Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Safe Keeping

Dealing with the long-term storage challenges that every pro will face

Safe Keeping Infrant ReadyNAS NV 1.0 TB. Here's the quick summary with the Infrant ReadyNAS NV: this is one speedy little network storage product. Okay, maybe it's not so little at just more than 10 pounds. Shaped similarly to the Buffalo TeraStation, if just a tad smaller, this unit also houses four disks in what Infrant calls a RAID-X array, which automates the redundancy of the drives and handles volume expansion, so there's hardly any setup involved. In fact, we had the ReadyNAS running on a 10/100 Ethernet network in just a few minutes. The CD install lets you configure more options—RAID 1, 2 or 5 modes—and tweak network settings. However, out of the box, the system blazed past other NAS devices in this roundup. The 1.5 GB read and write tests took only three minutes each.

Infrant noted that gigabit performance would be faster, just like the TeraStation, although most off-the-shelf routers only support 10/100 Ethernet. The 65 MB BMP file saved from Photoshop took 15 seconds. When a file was stored on the network appliance, editing in Photoshop was also snappier when we performed image filters, such as a Craquelure texture.

The ReadyNAS was also the only NAS device that easily identified and shared a 512 MB thumbdrive. Saving from Photoshop to the thumbdrive that we inserted into one of the three available USB 2.0 ports took only 25 seconds, which is actually faster than it takes from a laptop. Interestingly, even as the speed leader, the ReadyNAS still couldn't compete with our “reference test.” We copied the same 1.5 GB file to an external SATA hard disk, which took all of 55 seconds from a speedy Gateway FX510 desktop machine.

Iomega StorCenter 500 GB Gigabit Network Hard Drive. This small network drive leads the pack in price, at only $440 from Iomega.com, but also has the fewest high-end options. The enclosure, which looks bigger in photos than it does on your desk, measures just 7.875x3.125x4.813 inches, so it's about the size of two hard disks. No surprise there, considering that the unit consists of two internal hard disks that can either be in striped (performance) mode or mirrored mode. In mirrored mode, you can access only 250 GB, of course, but if a file becomes corrupted, the unit automatically uses the good copy. This is an excellent “backup to the backup” approach for digital photographers on a budget, because this NAS also includes Iomega backup software that's easy to configure. While a RAID device operates faster, and gives you more storage even with the redundant file archiving, the Iomega costs about half as much.

Performance was acceptable but not outstanding. Both read and write speeds for the 1.5 GB test file measured five minutes for each transfer. The 65 MB BMP file saved from Photoshop CS2 took 28 seconds. We didn't notice the same snappiness in performance as the ReadyNAS, which is probably because of the internal operating system and software in this unit compared to the Infrant NAS that uses a proprietary Linux OS to manage files.


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