Small networks will find an easy-to-install storage solution with RAID configurability and nifty security options in the 1TB Iomega StorCenter ix2, priced at a cent below 300 dollars. These features mentioned more than compensates for its mediocre write speeds and the sparse options for swapping out its drives.
Aesthetics-wise, the StorCenter has little to write home about. The drab, dark gray housing measures 4.9 by 3.2 by 7.9 inches, with a blue LED power indicator that doubles as the indicator for drive activity as well. Another light indicator corresponds to the Blink function used as the device’s ID within a network, in the case of multiple ix2s hooked up to the same network. Apart from these two, indicators are conspicuously lacking for individual drives or even the network connectivity status. Turning the device around, users will find a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB ports, a jack for the power supply cable, and a reset button. The USB ports are useful for attaching printers, digital cameras and external drives to the ix2, but it would have been better if they were located in front for easier access. UPnP and DLNA support is also enabled in the unit, as well as Bluetooth connectivity.
The smallish case houses a pair of 7,200 rpm 500GB drives made by Seagate, plus the requisite cooling fan. A 2TB ix2 version is also available, but is much more expensive with a cool price tag of one cent below 480 dollars. There is no option for swapping the drives out, unless counting returning the entire unit to the manufacturer in the event of damage to one or both drives. The drives are in RAID 1 configuration by default, which is essentially a redundancy feature wherein one drive mirrors the other’s contents, but can be made to run in RAID 0 to use the full 1TB. However, failure in any of the drives in this configuration will result in irretrievable data loss. Added security measures are in the form of an onboard encryption using BSAFE antivirus technology.
The ix2’s setup process is a cakewalk. The unit is first connected to a routed via Ethernet cable and switched on. The StorCenter Manager is then installed to a networked PC from the accompanying Solutions disk. EMC Retrospect, also found in the CD, may be installed as well for an auto-backup utility. Once the software finishes installing, the network will auto-detect the device, provided an IP address, and included under My Network Places in Windows Explorer. The setup will also let the user create an administrator account and password, label the device, and set a default e-mail for alerts.
The StorCenter Manager software is easily accessed via a My Network Places icon, or by typing in the assigned IP address in a browser program. The intuitive interface is subdivided into a quintet of tabs for easy navigation. The Home tab provides one-click access to the Retrospect backup utility, a user-friendly app for setting automatic backup schedules at the drive, file, or folder level. It also establishes restore points to allow easy retrieval of previous settings. The tab has options for doing file searches, too, as well as creating usernames and shared folders, the last one likewise being an option in the Shared Folder and User tabs.
The Dashboard tab shows statistical information about the drive concerning its useable storage capacity, plus the status of backup activities and docked peripherals in a nutshell. The last tab, Settings, provides users with clock and calendar options, the option to create groups, establish FTP and SNMP network services, enable File Sharing in Windows, and set media and print server configuration. Hard drive management is also accomplished here via RAID and write caching controls, complemented by a unique Erase feature that wipes the two drives clean.
Operating temperatures and noise levels in the ix2 are quite decent, but a tradeoff is found in its rather mediocre write speeds. Tests show that the unit is capable of writing a 10GB mixed file folder in 19 minutes, 49 seconds. This is considerably slow in comparison to some of the higher-end offerings in the market. On the other hand, its read speeds are blazing fast, finishing reading the same 10GB folder within 12 minutes, 47 seconds. Iomega covers the ix2 with a free first-year warranty, and provides users with the option to extend it another year for an extra one cent shy of 150 dollars.
As a storage device, the Iomega ix2 works wonders for a small network setup, and sweetens the deal with its capabilities as a print server alternative and various multimedia features. A further functionality is in the form of the ix2’s very thorough attention to security, with its awesome security feature suite. The limited options for drive swapping and the sparsely-decked front panel prevent the ix2 from coming out on top, but only just.