D-Link ShareCenter Shadow DNS-325 NAS Server review: D-Link ShareCenter Shadow DNS-325 NAS Server

D-Link ShareCenter Shadow DNS-325 NAS Server

Dong Ngo

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.

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The ShareCenter DNS-325 is an upgrade to D-Link's 3-year-old DNS-323 , and for the most part, it makes a worthy upgrade. However, compared with other recent two-bay NAS severs, the new D-Link is still behind in terms of features and ease of use.


D-Link ShareCenter Shadow DNS-325 NAS Server

The Good

The <b>D-Link ShareCenter DNS-325</b> offers fast performance and an easy-to-use drive bay design. The NAS server supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations and can takes a very short time to build a RAID setup.

The Bad

The D-Link ShareCenter DNS-325 has a limited number of features and peripheral ports. The server doesn't support top-capacity hard drives, stops serving data when changes are being applied, and its Web interface as well as share folder management could use some improvements.

The Bottom Line

Fast and relatively simple, the D-Link ShareCenter DNS-325 NAS server makes a good home network storage solution for data sharing, media streaming, and backups. Those who want more features and easier remote data access, however, should check out some alternatives.

The new server offers fast performance, is easy to set up, and it supports RAID 1 and RAID 0 with the ability to switch between the two very fast. If you're looking for a simple workhorse NAS server for your home, at a street price of around $180 (no storage) or $300 (1TB included), the DNS-325 makes a decent investment. For more features and better remote access, we'd also recommend the Synology DS710+ and the Iomega StorCenter ix2-200 .

Design and ease of use
Measuring 4.1 x 7.8 x 5.2 inches, the ShareCenter DNS-325 shares the same simple and practical design as the DNS-323 with the two drive bays being accessible from the front. Just slightly lift the face-lid of the server up and you have full access and can install the hard drives without any tools. To remove them, you'll have to pull the latches on the back of the server, which help push the drives out.

Also on the back, the server has just one Gigabit Ethernet port and one USB port. The USB port can be used to either host an external hard drive for additional storage or a printer. Note that most other servers we've reviewed offer two or more USB ports.

The DNS-325 supports any standard 3.5-inch SATA hard drives, as long as they are of 2TB or lower capacities. While the server recognizes 3TB hard drives, in our trials, it was able to see them only as 750GB drives. The hard drives can be configured in either RAID 0 or RAID 1. You'll also have the options to use them as separate volumes or put them together in a simple JBOD setup. In our trials with two 2TB hard drives, the server could create a RAID configuration within just a few minutes, which is very fast. Other servers would take hours to do the same job. This is likely because the DNS-325 automatically skips disk checking during the RAID build, which might subsequently pose problems, especially in a RAID 0 setup, if one of the disks has bad sectors. There's no option to perform a "slow" and safe RAID build, however.

The DNS-325 comes in two configurations, one with no storage and the other with a 1TB hard drive included. We'd recommend the former as it gives you the freedom of getting your own hard drive, and you should get the largest according to your storage needs. This is because once set up, there's no way you can upgrade the hard drives without having to rebuild the RAID.

Setting up the DNS-325 is easy, though there are quite a few steps, especially when you choose to get your own hard drives. Nonetheless, it's very easy. Most advanced users can figure this out themselves, and novice users can just follow the included setup software, which walks you through the process step by step. We were able to get the server up and running with two 2TB hard drives within about 20 minutes, including the time spent for the RAID setup to be built.

After that, you can use the included D-Link Easy Search Utility to launch the server's Web interface that allows you to further customize the server. Alternatively, you can get to this Web interface by pointing a connected computer to the server's IP address, which is automatically assigned by the network's router (DHCP server).

Considering it's been a long time since the DNS-323 was released, the DNS-325 is rather behind in terms of features and ease of use compared with recent NAS servers. The server doesn't offer an easy way to access its data remotely, it has no support for an IP camera, and there's no self-downloading capability. Its network sharing is also limited: you can create only one share folder per volume, and you can't change the name of this share folder.

To be fair, however, it does include many things home users look for in a NAS server, including the ability to work as a media-streaming server, and an FTP and Web server. It supports Time Machine backup, and it has the ability to share photos and host blogs over the Internet. However, all of its advanced features require a little networking know-how to figure out. Home users can only set the server up as a simple network storage device that hosts streamable content.

The server's Web interface could also be more responsive and intuitive. We noticed that the server requires some sort of "soft" restart when changes are applied. For example, when we added a new user, the server stopped serving data when the new user account was being created. We call it a "soft" restart because during this time, the Web interface was still working like normal. It seems that the server restarts certain or all of its services when changes to its settings are applied. This could be a nuisance when a backup is being done or a large amount of data is being transferred to or from the server.

The DNS-325 supports external hard drives formatted in either NTFS or FAT 32. Once plugged in, the content of the hard drive will be shared immediately as one volume, similar to that of the server's internal storage. The admin user then can restrict other users' access to this share; the admin can grant full access (read/write), read-only access, or no access at all. The external hard drive can also be used as a backup destination of the server's internal storage. This is a good feature, especially if you use the server in RAID 0 configuration.

Other than that, the server also allows for backing up its data to other network storage devices, such as another NAS or a computer.

Despite a few shortcomings, the ShareCenter DNS-325 shines where it matters the most: performance. It was one of the fastest among dual-bay NAS servers we've reviewed. Compared with higher-end servers, such as the Synology DS1511+ , however, it was still behind. Nonetheless, we were very happy about its throughput performance.

In our test via Gigabit Ethernet, the DNS-325 registered 32.6MBps and 70.5MBps for write and reading, respectively, with RAID 1 setup. These numbers are noticeably higher than those of a USB 2.0 external hard drive. RAID 1, or mirror, is a setup that favors data safety over the amount of storage space and performance.

In RAID 0, which is a setup that's optimized for high performance and maximum storage space at the expense of data safety, the server did even better with 36.7MBps for writing and 82.7MBps for reading.

The server gets rather warm after working for an extended amount of time, but within an acceptable level among NAS servers. It's recommended to leave it in an open, well-ventilated space.

CNET Labs NAS performance scores via wired Gigabit Ethernet connection (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
D-Link DNS-325 (RAID 0)
D-Link DNS-325 (RAID 1)

Service and support
D-Link backs the ShareCenter DNS-325 with a three-year warranty, which is very good for a NAS server. There's good support information on the company's Web site, including downloads, FAQs, and a searchable knowledgebase. D-link's technical support phone line is also available 24-7.

We loved the ShareCenter DNS-325's fast performance, but we were let down by its lack of features and the lackluster Web interface. Nonetheless, the server will make a very good workhorse home network storage device that can also serve digital content to network streamers.


D-Link ShareCenter Shadow DNS-325 NAS Server

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 5Performance 8Support 8