Editors' note: The rating and/or Editors' Choice designation for this product has been altered since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products.
Think of the Linksys EFG120 network-attached storage unit as an external hard drive for your entire network. Tailored for home offices and small businesses, the Linksys EFG120 is easy to set up and has a number of features that help you get work done both over your own network and via the Internet. It also includes an integrated FTP server, making it easy to read and write files to and from your network whether you're in Toledo or Timbuktu. An empty second bay on the EFG120 lets you add another drive to the unit so that you can schedule daily or weekly backups to protect your data and automate some of your work flow. The Linksys EFG120 network-attached storage unit also includes an integrated print server that lets you connect a printer to its parallel port, allowing you to print from any computer on your network. Despite these advanced features, the EFG120 lacks a USB interface for its print server and costs a pretty penny, compared to the competition. If you want to save some cash and get a USB print server to boot, consider our Editors' Choice, the Buffalo LinkStation.
Setup and ease of use
Basic setup for the Linksys EFG120 network-attached storage unit is a snap; just connect it to an Ethernet port on your network. The back of the EFG120 has only one Ethernet port, so there's no chance for confusion. An eight-page, foldout quick-installation pamphlet guides you through the process.
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|The EFG120's setup wizard automatically locates your EFG120 and displays its network settings.|
Once you've connected the hardware, you access the EFG120 from any computer on your network by simply inserting the accompanying CD. The CD automatically launches the Ethernet network-attached storage Setup Wizard, which automatically detects the EFG120. The wizard then lists the EFG120's current network settings and gives you the opportunity to change them to match those of your own network. Setup may or may not be easy from here on out, depending on your familiarity with your network. If you already have a DHCP server on your network, you need only click a radio button, and you're done. All other scenarios require you to type in IP address settings for the EFG120. The wizard gives you a few pointers, but if you're new to networking, you may need to refer to the user guide.
Features and security
The Linksys EFG120 network-attached storage unit comes with a single 120GB hard drive. An empty second drive bay on the EFG120 lets you increase the total capacity of the unit to meet your own individual storage needs. The memory expansion limit is dictated by the size of the drives you decide to load into the EFG120's two bays. You can schedule backups of the first drive to the second drive (if you install one) on a daily or weekly basis. The Linksys EFG120 lacks RAID support, however, which means that you can't configure it to automatically create backups on the fly by mirroring the disks. Nor can you stripe the two disks together to save a file that's larger than 120GB.
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|A second drive bay on the EFG120 lets you increase the unit's storage capacity.|
You can connect a printer to a parallel port on the EFG120's rear panel. If you have a USB printer, you're out of luck--no USB port here. (You should consider the Buffalo LinkStation instead. It lacks a few of the EFG120's advanced features, such as an FTP server and Gigabit Ethernet, but is considerably cheaper.)
The Linksys EFG120 is designed to provide access to data and to your printer either via your own local network or via the Internet. The EFG120 unit can act as an FTP server, and it supports Internet-attached storage and Internet-printing protocols, making it easy to access your office data and printer when you're on the road. Sending documents to your printer instead of your fax machine when you're on the road can help reduce your phone bill.
We tested the Linksys EFG120 network-attached storage unit on a small Ethernet network with multiple PCs. As expected, accessing files residing on the EFG120 was as fast as accessing the same files on a local hard drive. You might experience a very slight delay if several people attempt to access data on the EFG120 simultaneously, but this is true of your local hard drive as well if you share it with multiple users. The Linksys EFG120 is equipped with a Gigabit Ethernet port, which helps keep it in pace with fast networks.
The Linksys EFG120 network-attached storage unit can also function as a DHCP server for your network, improving the general performance of your network by freeing up resources on the system you currently use for DHCP services. For example, if you use a single system for DHCP and Web services, you can dedicate that system for Web services and rely on the EFG120 to handle DHCP requests. The same thing applies to the EFG120's print server, which can free up resources from the system you're currently using to share your printer. Printer sharing can be a very resource-intensive service, so transferring the task from a workstation to the Linksys EFG120 network-attached storage unit can help pep up the computer you use to share your printer.
Service and support
The Linksys EFG120 network-attached storage unit comes with a reasonably long, two-year warranty--one year more than you get with the less expensive and less capable Buffalo LinkStation. Toll-free, 24/7 phone support is also part of the support package, and it's good for the lifetime of the product. When we called to test the response time of the Linksys support staff and the agents' knowledge of the product, we were greeted by a tech-support rep in less than 10 minutes, and the technician seemed very familiar with the unit's features. The Linksys Web site has lots of useful resources, including FAQs, troubleshooting tips, how-tos, and detailed white papers, as well as drivers, firmware updates, and a downloadable user guide for the EFG120.