Product Reviews

Storage to Share

Fastora's entry-level NAS unit is well-suited for small and expanding workgroups.

Fastora calls the NAS-104IW its entry-level workgroup model. As with other NAS boxes I have evaluated in the past, I considered ease-of-deployment, scalability and reliability. With those three criteria in mind, the Fastora NAS-104IW certainly performed well.

The NAS-104IW comes in a slim 1U chassis with two 250-watt power supplies, 512MB of RAM, a 1.1GHZ CPU, two 10/100MB NICs and one 1GB NIC. The NAS-104IW also comes with four hot swappable IDE 20GB hard disks configured as dynamic disks in a software RAID 5 array. It's powered by the Windows Storage Server 2003 network attached storage (NAS) operating system.

The NAS-104IW is a headless unit with no keyboard, video or mouse (KVM) connectors, so to get started, all I had to do was plug in the power and connect the NAS to my network with the Accell UltraCat 5e cables that were provided for the NAS test.

Fastora's NAS-104IW
Fastora's NAS-104IW

Superb Service
After quickly glancing at my DHCP server leases, I saw the server WSS2003-01 (the default name) had been given an IP address. I tried to connect to the server with Internet Explorer and was shut out. I was not provided a default account and password to access the device. I searched the support section of the Fastora Web site, only to find that no searchable knowledgebase existed. Luckily, a quick call to the Fastora customer support center got me heading in the right direction.

As a new customer, the support technician was very helpful in getting me the password information. He explained that normally this information is included on a sticker attached to the NAS chassis, which was missing on my unit. If you're keeping score, that's Customer Support: 1, Quality Control: 0. Customer support quickly scored more points when the technician even offered his personal cell phone number to call if I run into further trouble during setup and configuration. Now how often do you get that with IT support?

System Setup
Now back to the matter at hand. Once I logged into the NAS-104IW, setup was a breeze. The Web-based GUI (see Figure 1) allowed me to set up the system name and IP information within minutes. My next task was to configure e-mail alerts so that the NAS-104IW could tell me when it was having a bad day.

Figure 1. The Fastora NAS-104IW graphical user interface allows for quick and easy setup and system configuration. (Click image to view larger version.)

Overall, I found the NAS-104IW very easy to setup and configure. Aside from the Web management interface, you can also connect to the NAS-104IW desktop (as you could with any Windows-Powered or Windows Storage Server 2003-based NAS) via a Remote Desktop connection. Even as an entry-level model, the NAS-104IW was upgradeable to 1.2TB of storage, so the NAS-104IW would certainly be able to expand with the changing needs of any business.

Running with the Big Dogs?
Besides the initial problems when I attempted to log in to the NAS for the first time, the NAS withstood everything that I could throw at it. However, for Fastora to reach the plateau now occupied by Dell and HP in the Windows NAS market, the company will need to improve its Web support and make it easier for the small business owner to purchase its products.

From the products page, there's no point-and-click method to purchase the product online. Nearly all of Fastora's competitors (such as Dell, HP and Iomega) offer this type of easy purchasing. Also, many of Fastora's competitors throw in several additional management tools with their NAS OS. The Fastora NAS line offers the standard features found in any Windows Storage Server 2003 NAS (Web-based GUI, Remote Desktop management), but little else. In comparison, the Iomega 300m/240GB NAS is priced at less than $1,700 and includes Computer Associates eTrust Antivirus and Iomega Automatic Backup software.

Figure 2. A quick snapshot of the physical status of your avaiable disk space.
Figure 2. Fastora's Web interface also gives you a quick snapshot of the physical status of your available disk space. (Click image to view larger version.)

Necessary Improvements
With a dependable product and aggressive support team, I consider the Fastora NAS-104IW to be a safe investment for many IT shops. However, to make the leap to join the "big dogs" in the industry, Fastora will need to make improvements to its online support and sales, as well as be aggressive in offering the same value as its more proven competitors.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is Virtualization Review magazine's "Virtual Advisor" columnist. A Microsoft MVP for Windows -- Virtual Machine, Chris is an MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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