Linksys NSS6100 1TB review

£1055
Price when reviewed

Whereas other NAS appliances (such as Buffalo’s new TeraStation Rackmount) must be purchased with preinstalled hard disks, the latest NSS intelligent appliance from Linksys does not. And, it goes one better than Buffalo’s hard disk “quick swap” feature by supporting full hot-swap capabilities.

The NSS6100 adheres to a more sensible design, as the four hard disks are laid out across the front panel resulting in a rack chassis that’s only 1U high. Extending 42cm, it’s the same depth as the TeraStation Rackmount, but also 10cm longer than Netgear’s ReadyNAS 1100.

The system was supplied with a quartet of 250GB SATA hard disks, and it supports all the usual RAID suspects you’d expect at this level of the market.

Installation is a real nuisance, as the bundled CD-ROM merely provides links to Linksys’ support site where you have to download all the required utilities.

We found it easier just to point a browser directly at the appliance and move straight to the basic, but easily navigable, web interface.

With a four-figure price tag, the NSS6100 does look expensive – it’s around twice the price of the 1TB TeraStation Rackmount and ReadyNAS rack systems.

So can this box justify such a high outlay? Yes and no. The appliance has two Gigabit network ports, and with both connected it will default to creating a failover link – though you can change this to a load balanced pipe instead.

Client support extends to Windows, Linux, Unix and Macintosh users, and the appliance can provide FTP services on selected shares.

Access security is good, as there’s a local user and group database and support for NT domain or AD authentication. Soft and hard quotas at the user and group levels are on the menu, so you can use two thresholds with the first sending a warning and the second stopping further access, and backup options are reasonable.

Performance is a big disappointment, as copying a selection of large files to and from the appliance over Gigabit Ethernet returned read-and-write rates for CIFS of 13MB/sec and 8.4MB/sec. FTP wasn’t much better, with the FileZilla client reporting average read-and-write speeds of 23.8MB/sec and 5.6MB/sec.

That’s nothing special, but what really piqued our curiosity were the built-in hard-disk encryption and virtualisation features. When you create a volume, you can opt to have the appliance encrypt it using 256-bit AES. You provide a password and when, for example, you’re moving the appliance or just want the data secured, you select the lock option, which unmounts the volume and makes it inaccessible.

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If power is cycled or the appliance rebooted, it locks encrypted volumes and won’t allow access until the password is entered.

Virtualisation works when you have multiple appliances acting as master and slaves. Essentially, you create JBODs on a slave and import them into the master, which then looks after them as its own. Another useful feature of the NSS6100 is its ability to expand existing volumes into unused space.

The virtualisation and encryption features mark the NSS6100 out from the current crop of rackmount NAS appliances. These make it appealing to businesses, but general performance is very poor and it’s comparatively expensive.

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