Acer Altos easyStore review

£849
Price when reviewed

The small business desktop NAS appliance market is already highly competitive, so it’s going to take something special for newcomers to make their mark. The A-Listed Thecus N5200 RouStor does this with its unbeatable range of features, while in this exclusive review we see that Acer’s new Altos easyStore still has value high on its agenda. This puts it up against Buffalo’s new TeraStation Pro II in the price wars, but the easyStore has a few tricks up its sleeve that centre around workstation backup and system restoration.

Acer Altos easyStore review

Installation is aided by the bundled Storage System Console utility, which provides quick access to the appliance’s web interface. The latter is nicely designed, although at this stage a strong feeling of déj vu set in: a subsequent investigation revealed that the easyStore is similar to the EScon (formerly LapiStor) RAIDmate NAS and is, in fact, a Lanner Electronics NS04-4110. What makes the easyStore special is it’s the only desktop storage solution that utilises the iSCSI protocol for remote file and system backup and recovery.

During the wizard-assisted setup, you choose an array type. The appliance supports RAID0, 1, 10 and 5 and you can have a triple-disk array with hot-standby. Next, you need to decide how space is to be distributed for general network shares and for workstation backup. The system defaults to 200GB for shares, and Acer recommends you leave this setting until you see how much room your backups take up, as you can expand shared storage into unused space later on.For NAS operations, the easyStore supports Windows, Linux, Unix and Macintosh clients, and access security can be handled by a local user and group database or by integrating with an AD server. User quotas aren’t supported and all you can do with shares is decide who has full or read-only access to them. FTP services can be enabled, but these only give users remote access to the public folder and their own directory.

It gets far more interesting for workstation backup, as the appliance comes with a two-user copy of FalconStor’s DiskSafe Express utility. You’ll need to download the freely available iSCSI initiator from Microsoft first, but don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with iSCSI: once you’ve installed the initiator you can forget about it, as all target logons are handled automatically.

Your first task is to create a backup, and a wizard helps choose the drives or partitions to be secured, the appliance they’re to be copied to and a daily schedule. Note that dynamic disks aren’t supported and only a maximum of four versions of a drive or partition can be maintained on the appliance. If you run daily backups, you’ll only be able to recover data up to four days old, so bear this in mind when setting up backup schedules.

DiskSafe handles all initiator access, so once a backup starts it enables the iSCSI protocol, creates a target on the appliance, logs onto it and backs up the selected data to the virtual drive. During backup job creation, you’re asked for a password that’s used for iSCSI CHAP authentication. So far, so good, but the easyStore didn’t impress during our performance tests. Securing a 7.8GB system partition took 16 minutes for an average speed of only 8.3MB/sec, while a 49GB data partition took more than an hour to secure at a rate of 13.5MB/sec. Even so, once the initial backup has been completed all subsequent backups only send changes to the appliance. We copied a new 23MB folder to our system partition and the next backup took only 3 minutes to complete.

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