Iomegas StorCenter ix2 Network Storage, a compact and easy-to-set-up network-attached storage (NAS) device, offers several unusual and potentially handy features for small businesses such as Bluetooth support and a built-in search function. Oddly enough, another feature that can be extremely helpful remote access is conspicuously absent.
The ix2 takes up negligible space on a desk, runs warm (but not hot) to the touch, and the internal cooling fan, while definitely audible in a quiet room, shouldnt be distracting in a typical office environment. Inside every ix2 sit a pair of SATA II drives, either 500 GB or 1TB units for a maximum total capacity of 1 TB or 2TB, respectively.
Our 2TB test unit carries a $479 (MSRP) price tag, while the 1 TB unit will set you back considerably less, at $299. Like most twin-drive NAS devices, the ix2 doesnt give you easy access to the drives in order to remove and replace them yourself. (Products in this price range that facilitate drive access generally offer much less capacity and start you out with a solitary hard drive.)
You can configure the ix2s storage in one of two ways. For data protection, theres RAID 1 mirroring the default mode‑‑which creates an exact copy of your data, and as a result leaves you with half the ix2s storage capacity available for your files.
|Iomega StorCenter ix2 Network Storage|
If youd rather forgo the data protection and use all of the ix2s storage, you can switch to non-RAID, or JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) mode. The ix2 cant be configured for performance-oriented RAID 0 striping, which is just as well because it leaves your data more vulnerable to loss than either of the other two setups.
On the back of the ix2s small metal chassis youll find a Gigabit Ethernet port and a pair of USB ports. The USB ports can connect to external storage devices, a shared printer, Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) or Bluetooth adapter.
Getting the ix2 situated on our network wasnt at all difficult. After plugging in and turning on we used the included Iomega StorCenter Manager utility to detect the device, connect to it via browser, and perform basic setup such as creating an administrative password, choosing a device name and configuring e-mail notification. Incidentally, you can send those notifications through a mail server run by EMC (Iomegas parent company) so you dont have to use your own mail account if you dont want to.
The ix2s well-designed, browser-based administration console is almost as good as that of the Western Digital ShareSpace. With features that are logically arranged in an icon-based and tabbed interface, the ix2 makes it easy to locate and perform functions such as adding users, groups and folders. A Dashboard tab on the ix2 lets you see things like device status, available capacity, and attached devices at a glance.
You can access data stored on the ix2 with Windows, Mac, or Linux computers, or via FTP regardless of operating system. The browser interfaces Home tab offers a search feature that lets you find files on the ix2 much as you would use a search utility to find files stored on a PC.
We did, however, notice an annoying weakness in that the search feature is case-sensitive. If, for example, you enter all lower-case text in an attempt to search for a file name containing any capital letters, the ix2 will not be able to find it. If and when this problem is fixed, the ix2s search feature will be far more useful.
To backup data on Windows or Mac systems, you can use the included a copy of EMCs Retrospect Express HD (which includes unlimited licenses). The straightforward software lets you back up your entire hard drive, the specific folders or file types you tell it to, and it does so automatically based on a schedule you setup. Retrospect doesnt do so-called bare-metal backups though, so in the event of total system failure you need to reinstall the operating system before restoring any files.
The ix2 comes equipped to handle multimedia content in a number of ways. For starters, it can function as a DLNA, UPnP and/or iTunes media server, allowing you to stream video or audio to PCs, set-top boxes, game consoles and so one. If you have a digital camera that supports PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol), you can connect it to one of the ix2s USB ports and have the pictured pulled off the camera into a designated folder. You can also use the ix2 to record the surveillance feeds of an Axis network video camera (we didnt have any on hand, so couldnt try it for ourselves).
We love that the ix2 supports Bluetooth. Although it doesnt have a built-in Bluetooth transceiver, you can endow it with Bluetooth by plugging in an external adapter into one of the Ix2's USB ports. We tried it with an inexpensive no-name USB adapter and it worked without a hitch; we were able to transfer files wirelessly between a mobile phone directly and the ix2.
Considering everything the ix2 can do, we were somewhat surprised to find one important thing that it cant, and that is provide remote access to files over the Internet. Although not everyone needs or wants this feature, plenty of small business people do, and it is available on several competing products from companies including Maxtor, SimpleTech and Western Digital. Fortunately, Iomega said remote access for the ix2 is on the horizon, slated for release in Q1 of 2009.
The ix2s unique Bluetooth and search features notwithstanding, the lack of remote access to data and inability to upgrade storage will make it unsuitable for some people. But anyone who doesnt need these features and needs a streaming-capable NAS device thats easy to set up and to use should check out the Iomega StorCenter ix2.
Price: $299 (1TB), $479 (2TB)
Pros: Compact, easy to set up and administer; built-in search feature; accepts file transfers via Bluetooth when used with optional USB adapter
Cons: No remote data access feature; search feature is case-sensitive; cant remove or replace hard drives easily
Joe Moran spent six years as an editor and analyst with Ziff-Davis Publishing and several more as a freelance product reviewer. He's also worked in technology public relations and as a corporate IT manager, and he's currently principal of Neighborhood Techs, a technology service firm in Naples, Fla. He holds several industry certifications, including Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).
This article was first published on SmallBusinessComputing.com.