At first glance the Altos EasyStore from Acer seems to be much like any other small Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliance, its main role being to make network file sharing easy and affordable. However, that’s not all it can do, with facilities also to reserve space to remotely backup and recover desktop PCs over the LAN.
Effectively a small file server running an embedded Linux OS, the EasyStore is small enough to sit on a desk or shelf and, although not fan-less, is no more noisy than a desktop PC. Two models are available, offering either 1TB or 2TB of storage, which can be shared by Windows, Apple Mac and Linux users with a built-in database to manage access plus optional Active Directory integration if preferred.
A Gigabit Ethernet interface connects the appliance to the network, while on the storage front you get four hot-plug SATA disks with software-based RAID support as standard. A couple of USB 2.0 ports are also available to add external disks, but these can’t be included in an array and are more likely to be used for backup.
A Web-based management interface makes for simple management and there’s a useful Wizard to help with the initial setup including the RAID configuration, which will dictate just how much storage space you end up with.
With a basic RAID 0 array, for example, data is striped across all four disks with almost all of the capacity available for file sharing. However, this doesn’t add extra redundancy compared to a non-RAID setup and so if a disk fails you’ll need to recover from a backup. With RAID 10, on the other hand, the disks are arranged as mirrored pairs, which means that hardware failures won’t stop you working but you will lose half the available space.
Most customers will, therefore, opt for RAID 5, where recovery information is mixed in with data and striped across all the disks in the appliance. Some space is lost but it’s not a huge amount, plus you can opt to create the array with just three of the disks, the fourth acting as a hot spare in the event of a fault occurring.
In terms of performance the Altos EasyStore doesn’t quite match what you’d get from a well specified Windows server but it’s more than enough for a home or small business network. Added to which there’s that neat little backup trick for those who want it.
Configured when first installed, this involves dividing the available disk space into two separate areas; one for shared files, the other dedicated to storing backups. The exact ratio can be fine tuned later as backups are taken using the FalconStor DiskSafe Express software bundled with the appliance.
Limited to Windows only, the DiskSafe Express client is installed onto network PCs where it can be configured to take scheduled backups of the local hard disk and other resources. Users can then map a network drive to their particular backup data and restore lost or damaged files themselves with additional facilities to remotely boot and recover damaged clients over the LAN also available. Note, however, that you only get two DiskSafe licences as standard which will mean having to buy more to support a larger network.
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