Today (17/07/2006) we received a couple of Buffalo TeraStation Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. These devices came kitted out with 1Tb of disk (each) and will be used within ETS to centrally store our media (MP3 music, WMV VoD files, DVR-MS MCE Recordings).
This entry will cover the unpacking and installation of one of the units as something of a HOWTO / review of the device.
The packing was fairly hardy (albiet with a wee crush mark in one corner) and, once removed, the interior packing has all the marketing type loveliness that you’d expect describing all the ways you can use the product.
I found the language used on the shelf packaging very comprehensive and, for the most part would be understandable for anyone who was in the market for a NAS device (though some proof reading was lacking). It wouldn’t pass the “your mother” test but I would say we need to educate the market somewhat before Joe consumer starts understanding (and thus desiring/requiring) what large volumes of network storage can offer them in their home environment. So, comments about the boxes out of the way, let’s crack it open and see what’s inside…
The box contents included the obligitory End User Licence Agreements (ELUA) that nobody ever actually reads, a quick setup guide (that no one who believes (s)he knows what they are doing ever reads), A CD-ROM containing a setup wizard and softcopy user manuals, a power cord (I’m assuming if we’d purchased the unit in NZ we’d have received a plug which we could use), some nice flat CAT5 cable to connect the device to our network and of course, the TeraStation itself.
Â The TeraStation is not a bad looking device, would certainly pass the WAF (Wife Approval Factor) test and is skinny enough to scream “buy me some friends to keep me company” whilst still fitting on a standard rack shelf (everyone has a 19″ server rack at home right?).
The status lights on the front of the unit are easy to understand (and they cycle clockwise in a groovy fashion while the unit powers up which is a nice bonus). The Link/Act LED is an annoying but fashionable blue, so – this would be a store in a vented cupboard device, unless you
are one of those flash harry types with a window and cold cathode tubes inside your PC and enjoy flashing lights like that kind of thing. Guys take note, the blue LED can be used as an annoyance device to assist in getting the spousal approval to buy your 19″ server rack should you not yet have one.
Right – now on to the software setup…
Frustratingly, the autorun didn’t fire on the CD, but once the setup was running, clicking the ‘Install Client’ Button resulted in an ‘Installing Client Utility – Please wait’ screen flashing a couple of times and – that was it!!
The client software then runs up, finds the device and presents the info on the device within the application, from which we now were required to go configure to suit our network.
The configuration, like most nice CPE devices, is done via a browser, and the first thing we’re instructed to do (after authenticating of course) is to change the NAS device name to something more ‘friendly’. On the same page are the date and time options as well as that useful Network Time Protocol (NTP) server setup, used to ensure your device is always synced with a known good time source (very important). We changed the timezone (which only offered + / – 11 hours either side of GMT (so you’re not allowed to live in NZ and have daylight savings?) and enabled the NTP server, pointing it at pool.ntp.org (personal favorite). I considered disabling AppleTalk, but decided against it since we’ve got a iMac running and it might possibly be useful in some small way to have the Mac talking TCP/IP/SteveJobs across the network.
After hitting apply, we were (rudely) informed that it expected an IP address for the NTP server, so – after a quick Google – I ended up using the IP of a (gasp) iHUG NTP public server.
That’s it – all the quick install guide suggests you need to do. From here on out, you simply setup your shares and access the NAS via the UNC path \\[NAS-Device-Name]\[Share].
The reality in an easily managed network environment is, that a static IP address is easier to find after power failures or from devices where the IP address wasn’t pre-provided by the client utility from the CD. Jumping into Network and setting a static IP, then workgroup (for that Windows browsing ease) to set the Workgroup name will make future use (and discovery) a lot easier for all your other CPE devices.
There are a few other options which will be explored later, but for now, that’s the out of box experience for a Buffalo TeraStation, I’m clogging the netowork transferring all sorts of data across to the device now so it’s time for the final thoughts.
Network Attached Storage is still in its infancy in the CPE space, it’s been commercalised for a few years, but – as it started off in the ‘external, portable storage’ space – the pricing is still too high to attract much attention from the average punter and it is only recently that the big names have had the right price point on the devices to make devices with a useful amount of permanant (as opposed to transient / backup) storage. In all seriousness, once a music collection is format shifted, your copied your multi-megapixel digital photos of your family and also transfered some of your kids DVDs onto a disk based distribution system (to protect against the sticky, scratchy finger syndrome), even 1Tb of storage is getting a bit light.
Ideally, all your removable media (CDs & DVDs) would be format shifted to a central server so you had access to the content from any appropriate device throughout the house. Unfortunatly, aside from the questionalble legality of doing this, the disk required is huge and managment of large amounts of disk for the average punter must be managed by a simple CPE device such as the TeraStation. You then have the question of backups, you want to store all your documents/personal settings on something aside from your PC as well, and then – when all your digital memories are sotred on one managed, central device in your home – what happens if that fails? Offsite backups are the obvious solution, but the upstream and edge/core traffic requirements are again horrendous. Do you then need a secondary NAS to mirror your primary once a month (or more regularly?) and then take that NAS down to your friends/parents/bank security box?
With the amount of information we are storing in a digital format now, the future social implications are equally frightening, the analogue inscriptions of the dead sea scrolls survived centuries in pottery containers in the desert giving archelologiests and historians valuable insights into our past, how would our future historians learn about our how our society ran should a holocaust event occur which included a massive Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) – which would wipe out these digital data stores. Who holds the responsibility for providing true (not just local) network, reduntant storage which is safe from EMPs, flood, fire, administrative access stupidity (drop database *) – or should we just write all this stuff out to physical media and invest in a few clay jars?