|At a Glance|
|Product||Linksys 4 Bay Gigabit Network Storage System (NSS4000)|
|Summary||Four drive rack-mounted BYOD RAID NAS for SMB users with hot-swap drives and optional redundant power supply|
|Pros|| RAID 0/1/1+Spare/5/5+Spare/10
Dual gigabit Ethernet w/ VLAN, Link Aggregation support
Hot Swappable Drives
Hard limits on simultaneous users
No command-line access
No Backup Software included
I've long been a fan of Linksys products around my home and have numerous Linksys switches and hubs. I use an upgraded WRT54G for my wireless needs, and I have a couple of modified NSLU2s for network storage. And I'm not alone. Plenty of Linksys products fill the shelves at all the big-box electronics stores and find their way into homes and offices across the world.
But Linksys isn't just for home use any more. The company's "Business Series" line aims at bridging the gap between consumer-level devices and big-business products sold under the Cisco brand. In this review, I'll check out the NSS4000, a small business, quad-drive Network Attached Storage (NAS) product that includes RAID support, hot-swappable disks, dual gigabit network connections and more.
The NSS4000 is a rack-mountable Bring Your Own Drive (BYOD) product, but is also available populated with four 250 GB drives as the NSS4100. The NSS line also includes "Advanced" versions dubbed the NSS6000 and NSS6100 (BYOD and 1TB), which use a different, more powerful chassis.
The 4000 comes with four easily removable disk trays to which you mount your drives. Linksys even supplies the screws, making drive installation quick and easy. Note that the drive trays do not have a locking mechanism, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your approach to serviceability and security.
Although it's hard to see in Figure 1, each tray has an LED that uses color (red/green) and blink rate to communicate its status. The other status lights are in a cluster above the right-most drive along with a USB 2.0 port (labeled Flash) and Reset-to-Factory-Defaults button. Note that there is not a power switch to be found on the NSS. So as soon as you plug it in, it will begin to boot.
Figure 1: NSS4000 Front Panel (detail view)
Shutdown is done by logging in, navigating to the Admin > Maintenance page and clicking the ShutDown System button. The poorly-designed alternative is to press and hold the Reset switch until the Power LED starts flashing. The press-and-hold technique is commonly used with front-panel power switches on NASes to initiate a clean shutdown. Using a "reset" switch for this purpose is definitely not intuitive. Note that even when "shut down" the NSS' fan still runs. The only way to shut it completely off is to pull the plug. Also note that there is no scheduled shutdown / startup feature, but you can set idle drive spindown time.
Figure 2 shows the back panel of the box where the dual gigabit network ports can be seen along with a fan vent, dual gigabit Ethernet ports and power inlet. The connector marked "RPS" is where an optional RPS1000 Redundant Power Supply can be connected. This is a clear sign of the 4000's product positioning as a business product and is intended to address the second most common failure mechanism of NASesthe power supply. There's a USB port behind the plastic flap marked "UPS", where you can connect a "Smart" UPS, such as those produced by APC and others.
Figure 2: NSS4000 Back Panel
And speaking of fans, on startup, the NSS screams like a jet taxiing for takeoff. But after boot is completed, it settles down to a much lower, but still noticeable noise level. Compared to other four-drive NASes, however, the noise level is about the same, if not a bit quieter. As for power, when the unit is running it draws around 55 Watts, which is a little better than other four-drive NASes we've seen.
Setting the device up is fairly straightforward. Once the unit is powered up, a Windows-only utility is used to find the device on the LAN. Then all configuration is done via web browser using either HTTP or HTTPs. Alternatively, the 4000's IP address is also advertised both via UPnP and Apple's Rendezvous. So even without the utility, finding the device on your LAN should be a piece of cake.
Check out the slideshow for an admin interface tour.