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NAS Reviews

Introduction

WD ShareSpace NAS

At a Glance
Product Western Digital ShareSpace Network Storage System (WDA4NC40000N)
Summary Four drive RAID 5 NAS with remote access service
Pros • Remote web access feature
• Aggressively priced
• Quiet and low power consumption
Cons • Low performance
• Very slow RAID 5 build / recovery
• No NAS to NAS or scheduled backups
• WD-only drive replacement policy

Western Digital is a major force and innovator in the world of hard drives, with its top-selling and top-performing Raptor and VelociRaptor products. And if the Pricegrabber popularity rankings are any indication, its My Book World NASes sell pretty well, too.

But in function and especially performance, the My Book Worlds are clearly aimed at first-time NAS buyers, as we found when we reviewed the product last year. WD has apparently decided to move upscale and go after more experienced home users and the SOHO, small biz crowd who want the larger capacity and robustness of a RAID 5 NAS. Unfortunately, what the ShareSpace doesn't offer is high performance, which we'll see when we get to the Performance tests.

The ShareSpace presents a professional look as a compact cube dressed in all-business grey. The chassis is all metal except for the plastic front panel, which, contrary to what you might think, does not come off to provide access to the drives. For that, you loosen the two captive thumbscrews on the rear panel and slide off the cover.

Figure 1 shows a summary of the front and rear panel indicators and connectors.

Front and Rear Panels

Figure 1: Front and Rear Panels

There are three USB 2.0 ports and a single 10/100/1000 Ethernet port that supports jumbo frames up to 9K. There are no eSATA or Firewire ports. The front panel power switch has the typical press-and-hold-to-shutdown function. There is no audible acknowledgement of the shutdown start, but the power light does go out when shutdown begins.

The pushbutton above the front panel USB port can initiate an automatic copy from or to a flash or USB hard drive. You press the button for one second to initiate the "from" copy and three seconds to initiate the "to".

Internal Details

Figure 2 shows the left side of the ShareSpace with the cover removed. Each of the four WD Caviar "Green" WD10EACS-00D6B0 drives (1 TB, 7200 RPM, 3 Gb/s, 16 MB) is mounted on a plastic U-shaped bracket that is even more flimsy than the one used in the Promise NS2300N and NS4300N.

ShareSpace internal view - drive side
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: ShareSpace internal view - drive side

These brackets hold the drives very firmly in place; so firmly, in fact, that I thought they were somehow screwed down. But a firm yank on the flexible front strap was able to free the drives from the backplane. The straps were no use when re-inserting the drive; I had to push the drive body with my thumbs to plug them back in.

Note that the drives are not hot-swappable, which is logical given the remove-the-cover-to-access design. But this note in the "Replacing a Drive" section of the ShareSpace's User Guide may give some potential purchasers pause:

Important: Only WD hard drive assemblies can be inserted into the network storage system enclosure.

When I asked my WD contact about this, she provided this additional information:

The system will detect and initialize WD storage. If another manufacturer's drive is used, our system will recognize it as a foreign disk and not allow you to initialize it. If this is attempted, it does not void the warranty - it simply does not work.

It is policies like this and reports of experiences like this one with a Hammer MyShare that make BYOD NASes more attractive than diskful products. I hope that WD reconsiders this policy.

The board (Figure 2) is easily accessible on the right side of the chassis. Key components are a Marvell 88F5182 @ 500MHz CPU, 512 MB of soldered-in RAM, 16 MB of flash, a Marvell 88SX7042 4 Port SATA controller and Genesys GL850A USB Hub Controller. An unmodified EXT3 filesystem is used.

ShareSpace motherboard
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: ShareSpace motherboard

I couldn't find the Ethernet PHY, which I suspect is on the other side of the board. If this design is like others I have seen, it's probably a Marvell 88E8111 or 88E8118.

Power draw was a relatively low 30W with the four "Green" drives, which reduced to 22 W when the optional HDD Standby function kicked in. You can't set the spindown time, but he user manual says it varies from 125 to 375 seconds.

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