LaCie Ethernet Disk
One of the more acute growing pains that comes with owning a successful small business is the need for increased IT resources. Adding a server to your business, for example, has traditionally meant paying for the know-how to install and maintain it. But now, low-cost, uncomplicated server alternatives, such as the LaCie Ethernet Disk, are giving small-business owners do-it-yourself options for expanding their networks. The Ethernet Disk is a beefed-up network-attached storage unit that that runs embedded Windows XP and comes in six different configurations, adding anywhere from 80GB to a full terabyte of disk space to your network. We think the Ethernet Disk's mix of features makes it a good fit for many small businesses looking for a file server to share files and folders among their workforce, but given the unit's lack of RAID support and weak expansion options, it's worth considering the soon-to-be released Buffalo TeraStation as an alternative.
LaCie's Ethernet Disk is designed as a rack-mountable unit, but you can also place it on top of a table or a desk. The Ethernet Disk's case is designed to support up to 55 pounds, which makes it sturdy enough to act as a base for an LCD monitor, too. A printed installation guide walks you through the setup process, which you perform via the unit's browser-based Administration tool. The tool lets you set up and customize shared folders, add and modify users and groups, and assign user permissions, and it's very easy to use. We had the unit connected to our network and configured to share files in less than 30 minutes.
The most notable feature of the Ethernet Disk is its embedded Windows XP operating system, which bestows upon the unit most of the powers of a full-fledged Windows PC and gives it a convenient and familiar interface for entrenched Windows users. You can even access the Ethernet Disk from a remote Windows PC using XP's built-in remote desktop connection utility, which lets you control the unit as you would any other computer running Windows XP, setting file and folder permissions and adding and deleting users and user groups.
The Ethernet Disk's hardware features include one 10/100 Ethernet port for attaching the unit to your network, two USB 1.1 ports that let you connect external USB hard drives, one FireWire port for connecting an external FireWire drive, ports for the mouse and the keyboard; and one VGA connector for attaching a display directly to the unit.
LaCie advertises the Ethernet Disk's interoperability with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Unix systems, but this cross-platform compatibility has its limits. Linux/Unix support is available only with SMB/Samba message format, not via the lighter and faster NFS, and interoperability with Mac OS X restricts filenames to 31 or fewer characters.