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Dashboard - more

Server Settings - When you click on Server Settings in the upper right hand corner, a separate window opens (Figure 18). The screens are quite simple, so I’ll just comment briefly on each one with the exception of Remote Web Access.

Server Settings menu

Figure 18: Server Settings menu

General - Here you can change the time and date, the language and the country/region for the server. Under Date and Time, you can set the time zone, manually adjust the time, or accept the default NTP time server of time.microsoft.com. You can also determine how the server handles Microsoft updates. (Under the Monitor menu for the previous screen, you controlled updates from Western Digital.)

Media - In this menu, you have the ability to enable/disable the media server, adjust the video streaming quality, rename the media server library, and determine which folders are to be included in the Media library. As a test, I included my cellison folder, and media files I placed in that folder appeared in the media library.

Home Group - you have an option to join a Windows Homegroup.

Remote Web Access - Figure 19 shows the Remote Web Access configuration page. You have the option of disabling Remote Web Access for all users. The repair button attempts to repair a broken connection. The server determines your public IP address (grayed out to obscure my public IP address) as well as your router type.

More details shows you the IP address of your server. Clicking on the setup button next to domain name launches a wizard that takes you through the process of creating your own domain name. You merely choose a name and a domain from a dropdown box. The server checks to see if the domain is available and if so, sets up your server for remote access.

It’s important to note that remote web access uses inbound ports 80 and 443. The DX4000 expects to use UPnP to configure your router, so make sure that you have UPnP enabled on the router. If your router doesn't support UPnP, you’ll need to manually forward the inbound ports to the IP address of your DX4000. So you'll probably want to make sure that the DX4000 has a static IP address.

Also, be sure that you don’t have any other remote web-enabled devices on your network, such as web cameras, competing for those ports, or the DX4000 remote web access will fail.

Remote Web Access setup page

Figure 19: Remote Web Access setup page

Domain - Here you can join the DX4000 to a Windows domain.

Drive Pull Test

I already had a preview of the RAID reinitialization time. But, of course, I still had to do the standard drive pull test. I started copying about 5 GB of music to the server and Windows 7 reported a copy speed of about 14.5 MB/s. I then pulled drive #4 and the file copy continued. After a few seconds, the front panel indicator light started to flash red, and the front panel LCD displayed STORAGE DEGRADED.

At that point, file copy speed dropped to about 9 MB/s. A red critical alert showed up on the dashboard, which, when clicked, directed me to check to see if there were any missing or failed drives. Of course, I could have also set up email notifications, as well. Figure 20 shows the Dashboard alert for the failed drive.

Dashboard showing failed or missing drive

Figure 20: Dashboard showing failed or missing drive

Before re-inserting the “failed” drive, I checked, and the Dashboard interface was still responsive. I reinserted the disk and it took the DX4000 about 20 seconds to recognize it. The status light turned solid blue and the LCD screen reported REPAIRING... I started to copy some additional music files while the repair was taking place, and the copy rate bounced between 1.36 and 1.76 MB/s, i.e. almost unusably slow.

For some reason, the RAID volume repair initiated by the drive pull ran faster than the "reinitialization" caused by pulling the plug. It completed in about 15 hours vs. the 6+ days for the reinitialize. If we get an explanation of the stark difference between the two times, we'll let you know.

Closing Thoughts

I’ll have to admit, my initial out of box experience wasn’t a very positive one. The connector software initially failed to install on any of the three systems I tried it on. In all fairness, I decided to give the connector installation one final shot and installed it in a virtual machine running XP on my Mac. It installed flawlessly in about 24 minutes or so. Go figure. I have sent my log files to WD and will report back if they come up with a root cause for my installation woes.

While the connector does allow for centralized backup and monitoring of connected systems, it can take up to 30 minutes to install, and only one installation can run at a time. For deployment in a medium-sized office, that could take quite a while.

I also don’t like that the server management is done through a separate piece of software rather than through a web browser. Browser-based management on NAS products has been the standard for years. Note that you can always connect to the DX4000 via Windows Remote Desktop if you want direct access to tweak any knobs instead of going through Dashboard.

My major complaint with the DX4000 is the extensive amount of time that it takes to rebuild the RAID in the case of a crash, failed disk or power outage. The poor performance experienced during the rebuild and the lack of fault tolerance during the rebuild may make this device unsuitable for some business environments.

On the positive side, once I had the connectors installed and the device was functioning at full speed, I found the DX4000 easy to use and configure. The menu system is simple enough that it won’t overwhelm non-technical users. I really liked the web remote access and thought that media aggregation into libraries was a nice feature. I was a bit surprised, however, that media serving was an included feature for a device targeted at the business audience. Still, you can disable that function if you want to.

Unfortunately, my experience using browser-based Remote Desktop via Remote Web Access was mixed. Even when I used Internet Explorer as required, it worked on some systems, and not on others and didn't work with the DX4000 itself. With all of the more fully-featured remote desktop products on the market such as LogMeIn and GoToMyPC, I’d probably choose one of them rather than be tied to Internet Explorer and Remote desktop.

WD has work to do on its backup and restore features, too. I've already noted the lack of support for Apple Time Machine. But options for backing up the server itself are limited to attached drives. Backup to networked rsync targets or even other DX4000's haven't yet made it into the feature set, nor has backup to any cloud services.

In all, while there are a number of features that I like about the DX4000, installation issues, slow RAID rebuild times, slow restore times and limited server backup options keep it off of my recommended purchase list.

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