Western Digital EX4 8TB 4-bay My Cloud NAS Review

Introduction


Many people today are demanding more and more from their storage systems and for a select group of users (such as myself), having the ability to get access to files whilst on the go is – in some cases – a necessity. As we know, there are many free and paid services to choose from, which include the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive, however, these services are not without their downsides. Whilst a number of them are free to use, there is the uncertainty as to where your data is actually being stored and there is also no guarantee that your data is not going to be scanned by third-party applications that the host run on their servers. With some of your data potentially being quite sensitive, the last thing you want is for someone else to be snooping through it all. To top this all off, the ‘free’ services are also quite limited in the amount of storage space that is on offer and this is the biggest stumbling block for the most of us.

Quite recently we took a look at Western Digital’s 2TB My Cloud NAS that gives all of the functionality of a local NAS, but it also allows for users to simply and easily get access to their data wherever they are in the world – just as long as they have an internet connection to use. Whilst the My Cloud offers up a good amount of storage for the entry-level user, there is a lack of data redundancy out-of-the box (although there is the option to create safe points when an additional external storage drive is connected to the My Cloud’s USB port). Data redundancy and integrity is where Western Digital have focussed their attention with the new addition to the Cloud NAS lineup with the EX4.

As the name suggests, the EX4 is a four bay system and when marked against the My Cloud 2TB that I previously had a play with, this bigger brother has the ability to provide all of the same functionality plus a whole lot more. Alongside its greater storage capacity – up to 16TB of raw storage in a RAID0, the EX4 more importantly gives users the piece of mind that their data is safe with full access to a number of RAID configurations including RAID1, 10 and 5. The latter of these, RAID5 is what any preconfigured systems will be shipped with as this offers the best combination of space vs redundancy.

Whilst we have seen what WD’s Cloud systems have to offer, I will highlight over these again in this review, however I will be looking more closely at the additional features that the EX4 has to offer and how this system might just be one of the best choices for SOHO and SMB users. So without any more delay, let’s get unboxing this system and see what’s included.

To get things up and running, Western Digital include a CAT5e patch lead, AC power adaptor, quick setup guide and a warranty leaflet for reference

[youtube]http://youtu.be/MaMWsXvbZVE[/youtube]

Asustor AS-302T 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Since we had our first look at an Asustor product little over four months ago, the freshman to the NAS market have been busy extending their product line-up with the addition of four systems in a new entry-level ‘Personal to Home’ category. As seen when I put the AS-604T through its paces, the subsidiary company of Asus have clearly not lost their edge when it comes to modern design; even though two and four bay systems generally follow the same basic design pattern.

The AS-302T that I’m going to have a look at today is part of the ‘Home to Power User’ group of systems that Asustor have to offer; however there are one or two distinct features that will set this system apart over say the AS-604T that I previously reviewed. Whilst the main specification of the system is, as expected, lower than some of the more premium units, home entertainment and media serving capabilities are included to wet the appetite of any home entertainment technophile.

There are a large number of systems these days that claim to offer the home user the perfect system for streaming audio and video content from, but what most of these lack is the ability to do this directly from the NAS, as opposed to stream the content through a 3rd party system such as a smart TV or laptop. The AS-302T however has this covered. On the rear of the system is a fully operational HDMI port and inside the box we find a remote control. Place these together with a range of downloadable media playback applications that include the popular XBMC front end and what we have is an all-in-one file storage system come media centre in one compact package.

Inside the box, Asustor include all the basics needed to get the system up and running with an AC power adaptor, CAT5e patch lead, two sets of screws for 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives, installation CD, quick start guide and we have also been given the optional remote control for the systems media functions.

Western Digital Sentinel DX4000 16TB RAID5 4-Bay NAS Review

Up to now we’ve been looking at network storage servers that come with no drives and are produced by a company other than a drive manufacturer. Western Digital are one of the best hard drive manufacturers our there in the market and their recent changes to their product line-up has not only made choosing the right drive for the job easier, but also a lot clearer. When it comes to network storage, WD has three types of drive that are geared for the job, Red, SE and RE. Red drives are still aimed for the home/SOHO user, whilst their enterprise SE and RE drives are optimised for the constant punishment that they will encounter 24×7.

Setting drives aside, WD has now come out with their own NAS solution, optimised for their own drives, in an all-in-one easy to use solution and so we get the Sentinel DX4000. The Sentinel is a first in a line of self designed NAS solutions that can be purchased with drives pre-installed in a variety of capacities, varying from a modest 2TB, right up to a whopping 16TB. Unlike other NAS solutions on the market, one of the main features that sets this system apart from the rest is the use of Windows Storage Server 2008 and a auto configuration process during the initial set-up that automatically builds the drives into a RAID5 array – the preferred choice for NAS solutions as this gives the best data security and will ensure no data is lost, should one drive fail during operation.

With this unit designed specifically for the SMB environment the use of WSS 2008 should allow for seamless integration through active directory and domain configuration and also for those that are at home with Windows, should make maintaining the system a bit more intuitive. With RAID automatically configured based on the number of drives installed, set-up should be easier as mentioned and knowing how well trusted and reliable Western Digital’s drives are in the NAS markets with multiple lines of drives targeted at this environment, there is good hope that the system has a lot to give.

All NAS’ come with a selection of cables to get you connected and running, this one being no exception. Alongside the user manual, the first thing we note are the two external power inverters, which as we will see on the next page, aid towards a more compact build of the main unit itself. Do note that on all other SKUs apart from the 16TB option, the DX4000 will only come with a single power adaptor, but as a top of the line model, the 16TB option includes both adaptors to allow for redundant power supply feeds. Also included are two sets of power cables for the UK and European markets and a single CAT5e cable. There is also a visible lack of screws that we traditionally see, but this is due to the tool free installation that the DX4000 adopts.