Iomega StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-100 Server

This Iomega NAS device is incredibly easy to use.

Network-attached storage (NAS) devices are usually the realm of the tech-savvy, with confusing interfaces, lots of associated technical jargon and complicated maintenance. For those who want extensive storage without the complexity, the Iomega StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-100 Server comes to the rescue. This NAS device is easy to set up and easy to use.

The Iomega StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-100 Server's feature set isn't comprehensive, but it is sufficient for a home or small business. It has four hot-swappable drive bays, along with four USB ports and a single Gigabit Ethernet port on the back. It can work as a server for up to four printers, and can read/write to external hard drives that use FAT32, NTFS, ext2 or ext3 file systems; only read access is available for drives with the HFS+ filesystem used by Macs.

Both the 2TB and 4TB variants of the Iomega StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-100 Server use 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 hard drives with 32MB of cache. Out of the box the device is configured to RAID 5, but RAID 1+0 and JBOD are also supported. Iomega has attempted to make the NAS device as foolproof as possible, so the lack of RAID 0 configuration — which does not provide any form of data protection — is understandable.

The StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-100 Server offers UPnP AV media server capability with iTunes compatibility, as well as Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP) integration, which allows you to directly upload photos from a digital camera. A Bluetooth USB adapter (sold separately) provides the same functionality for mobile phones. Iomega supports Axis network security cameras, so the device can double as a surveillance recording device.

Though it has plenty of features for home users, the Iomega StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-100 Server isn't as good for offices. It has integrated FTP capabilities, but its Web server is limited to the settings interface. Iomega also offers support for virtualisation using VMWare ESX Server 3. Unfortunately, the device doesn't provide the same level of remote and local security offered by NAS devices like the QNAP TS-639 Pro Turbo NAS, so don't expect 256-bit AES encryption. E-mail notifications are offered by the Iomega NAS device, however.

Many NAS devices suffer from a complex set-up process and Web interface, but the Iomega StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-100 Server has a straightforward and largely automated set up. User interaction is still required but the major steps — finding the server's IP address and mapping the network drives — are all taken care of during configuration.

Running the included software installs a link to the Web interface on a client computer; by using the Web interface you can automatically map the network drives in Windows Vista. However, although Vista recognised the mapped drives, we couldn't actually access them. When we subsequently mapped them ourselves they functioned perfectly.

Iomega's Web interface is clean and simple, with each option clearly marked by a colourful icon.

Unfortunately, while the StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-100 Server is easy to use and maintain, it isn’t the fastest NAS device. We tested its performance by transferring 20GB worth of data between it and a test bed with a 7200rpm Seagate Barracuda ES2 750GB drive, over Edimax's nMax Wirelesss 802.11n Gigabit Broadband Router (BR-6574n). Writing data to the drive array averaged 10.99 megabytes per second, while read speeds were slower at 7.01MBps. Our copy transfer test showed an average throughput of 4.36MBps. It isn't unusual for a RAID5 array to perform slower than expected due to the added parity, but even taking that into account this NAS device doesn't perform particularly well.

Its ease of use and media server capabilities make the Iomega StorCenter Pro NAS ix-400 Server a good option for homes. Its speed out of the box may hinder high-definition media streaming, but changing RAID configurations should remedy this issue.