Why virtualise your NAS environment?
Western Digital ShareSpace (WDA4NC20000)
A speedy, delicate and slightly pricey NAS.
- Fast transfer speeds, large storage capacity, aesthetically neutral, USB 2.0 one-touch backup
- Pricey, some key features require advanced feature tweaking that isn't explained in the manual, lacks FireWire connection, flimsy interior rack system
The Western Digital ShareSpace (WDA4NC20000) is fast and comes bundled with two excellent 1TB hard drives, but it suffers from a slightly higher price tag than competing units and has a fragile interior racking system.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
If you're looking for a fast network attached storage (NAS) device for home, or for a small office, and you want one that has lots of storage space, then the Western Digital ShareSpace 2TB, with its Gigabit Ethernet connection and three USB 2.0 ports, could be for you.
NAS units that are easy to set up and use, such as the LaCie Network Space, are rare. Recognising this, WD has attempted to simplify the set up of the ShareSpace and make it easier for Joey Bloggs to plug and play. WD has had limited success in making things easier; once you've connected the NAS, its detection software (WD Discovery Tool) makes finding it on your network quite simple, but certain key features — such as using the USB drive one-touch backup — still require the user to change the "Advanced" configuration settings. Once you're in the advanced settings, everything from the RAID configuration to user quota can be manipulated.
The amount of control over user accounts is good. Administrators can set quotas — how many gigabytes each specific user can download — as well as which folders users can access. Group permissions can be assigned, providing a simpler way to manage a number of accounts.
Hard drives can be configured in RAID 0, 1 and 5, but RAID 5 will require using all four drive slots. The 2TB version comes with two 1TB WD Caviar GP and has a total formatted capacity of 1.78TB, resulting in a cost per gigabyte of 50 cents.
We had trouble accessing the downloader function due to the username (downloader) being mysteriously absent from the manuals provided. We were then disappointed to find that the downloader wasn't a BitTorrent client, as found in the Synology Disk Station DS408, but rather an HTTP/FTP downloader. The downloader is accessed via the same login section as the configuration page, and it allows users to designate URLs from which the NAS will automatically download files.
The ShareSpace is neither blindingly ugly nor amazingly attractive. A dull silver coating and boxy shape ensure that users won't look at it twice, making it perfect for an office environment.
Opening the case, which is secured by captive thumbscrews that are permanently attached to the device, reveals a four-drive bay that is very user friendly. The screw-less racking system uses plastic brackets with six secure points that fit into the hard drive's screw holes, resulting in fewer cases of lost screws and making it easy to install hard drives without using any tools. Unfortunately, this also makes it far less sturdy when compared to the racking system found in the QNAP TS-409 Pro, for example, and the brackets seem a little weak.
The WD performed relatively well in our speed tests. We used 15GB worth of data and ran it on a Gigabit Ethernet switch. When transferring data from the ShareSpace to a PC, the WD averaged 25 megabytes per second; it averaged 14MBps when writing data from a PC. When reading and writing data from one folder on the NAS to another, it achieved an average rate of 10MBps.
The WD comes with three separate USB 2.0 ports: one on the front and two on the back of the unit. When the USB transfer button (which is located below the status panel on the front) is held for three seconds, all data from plugged-in USB drives is copied into a new folder on the NAS, making backups and data transfer easy. Unfortunately, the unit we reviewed came with this setting disabled; users will have to go into the advanced options and enable it. It's a minor issue, but one that may confuse novices because the manual fails to discuss it.
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