Cisco NSS 326 Smart Storage review

£1056
Price when reviewed

Cisco’s first forays into the world of SMB NAS appliances were short-lived: its NSS2000 family was dropped barely a year after being launched. The NSS 300 Smart Storage series is its next attempt, and here we review the six-bay NSS 326.

This well-built desktop box has a high storage capacity and its six hot-swap drive carriers have mounting holes for 3.5in and 2.5in SATA disks. There are plenty of port choices: along with two Gigabit ports, you have four USB 2 and two eSATA ports at the back for adding external storage devices.

Installation is simply a matter of loading your choice of Cisco-certified SATA drives and using the backlit LCD panel and control pad to choose a RAID array. We installed three 1TB WD GreenPower SATA drives, and a RAID5 array took five hours to create, during which time the volume was inaccessible.

Cisco’s Ajax-based web interface provides easy access to an impressive range of features. We covered these in depth in our exclusive review of the four-bay NSS 324.

For testing we used a Dell PowerEdge R715 rack server with dual 2.2GHz 12-core Opteron 6174 processors and 32GB of DDR3 memory running Windows Server 2008 R2. Drag-and-drop copies of a 2.52GB video clip returned average read and write speeds over Gigabit of 76MB/sec and 72MB/sec.

Cisco NSS 326 Smart Storage

FTP speeds were faster, with FileZilla reporting read and write speeds for the same file of 99MB/sec and 92MB/sec respectively. Large collections of small files weren’t handled so well: drag-and-drop copies of an 8.5GB folder containing over 4,000 files delivered read and write speeds of 56MB/sec and 42MB/sec.

The NSS 326 bears a striking resemblance to Qnap’s TS-659 Pro, which looks to offer a similar feature set. Qnap’s diskless version also costs around £150 less, so we asked Cisco what the extra cash gets you.

First up is Cisco’s five-year warranty, which includes its Small Business Pro Service with worldwide chat, phone and community support. The basic manufacturer’s warranty on the TS-659 Pro is only one year.

Qnap’s Surveillance Station, which provides direct recording and motion detection for IP cameras, isn’t supported on the NSS 326. However, Cisco says the features provided by this application don’t meet its small-business customer requirements, so it offers its AVMS software instead, which is an additional purchase.

Cisco has also integrated a RADIUS server into the NSS 326 and has big plans for the future. It’s working on a range of apps that include a bulletin board, Wiki, e-learning, asset management, web analytics, a newsgroup reader and an email server.

The NSS 326 is superior to Cisco’s previous SMB NAS appliances since it offers far more features and has a greater storage capacity. Qnap’s TS-659 Pro costs a lot less and certainly doesn’t disappoint for features, but if you can afford it the NSS 326 is a good choice as you get Cisco’s five-year warranty and the promise of more applications to come.

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