Setting Up & Features
Getting going with the device was as simple as plugging in an Ethernet cable, power cable and letting it start up. Installation software was included, but a glance at the documentation indicated that the device was configured via a web browser. The installation software was really meant to find the DHCP assigned address of the device on the network and then spawn a web browser to connect to that address. Since I was using my Macintosh iBook, I accomplished the same thing by skipping the Windows-only CD and locating the IP address with a broadcast ping:
I noted the new IP address, connected to it with my browser, and was greeted with a setup screen (Figure 1). The setup screens walked me through basics such as setting an administration password, time and date, Windows workgroup name, etc. Once these steps were finished, the device was ready to be used with a single "Public" network share.
Figure 1: Initialization screen
Before I started using the MSS, I explored the advanced options to see what other features were available. The first option I looked at was the Account Management screen, which allowed me to create user accounts and assign passwords, but not to create any user groups. Next, I used the Share Management menu to create a new network share and assign users full access, read-only access or no access at all. Note, however, there is no ability to set user quotas.
A nice feature available under the Advanced Settings menu was Power Management. This screen allows setting a drive spin-down time for inactivity. (Figure 2) If you're like me and only use network storage sporadically, the disk will spin down saving power and reducing noise.
Figure 2: Setting the drive spin-down time
Also available under the Advanced Settings menu are a few other basic features such as setting standard network parameters, disabling disk shares and a diagnostic capability that appears to be SMART-based. These industry-standard diagnostics let you know if your drive is starting to have problems before it dies completely. There was both a short test, which lasts a few minutes and a complete test which runs for several hours.
Maxtor doesn't provide documentation on the tests performed for each of these options, nor guidance on when or how often to run them. While the tests are running, the MSS is inaccessible, but at least a warning is issued before testing begins. I assume the tests uncovered no problems, but I don't know how I would have been notified if it had found problems, since the included documentation has no reference to the tests at all.
If you run the Maxtor Windows-only installer, the MSS will support a feature that Maxtor calls "Drag and Sort" that automatically copies files to folders organized by file type. For example, when you drag a ".jpg" or a ".gif" file to the special Windows desktop icon created by the MSS installer, the files will be copied to a "Pictures" folder automatically created on the drive. To me, this feature seems of limited use. Maybe it would help some people, but with a 300GB drive, simple "Pictures", "Music", or "Video" folders just wouldn't cut it. I'd want a much deeper folder tree organized by date, type, subject, etc.
There are features that I would rather have instead of "Drag and Sort", but wan't able to find among the MSS' menus. Absent are the ability to force a drive format, any sort of logging, or FTP access to network shares. I also would have liked to receive notification of status and problems via email, which would have saved me from repeatedly checking the MSS while it was running its long diagnostics.
Other products in the MSS' class typically have some sort of backup capability built in, or at least bundle third-party backup software. Yet others include the ability to back up the NAS drive to an external attached drive or other network share. But unfortunately, the MSS provides none of these options.