the Vendotto can also operate as an intranet or Internet Web server.
There are several different flavours of Vendotto Microservers available. You get a choice of four disk capacities (80, 120, 160 or 240GB), and can also buy it without the firewall or with 802.11b Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi plus an ISDN router. It’s not expandable, but there are a couple of optional extras, including a print server option and a plug-in 11Mbps Wi-Fi PC Card and adapter, to give the Vendotto wireless capabilities. As well as 10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN/WAN ports, there’s also a serial port and a USB port, although the early version of Linux used (apparently Red Hat 6.2) doesn’t support USB so its inclusion has to be viewed as a touch optimistic. TEAC also bundles a five-user licence version of its iOffice 2000 software, which provides users with Web-based groupware tools, including a scheduler, Web mail and shared address books.
A large chunk of the Vendotto Wall’s steep price tag is accounted for by the inclusion of what is essentially a SonicWALL Tele 3, a firewall that normally carries a £500 price tag. It’s a very competent ‘stateful packet inspection’ firewall that supports IPsec and VPNs (including certificate management, RADIUS authentication, Web content filtering and optional AV protection). So no complaints here.
Powerful though the SonicWALL firewall is, the way it has been incorporated in to the Vendotto is inelegant, to say the least. TEAC appears to have bought a normal SonicWALL Tele 3 mainboard, complete with Ethernet and COM ports (and one rather inaccessible Reset switch) and then fixed it internally. It then uses ordinary CAT5 patch cables to link to the Vendotto, including one that, rather incredibly, exits the casing and then plugs in to an external Ethernet port on the Vendotto’s motherboard. In doing so, it executes a tight bend that comfortably contravenes the 1in. minimum radius permitted. This horror is clumsily hidden by a screw-on cover. Jaw-droppingly tacky.
Getting the Vendotto Wall up and running is fairly straightforward, but more sophisticated configuration isn’t helped by the poorly integrated server and firewall hardware, which produces four IP addresses in need of configuring, instead of just two. The usability of the browser-based front-end left much to be desired, too. This might not faze grizzled system administrators, but TCP/IP novices need not apply. Printed documentation is absent and you need to unzip a file on the CD-ROM before you can read any sort of manual, which is pretty poor given the high price of the Vendotto.