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D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure review: D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure

D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure

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Dong Ngo
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Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

7 min read

The $200 D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure offers a quick, yet comprehensive solution for network storage. We really liked the device for its flexibility and useful features, and at the same time wished it supported FAT32 or NTFS hard drives like the Iomega StorCenter Pro. The device can house two 3.5-inch SATA hard drives of any capacity in RAID configurations. It can also be used as an FTP, a DHCP, a UPnP AV, or an iTunes server with an excellent, intuitive Web interface. The DNS-323 comes up big where it matters most: throughput performance. Despite its few flaws and rather bulky power supply, we can easily recommend it to people who are looking for a fast, reliable way to extend their network's storage and functionalities. If you are looking for a simple NAS solution that already comes with a hard drive, however, the Iomega StorCenter might save you some start-up time and money.

7.1

D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure

The Good

Compact design; very easy to set up; intuitive Web interface; fast write speed; print-serving capability; two drive bays with RAID support; can operate as a UPnP AV, iTunes, and FTP server; can also act as DHCP server; USB port for sharing a printer.

The Bad

Drive bays' cover comes off too easily; doesn't support hard drives in FAT32 or NTFS format; drive bays only hold drives of regular thickness.

The Bottom Line

The D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure is a comprehensive solution to extend your network storage and functionality. It offers great performance and, despite its long list of features, remains very easy to use.

Setup and design
The D-Link-DNS-323 boasts a simple, compact design with all the ports (Gigabit Ethernet, USB, and power) on the back. On the front is the hard-drive bay cover that has the power button and three blue activity status LEDs, one for each hard drive and one for the network port.

The DNS-323 doesn't come with hard drives--leaving you the option to choose what storage capacity to add. It's very easy to open the device to access its hard drive bays. We found it a bit too easy, in fact. More than once we accidentally opened the cover just by holding the device from the front to lift it up. It would be a lot better if the DNS-323's face lid had some sort of lock to prevent this. Fortunately, NAS devices are generally not supposed to be portable, and the act of opening the cover doesn't interfere with the D-Link's working status. The device can take two 3.5-inch SATA hard drives, preferably of regular thickness: all you have to do is to slide the drives in and they fit in very well. Thinner drives don't fit as snugly. There's a release latch for each drive at the back of the device, in case you want to replace the hard drives. You can use just one drive with the DNS-323, but if you want to take advantage of the RAID configuration, the second one is a must.

Once the hard drives are installed, it's very easy to set up the DNS-323 on your network with D-Link's Easy Search Utility (included on the bundled CD). In our case, the Easy Search Utility found the NAS within a few seconds and helped us launch the configuration Web page. Of the many networking vendors, D-Link has always been our favorite in terms of how its Web-based management applications are designed. The DNS-323's is no exception. Its Web interface is very well organized and intuitive with a lot of built-in help, tips, and useful information. Nonetheless, the D-Link still comes with a very clear, well-illustrated Quick Install Guide that most people wouldn't need to read.

At the initial login, the Web application will prompt you to set up the drives. There are four options: No RAID, RAID 0 (Striped), RAID 1(Mirrored) or JBOD. JBOD (Just A Bunch of Disks) is an interesting setup that, similar to RAID 0, merges two hard drives. JBOD combines the drives in a linear way, meaning the combined storage is the total of the two hard drives even when they are of different sizes. (With RAID 0, the combined storage is always the size of the smaller hard drive multiplied by two.) Also, if one hard drive in a JBOD setup dies, only data on that hard drive is lost and it's possible--though not always--to recover information on the working one. JBOD's performance, though, is much slower than RAID 0. In short, if you want to maximize your storage space and have a bit more peace of mind about data integrity, then JBOD is a better choice over RAID 0. Then again, RAID 1 offers even better data security (at the expense of storage capacity, of course) and is probably the best option for a backup solution.

