Network-attached storage (NAS) devices can differ vastly in complexity. At one end of the scale, there are dedicated x86 file servers with multiple disks and RAID options, such as the Buffalo TeraStation Quad WSS and ARM-based NAS drives like the QNAP TS-419P+.
These allow users enormous amounts of freedom to customise how their storage is set up, how it is accessed, and who can see it.
At the other end of the scale, there are devices such as the Zyxel NSA 310, which closely resembles an external hard disk with NAS functionality added in, and is simpler to use.
Indeed, it’s little bigger than an external 3.5in hard disk, the only visual differences being the extra ports at the rear and LEDs at the front.
It has a single gigabit ethernet port, an eSata port and two USB 2.0 to expand the available storage. It comes with a 2TB drive, which isn’t meant to be easily removed, which provides 1.79TB of usable space.
Our review unit was missing the software installation disc, but most NAS devices can be configured via their built-in webpage administration interfaces, which are usually a front-end for an embedded Linux operating system. As soon as we connected the Zyxel NSA310 to our network it immediately showed up with public folders accessible for anyone to access.
We prefer using a password to protect our files, so we looked through the pages to adjust the folder permissions. Creating a unique user to read and write permissions was simple. We then disabled guest access, granted the new user access to the shared folder and applied the changes.
When a USB device is plugged in, it shows up as a shared folder under the NAS in Windows Explorer. Files can be read or written from it, and the entire contents of the drive can be copied to the Zyxel NSA310 by pressing a button at the front of the device. This can be adjusted so files are copied to a different folder or files are backed up from the Zyxel NSA310 to the USB device instead.
The administration software offers lots of other features and settings too, such as running an FTP or web server, and automatically uploading pictures and videos to a YouTube or Flickr account.
This latter function is found on plenty of devices these days, but it works very well here. Choose a folder for the Zyxel NSA310 to watch, enter the details of a Google or Yahoo account, then any pictures or video you drop in that folder are automatically uploaded.
This worked brilliantly, and is far quicker than doing so via the main websites. We only wish there were more online services supported than just Yahoo and Flickr.
Although there was little to criticise about Zyxel NSA310’s user interface, the transfer speed we saw when copying files back and forth was far from record breaking.
We were able to read a large ISO file from the FTP server at 44MB/sec, then copied it back over at 31MB/sec.
With consumer network-attached storage enclosures it’s normal to experience much lower performance than the maximum speed of the internal disk, due to the low-power internal processor.