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An external hard drive that thinks it's an NAS

An external storage enclosure that can work both as an external hard drive and a network-attached storage device.

I've gotten a few e-mails recently asking if there's a product that can work as both an external hard drive and a network-attached storage device. I only knew of one--the Buffalo DriveStation FlexNet--but now I have another drive to show you, though it doesn't work exactly as an NAS.

IOCell

The NetDisk 351UNE that IOCell Networks announced Wednesday is an external hard drive enclosure that can house a SATA hard drive of any capacity. Apart from the USB 2.0 and eSATA connections, what makes the NetDisk 351UNE different from all other enclosures is that it also has a Gigabit Ethernet port.

This means that apart from hooking up to a computer as a direct-attached-storage device, the NetDisk 315UNE can also be connected to a router, just like a NAS server. However, unlike an NAS server that can work by itself to access the NetDisk over a network, you will need to install its NDAS software on one of the networked computers. The computer then becomes the host let lets others computers access the data stored on the device.

So, basically, this is a network-direct-attached-storage device which, like all external hard drives, depends upon a computer to work.

To make up for this, the device's included software can connect multiple NetDisk 351UNE units in a network and can aggregate up to eight of them into one spanned unit. Personally, I find this to be the only advantage of the device over other external hard drives. Generally, a computer doesn't have more than six USB ports, and there are many devices that would require the use of one. But, this option allows for an easy and affordable way to increase the amount of storage in a network

The NetDisk 351UNE, of course, can only work as either an external hard drive or an NDAS device at one time. According to IOCell, it can deliver transfer speeds up to 60MBps via Ethernet and 100MBps via the eSATA connection.

The device is available now at retail stores and costs $69.99 without storage.