The two-bay BlackArmor 220 NAS server is the stripped-down version of the BlackArmor 440. However, it's only stripped in terms the physical size and numbers of drive bays. On the inside, it's still an advanced NAS server and shares the same set of features as the 440 (for this reason, you will find this review similar to that of the 440). At around $400, the 220 comes with 2TB (or $650 for 4TB), and is one of the most affordable advanced NAS servers for both home and small business use.
Like the 440 before it, the 220 isn't the most user-friendly NAS server. It makes up for that by offering very good throughput performance, RAID configurations, and a straightforward vendor-assisted remote access solution. If you're looking for a quick network storage device and you're not a networking noob, the BlackArmor 220 is a smart investment.
Design and setup
The BlackArmor 220 NAS server comes in an elegant pyramid-like shape with its two bays in a vertical position. Accessing these bays is difficult; you're required to remove the cover using a screw driver. After that, the two SATA hard drives can be replaced fairly easily. Unlike with the BlackAmror 440, Seagate didn't design the 220 with hard-drive user-serviceability in mind. Seagate would prefer you used the hard drives included.
On the server's front are three small, blue, LEDs: one shows the status of the internal hard drive, another show the status of the whole system, and the last one indicates that the power is on. The back of the server includes its Gigabit Ethernet port and two USB ports. The USB ports can be used to host extra storage and printers.
Like the 440, the 220 comes with the BlackArmor backup solution, which is based on Acronis' excellent True Image software. One of its more useful features is the capability to quickly recover a crashed computer by booting from the included software CD, allowing you to perform a complete system recovery from a backup file contained on the BlackArmor NAS.
The server comes with a discovery software utility, making setting up the BlackArmor a simple task. Once set up, the utility assists in finding the NAS server on the network and allows you to map network drives to its two default share folders, "public" and "download." Fortunately, no software is needed to access the NAS, as it fully supports the SMB protocol and can be easily found using Windows Explorer.
You can also use the discovery utility to launch the BlackArmor's Web interface, but this is where the simplicity ends. Unfortunately, novice users need to figure out a lot by themselves; the NAS server's included Quick Setup poster and its PDF manual are rather scant. For example, if you need to create a new user account, you will have to guess; there's no "add" button on the Web interface, only a tiny plus sign that you need to click. Advanced users won't have much trouble, however.
The BlackArmor has standard user account management. By default, the device comes with an "Admin" account, allowing you to log in and create other user accounts. Though this default account has administrative privileges, it doesn't include all of the features of a user-created account. For example, you can't use the Admin account to access the NAS remotely over the Internet. Puzzling, since with most other NAS servers, the Admin account allows for complete access.
Once a new user account has been created, you can assign it different access privileges for each share folder. Also, placing a user account into a group automatically gives it the access privileges of that group. Aside from public share folders, each user account has a private share folder of its own and if you have an office with a centralized server, the BlackArmor 220 NAS can be set to work as a domain member. Doing this requires that you understand Windows Server's Active Directory, as well as other advanced user account management tools, to set up.
The NAS offers three ways to set up the hard drive: Raid 0, Raid 1, and Span, and it is quite fast to change from one to another. The server took us about an hour to switch its two drives from RAID 1 to RAID 0. Other NAS servers we've reviewed could take hours to do this. Out of the box, the server includes a RAID 1 configuration.
With built-in support for Digital Media and iTunes servers, the BlackArmor can automatically stream music, video, and photos to compatible devices, including computers, set-top boxes, and game consoles. To share these types of files, simply place them in their appropriate folder within the default "Public" share folder. So if you want to share music via iTunes, first place the music files in the "Our Music" folder, which is inside the "Public" share folder. Then, you can set the intervals that the server will automatically scan for new music to add to the share, ranging from every 5 minutes to once a day. We didn't run into any problems using this feature.
Like most high-end NAS servers, the BlackArmor 220 supports self-downloading with its Downloader Management feature. This allows you to run three download jobs at a time and in our test, the feature worked well with sites that require authentication. You can also schedule the downloading job to run at a particular time, like at night, to avoid bandwidth congestion.