In recent months, network-attached storage has grown out of its simple role of data storage and backup and ventured into the realm of centralized multimedia storage, serving up that media to the various networked displays in your home or office. The Ximeta NetDisk Portable NDAS drive hearkens back to the data storage origins, with simple design and fast performance. It's not exactly a network-attached storage drive; in fact, Ximeta calls it a "network direct-attached storage" drive, or NDAS. For the user, this means easier setup and configuration, as well as lightning-fast performance. On the downside, it has fewer extra features than the latest NAS drives, such as the HP Media Vault or the Buffalo TeraStation Home Server; namely, it lacks print and media server capability. But you can still set up RAID 0 and RAID 1 arrays using multiple NetDisk drives. This drive is for the home user who wants basic, fast storage and backup and who doesn't need all the multimedia bells and whistles. At $370 for the 500GB version, it's not a bad deal, either.
The Ximeta NetDisk Portable's physical design is compact and simple. The silver-and-black body is lightweight, making it easy to stash in a laptop bag to take with you. Two LEDs adorn the top: one to display power and the other to show network activity. The back houses an on/off switch, a USB port, a power port, and an Ethernet port. The drive is available in several capacities: 160GB, 250GB, 400GB, and 500GB. We tested the 500GB version for this review.
Installing the drive is a simple task. If you want to use it on your network, just plug it into a LAN port on a network switch or your router, and power it on. Using the included CD, install the driver and the software. You'll be prompted to restart your PC, after which the Found Hardware wizard will pop up and instruct you on how to finish installation. To wrap up, you'll have to enter the drive ID and the write key (both are found on the bottom of the drive) to give your PC permission to write to the drive.
Unlike most NAS drives, the NetDisk isn't assigned an IP address, and you don't need to mess with the DHCP server on your router, nor do you need to map the drive to your PC--it simply appears as a local drive upon installation. If you want to restrict access to the NetDisk, you can simply not install the software on a particular PC, or you can give a PC read-only access by not entering the write key. Installing the drive in USB mode is even easier, as it's plug and play. Just connect to your PC via a USB cable, and you're ready to go.
Once you've installed the NetDisk on your network, it shows up as a local drive on your PC and on any PC on which you've installed the NetDisk driver. You can format or partition the drive using any connected PC on your network, but you have to make sure the drive is only mounted (or active) on the PC you're using to format it. To move data between the drive and your PC, you can simply drag and drop files or folders. For backup, Ximeta bundles Symantec Live State Recovery on the installation CD, which handles both backup and restore tasks. Symantec Live State Recovery makes simple work of setting up a recurring or one-time backup. Simply select the drives you want to back up, select where you want the backup images to live (presumably, on the NetDisk drive in this case), and when you want the backup to occur. While the program is easy to use, we'd like to see a more granular approach to backup. That is, we'd like to be able to specify folders or even files to back up. We'd also like to be able to set a continuous backup, where files and folders are backed up in real time as changes are made to them. NTI Shadow, bundled with the HP Media Vault can do continuous backups, as well as back up particular files or folders. If you prefer a backup app other than the one bundled with the NetDisk drive, you can use that instead.
If you have more than one NetDisk drive on your network, you can "bind" them together to create an aggregate drive or a RAID array. Aggregation allows you to use two to eight NetDisks as a single large disk. RAID 0 (striping without parity) lets you bind two, four, or eight NetDisks as one large drive. When writing to the drive, the data will be written in chunks to each drive in turn (striping), which increases write speeds but does nothing for data security. Alternatively, you can bind two drives together into a RAID 1 array, which mirrors the data written on one disk to the other. You get redundancy of information, which is safer than RAID 0 but no improvement in data transfer speed. The HP Media Vault offers only a RAID 1 array, but the Buffalo TeraStation Home Server also offers RAID 5. (Keep in mind, too, that the Media Vault and the TeraStation offer RAID arrays using just a single device; with the NetDisk, you'll have to buy at least two drives for such an array.) The user manual has very long, explicit directions on how to create, undo, or alter a bind.
In CNET Labs' throughput tests, the 500GB NetDisk Portable drive proved itself to be quite the speed demon. In fact, it beat all of the NAS drives we've tested. Ximeta explains that the NetDisk is slightly different from a standard NAS drive, which uses a low-end CPU and OS for data processing. The CPU and OS can slow down data transfer times. (Ximeta calls the NetDisk a "network direct-attached storage" device, or NDAS.) In our NAS transfer speed, it took only 10 minutes, 49 seconds to write our 5GB folder of mixed file types to the drive. The NetDisk read the same folder back in only 9 minutes, 53 seconds. The next-fastest drive to be put through the paces in CNET Labs was the HP Media Vault MV2020, which posted a write time of 15 minutes, 12 seconds and a read time of 13 minutes, 25 seconds. We also tested the NetDisk in direct-attached, USB mode. It wrote our 10GB test folder in 9 minutes, 19 seconds and read it back in 8 minutes, 8 seconds.
|5GB read test (min:sec)||5GB write test (min:sec)|
Ximeta backs the NetDisk Portable with a limited one-year warranty. Phone support is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT. Unfortunately you'll have to pay a toll. The company's Web site offers driver/software downloads, a FAQ, a troubleshooter, and live user forums.