While NAS specialists such as QNAP and Synology pile on extras that cater to the myriad needs of small business and home users, Seagate focuses on smaller feature sets suited to workgroups, larger businesses, and users who want only simple network-shared storage. Its lean and mean Business Storage Windows Server—which runs Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2012 Workgroup—is a case in point.
You don't set up this box as you would a NAS box that runs on Linux, by connecting the device to your network, typing a predefined IP address into your web browser, and having at it. You must first attach a keyboard and VGA display, and then define a password using its local interface. Once that's completed, you can remove the keyboard and display, connect it to your network, and administer the box via Remote Desktop from another Windows PC on your LAN.
This installation procedure is a pain, but it eliminates the possibility of anyone remotely accessing the box using a default password. It's also easier than installing dedicated connection software, as was necessary with older Windows-based NAS boxes. But if you ever forget the admin password, you'll need to plug in the USB key that comes with the system, restart it, and follow the menus that come up to recover. Don't lose that USB key.
The operating system on the eval unit Seagate sent (model number STDM16000100, a four-bay NAS with four 4TB drives) was set only to share files. I initialized FTP, SNMP, TELNET, and the lightweight Active Directory services (Microsoft's user-control software), but Windows Storage Server 2012 Workgroup isn't nearly as easy to configure as most Linux-based boxes. There's a server manager and some language to learn, for starters. It's all doable, but it's hardly as simple.
Managing storage isn't quite as simple, either. While the concepts are essentially the same as RAID, you'll be using Storage Spaces technology and "storage pools" (arrays, basically), and then defining the volumes (D:, E:, and so on) that sit on top. You can use all the storage, or employ simple mirroring or parity (rough equivalents of RAID 1 and RAID 5, as well as other RAID levels).
You'll probably like Storage Spaces once you've read up on some of its unique features and grown accustomed to it. But Windows Storage Server 2012 Workgroup lacks some advanced features, including data deduplication (a means of saving space by eliminating duplicate copies of data) and failover clustering (using other computers or NAS boxes for added redundancy, and to ensure that server applications remain available should one server fail). It also lacks out-of-the-box support for remote Web access and media serving. You can, however, add your own apps for those functions. I installed PacketVideo's Twonky Server and streamed all types of music and video with no difficulties.
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