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In Use

As I checked out the options in the various menus, I noticed that it had a "Web 2.0" feel with heavy usage of AJAX type interactions, that allowed me to make changes and selections without a whole page refresh. The menus were nicely done, and overall the user interface was smooth, consistent and attractive.

The one complaint I did have regarding the interface was its timeout behavior. The interface is designed to time out forcing you to re-enter your password if it sits idle for a while, but I found its behavior to be inconsistent. Sometimes it appeared to timeout while I was actively using it. Other times it wouldn't time out even when I left it alone for an extended period of time.

As far as setting the product up, the basic options are what you would expect for a home NAS device. I could set up the IP address to be static or dynamic, select the server name, workgroup name, etc. For setting up the time, I could opt to manually set it up or to set it via a NTP server. The one curious "feature" on this screen (Figure 4) was the manual setup for daylight savings dates.

Time setup

Figure 4: Time setup

Evidently, ZyXEL's programmers gave up on automatically keeping track of the dates when Daylight Savings stops and ends. But as a user, I really don't want to stop and track down values that could be looked up in a table by the software.

Check out the slideshow See the slideshow for an admin interface tour

RAID

One of the key features of the 220 is its RAID capabilities, and if you have more than one internal disk, you'll need to decide the best configuration for your intended use. Figure 5 shows the RAID configuration page.

RAID configuration

Figure 5: RAID configuration

You can see in this figure that I have chosen to set up my two drives in a mirror mode, i.e. RAID1. This cuts my capacity in half, but gives me the ability to recover my data if a drive dies. The 220 also supports setting the drives in striping or RAID 0 mode for added performance, but no protection in case of disk failure. And as a final option, you can set your disks up in "Just a Bunch of Disks" (JBOD) mode where both drives are logically combined to form a single disk.

One test I always run on RAID NASes is a "failure mode" test to see how the product reacts to a failed drive. To test this, I carefully opened up the back panel and slid out one of the drives while the system was up and running. The first reaction I saw was a red LED appear on the front panel. When I checked the status page, I saw an indication that the system was now in a "degraded" mode (Figure 6).

 Degraded mode

Figure 6: Degraded mode

A quick test showed that all my data was available, as it should be. The 220 also has a "system log" type feature where significant events are recorded. In this case, the log reported that a disk had been disconnected.

One thing that the 220 is missing, however, is an email-alert function. I like to keep my NASes down in my basement and out of the way, so I might not notice the red LED or think to go check the status of the system. I'd like to receive an email when an event like this occurs, but the 220 has no way to send out notices via email.

The 220 is not advertised as a hot-swap system, so to put it back in order, I shut it down, re-inserted the drive and powered it back up. On some systems, this is enough to start an automatic re-build of the RAID array. But on the 220, the rebuild has to be manually initiated. Once I selected the "repair" button from the volume status menu, the system started re-building my array (Figure 7).

 RAID recovery

Figure 7: RAID recovery

In my case, I had two Western Digital 250GB drives and RAID recovery period lasted a couple of hours. During this time, I was still able to access my data, but at reduced performance.

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