If you get new hard drives for the DNS-323, all these options work very well and the setup is very convenient. If you want to use hard drives that already contain data, however, it's a different story. If you have hard drives laying around that are formatted in FAT32 or NTFS file system (supported by Microsoft Windows), the DNS-323 will need to reformat them into Ext2 file system (supported by Linux) before they can be used. This means it's impossible to move an existing Windows/Mac-friendly hard drive into the DNS-323 without having its data completely wiped. This can also be potentially problematic in case the DNS-323 fails and you want to just hook its hard drives to a Windows computer for data access or recovery. For all the NAS devices (of which the hard drives are user-replaceable) we've reviewed to date, the DNS-323 is the first that supports only the Ext2 file format. This makes the user-replaceable aspect of the device less flexible. The formatting takes a relatively short time depending on the size of the hard drives. In our case, it took about 5 minutes for a drive of 400GB.

Other than the formatting, it's very quick and self-explanatory to set up other features. The DNS-323 supports user management with accounts, group, and quotas. The administrator can control disk space as well as what a user can do with the provided storage space. For example, the administrator can assign a user 20GB storage space, or assign read-only privilege to certain users or to certain folders to avoid accidental file deletion.

Features
Besides the print-serving capability courtesy of its USB port, which is rather ubiquitous in NAS devices, the D-Link also supports iTunes and Universal Plug and Play Audio and Video (UPnP AV) servers. This is a very helpful feature for those who want to stream movies and music seamlessly to Apple's iTunes and other UPnP AV-compatible devices. We didn't test the UPnP AV feature, but the iTunes Server worked very well. iTunes running on both PCs and Macs on our network could easily see and play files from the iTunes library on the DNS-323. As with iTunes itself, you can also restrict access to the music by password-protecting the share. However, we found the iTunes server was unable to add music to the share-list on the fly: if you copy more music to the iTunes folder on the DNS-323, the new music will not be shared until you manually reshare that folder. On the other hand, the iTunes songs shared from the DNS-323 are automatic divided into two sublists: Non-DRMed and DRMed for non-digitally protected and digitally protected music, respectively. This is a nifty feature that prevents you from adding songs that are potentially unplayable to the playlist.

Most NAS devices ship with the assumption that you already have a DHCP-enabled network. The D-Link-323, however, comes with a DHCP server of its own. This feature is disabled by default, but it can be turned on for use in case you don't already have DHCP on your network and want to mange your network with one. Having a DHCP server makes network setup very convenient as you don't manually assign IP addresses for each client.

Last but not least, the DNS-323 can also be set to automatically back up an FTP site, a regular Web site, or a network shared folder, including sites that require authentication. This is a very convenient and practical feature for backing up your network resources, especially when you host your sites from your own server rather than using a service that already has its own backup system. We tried it with our in-house makeshift FTP site, and it worked very well. We simply entered our FTP site's information (authentication information and URL), the location of where we wanted to back up it up on the DND-323, and the scheduled time. It's worth noting that the FTP backup function is separate from the rest of the DND-323's features. When you log into the Web interface, you'll find that this network backup feature (dubbed Scheduling) is listed separately from the rest of the features (dubbed Configurations), which caused a moment of confusion on our part.

Performance
The D-Link DNS-323 excelled on CNET Labs' throughput tests. On our write test, it topped the charts with the score of 55.6Mbps. On our read test, the device finished in the middle of the pack with a still respectable 42.2Mbps. For each test, we used two hard drives (160GB and 400GB; each a 7,200rpm drive with 16MB of cache) in a non-RAID setup. Also, we should note that the DNS-323 was very cool and quiet, even during a long duration of heavy activity.

Service and support
D-Link ships the DNS-322 with a one-year warranty, which is standard for a NAS device. At the company's Web site, you can find very good support information including downloads, FAQs, and a searchable knowledgebase. D-link's technical support phone line is available 24-7, and we were able to get ahold of a helpful and knowledgeable representative in less than 10 minutes. All in all, it was not a terrible experience.

Transfer speed tests (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate faster performance)
NAS read test  
NAS write test  
D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure
42.2 
55.6 
Apple Time Capsule
40.9 
36.6 

7.1

D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Performance 7Support 7
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