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NAS Reviews

Introduction

ZyXEL NSA-220

At a Glance
Product Zyxel Network Storage Appliance (NSA-220)
Summary Two-drive RAID 1 NAS with jumbo frame gigabit Ethernet and Torrent downloading
Pros • Compact, solid construction
• Gigabit Ethernet with jumbo frame support
• Decent performanace
• Quiet
Cons • No email alerts
• Windows-only backup software

There are a lot of home Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices on the market these days, and in this review, I'm going to check out a relatively new one from ZyXEL. The NSA-220 is a dual-drive, RAID capable, NAS device with gigabit Ethernet support, media-serving capabilities and BitTorrent download features.

The 220 is designed to hold one or two user-supplied SATA disks, but for the purpose of this review, ZyXEL provided me with a unit pre-configured with two 250 GB Western Digital drives. If you're installing drives yourself, the procedure was well documented and involves unscrewing the back panel and attaching drives to slide-in trays. The use of SATA drives make connecting much easier than the old IDE drives, since there is no cabling involved. The drives, however, are not hot-swappable, so make sure you power everything down when changing drives.

The 220 is packaged in an attractive, solid-feeling, white metal case, measuring a fairly compact 8" by 4.5" by 5.5". You can see in the photo above that the front of the device has two USB 2.0 ports, a power button, a "one-touch" copy button and a number of status LEDs. Figure 1 shows the back panel, where you can see a fan vent, 10/100/1000 Ethernet port that supports up to 9k jumbo frames, a reset button and a power connector.

ZyXEL 220 Back Panel

Figure 1: ZyXEL 220 Back Panel

The fan vent is large to accomodate the relatively large 3.5" fan and the 220 ran very quietly, which was much appreciated since I've reviewed some noisy NASes lately. As far as power consumption, the unit drew about 21 W when in use and 8 W when its drives spun down.

You'll note that there are no USB ports on the rear; there are only the two front-panel ports. Front-panel ports are handy when you're plugging in storage devices temporarily. But if you want a device permanently attached, or if you want to make use of the print-server capabilities of the product, you'll be stuck with cables sticking out the front.

Setting up the 220 was fairly straightforward. For Windows users, ZyXEL supplies an installation CD that provides software that first locates the device on the network and then spawns a web browser for configuration.

For Linux and Apple users, ZyXEL documents that users should locate the device on the network using its Windows NetBIOS name. Since I was on my Mac, this is what I tried, but unfortunately on my network, Windows Net BIOS names are not resolvable. So I had to resort to finding the device by checking out the DHCP logs in my home router.

When I saw a new device, I connected to it with my browser and logged in using the default admin user and password. The next screen presented (Figure 2) was a bit unusual for these devices.

Password change screen

Figure 2: Password change screen

Upon first login, a prompt is given to reset the default password. This is a good idea, as security professionals are now starting to recognize that home network devices using default usernames and passwords could be modified by viruses even if they are only reachable from within the local network. Once I had changed the password, I was greeted with an attractive configuration and status screen as shown in Figure 3.

NSA-220 Configuration and status menu

Figure 3: NSA-220 Configuration and status menu

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