Does Mac Edition Radio’s digital life sound familiar? We have lots of data to deal with, so we need multiple hard drives strategically placed around our homes and offices, and of course, tangled webs of different interfaces and cables. Some storage devices are portable, while others might be AC-powered external desktop drives. Either way, most of them aren’t secure, nor are they accessible to others or remotely. Enter the NAS, or Networked Attached Storage, which has been growing in popularity as an affordable, secure, fast, and increasingly easy-to-configure solution to how to store all that precious data.
In this first of a multi-part article on NAS devices, we review the recently released Seagate NAS Pro, 16TB Network Attached Storage, powered by LaCie NAS OS 4 operating system.
But first, a few thoughts. We started reviewing NAS devices years ago, from small single mechanism units that only a networking engineer could figure out, to units like the Seagate Central that made it easy to share files, music, and more. And now, we look at serious tools like the Seagate NAS Pro that wed easy-to-use configuration software and enterprise level hard drive mechanisms in a small, easy on the eyes system that promises to change your everyday digital workflow.
So, while NAS devices have been around for years, they have tended to fall into two categories: professional units that have multiple drives with configurable RAID options, and consumer units that have a single drive, with limited set-up options mostly centered around media serving, so everyone can share music, movies, or photos.
In the meantime, Seagate and LaCie are newly merged and have applied their combined talents to a new line of NAS devices introduced during CEA week in June 2014. I first thought that the hardware wasn’t really the story, but rather, the software. It turns out that I was wrong; the hardware is pretty cool also! Seagate offers the units in several variations - a basic line named simply Seagate NAS, available in 2- and 4-drive models, with capacities that range from 4 to 20 TB. The power supply for the NAS line is smaller than the Pro line, there is no display, and is limited to 25 users. The hard drive mechanism in the 4-bay are Seagate NAS HDD drives engineered to run 24×7, and according to Seagate, will run cooler than competing units. All the NAS units are compatible with the new S Drive software, which allows easy access to the units from other devices, no matter the location.
The NAS Pro line can serve up to 50 employees. The 4-bay I tested runs NAS Pro Seagate NAS OS 4 software, which began life as a LaCie product. Seagate has described the NAS Pro in this way: “Built with the latest Intel dual-core processor specifically for NAS, ample memory and dual Gigabit Ethernet connections, the NAS Pro 4-bay delivers the performance needed for data-intensive business tasks, such as photo and video editing, accessing large databases, or multiple simultaneous PC/Mac backups.”
I had some trouble wrapping my head around the various setup options, but luckily Seagate connected me with Jon Bauder, who is a knowledgeable (and patient) tech support engineer, and walked me through the various options. Anyone who has worked with share points or users will find the setup a breeze, with the main questions referring to more discrete features and strategy. For example, one feature I wanted to try was its Time Machine option. Because Time Machine will fill up any volume until it’s full, and I didn’t want the NAS filled up by my Time Machine, the solution was to create a new User, then create a Share, and then set a quota. In my case 1.25 TB was appropriate for a 750MB drive. Thus, there was no chance of Time Machine’s daily backups impacting the rest of the NAS’s capacity. By the time I configured the NAS, I had shares for Music, Photos, Data, and two Time Machine backups with quotas, a remote access share, with more to come. The Media Share function has DNLA, and I was easily able to access music using the Oppo-BDP-105 Universal Audiophile Blu-ray Player in Network Mode.
The GUI for NAS OS 4 is clean and uncluttered, with options for a multitude of settings and tweaking from the neophyte user to IT professionals. For creative content providers and users, the software is especially powerful. While software like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 can’t be used with network volumes as a primary source, it can be used to back up data. The most surprising feature was how easy it was to use Time Machine. Even though my Time Machine share didn’t mount on the desktop at first, the moment I launched Time Machine it located the drive and immediately started backing up; by morning it was complete and working on updates. In the middle of this process I updated to Yosemite, so needed to increase the quota to accommodate the new data. The first time I started up the units, they auto-configured the RAID in a few minutes, and the web interface alerted me that the Firmware needed updating, which took about ten minutes. After the system rebooted, I proceeded to configure. After working with the NAS and NAS Pro units we recommend the NAS Pro, not because we think most users will require the 50 user limit, but because we found the LCD display very helpful in setup, and in keeping an eye on the processor cycles, the horsepower made possible by the more powerful processor seemed less likely to slow down in use.
Part Two of this article will explore creating your own personal cloud backup using another NAS Pro. The oft-repeated advice is to use the cloud to provide an offsite backup solution. It’s a great solution for users with a small amount of data, say a few Gigabytes. But for the creative user with Terabytes of data, at the time of this writing the cost for only 1 TB of Amazon Cloud Drive is $500 for one year, whereas the cost for a 16TB Seagate NAS Pro is $1,199. So, you do the math. Both provide data this can be accessed from anywhere in the world, both offer Enterprise level drive storage, and both are as fast as your Ethernet connection. Of course, a enterprise level data center has far more redundancy then a small RAID, an idea we will explore in Part Two.
For users seeking an easy-to-use but extraordinarily powerful NAS solution, the Seagate NAS and Seagate NAS Pro both offer tremendous storage, power, and easy-to-configure software that will meet the needs of both consumers and professionals, all at an affordable price. The updated NAS OS 4 operating system is that rare combination of flexibility and depth, one can use it very simply, or take advantage of its depth to meet the needs of the IT professionals. For any user seeking a way to centralize their storage and data needs, eliminate the clutter and tangle of cables and interfaces, the Seagate NAS Pro comes highly recommended.
Harris Fogel, with additional research by Ken Kramar, posted 2/26/2015
For more information on the Seagate NAS Pro visit: www.seagate.com