Evesham SilverSTOR nas 3142 review

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For network storage in the SMB market, SATA has become the de facto standard disk interface, and the latest SilverSTOR nas 3142 from Evesham Technology shows precisely why this is so. This NAS appliance brings together no less than 16 SATA hot-swap drives for a total raw capacity of nearly 7TB, and at a price that SCSI or Fibre Channel arrays can’t hope to match, let alone beat. The 3142 has a few more tricks up its sleeve too, and one of them is the OS: it’s powered by the latest R2 of Windows Storage Server 2003 (WSS2003).

Evesham SilverSTOR nas 3142 review

At the heart of the 3142 lies a high-quality SE7320EP2 server-specific Intel motherboard, equipped with a single 2.8GHz Xeon processor and 1GB of PC2-3200 SDRAM. There’s room to expand, as another Xeon processor can be installed and memory upgraded to 8GB. Evesham favours Chenbro’s chassis for many of its storage servers, but we’ve often had mixed views about these. There’s no denying this 3U unit offers plenty of expansion potential, but build quality could be better, as we found some of the drive carriers sticking in their bays and not releasing smoothly. Physical security is good, though. The chunky front panel can be locked shut to prevent access to the hard disks. Each drive bay is partnered by a couple of status LEDs, while the backlit LCD panel in the centre displays environmental values such as temperatures for the chassis, processor and hard disk cage, plus fan speeds and voltages.

Evesham’s choice of storage hardware is more interesting than most, as it opted to populate 14 of the bays with 500GB Maxtor hard disks and pop a couple of 80GB Western Digital Caviar SE drives in the last two bays. The latter are connected directly to the motherboard’s embedded SATA interfaces, configured as a RAID1 mirror and dedicated to looking after the OS. The Maxtor drives are cabled through to a 16-port Areca ARC-1160 PCI-X controller card and configured as a massive 5.5TB RAID5 array. Internally, the 3142 is a little untidy thanks to the individual SATA cables connecting the drives to the various controllers, although Evesham has done a reasonably good job of securing them. The drive bays are kept cool by a bank of four large fans and are all individually hot-swappable.

And so to installation. Users of the original WSS2003 will be in for quite a surprise, as the trusty old web interface for remote management has gone. Microsoft has decided to toughen up security, so appliances running R2 of this OS can only be accessed via RDP connections. This in itself isn’t a problem but, as we found out, nothing is now where you expect it to be. Instead of the cheerful web browser and its chunky icons, you now have an MMC snap-in that provides access to most of the storage-related features. Fortunately, a wizard takes most of the sting out of the learning curve, as it runs through the basic setup before moving on to create shares and dishing out access privileges.

With R2, you’ll find users and groups are created in the normal Windows Server 2003 fashion, as are volume shadow copies. However, the majority of storage configuration tasks can be carried out from the Storage Server Management (SSM) snap-in, which organises the various features under a single tree in the left pane. The centre section provides access to more wizards and Help files, while the right pane is used to display actions and customise the whole interface.

Shares can be created speedily. A wizard runs through choosing a folder, providing a share name and determining access restrictions. Setting up file and volume quotas is just as easy. SSM provides predefined templates and allows you to decide whether they should be hard or soft. The former will block users from accessing more space if they have exceeded their quota, while the latter merely reports the breach. Utilisation thresholds can also be added to quotas, allowing the appliance to warn users if they’re getting close to their limits. Evesham includes the file-screening option, which allows you to decide which files are allowed on the appliance. As with quotas, there are wizards to help, plus templates that will block a range of file types, such as executables, multimedia or images. The storage report tools are also thrown in, which provide details on areas such as duplicate files, quota usage and file ownership. Note that Intel’s Server Manager and Areca’s proxy server software are bundled with this system, which means you can keep a close eye on the hardware and receive alerts if the RAID controller detects any disk-related problems.

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