The Iomega StorCenter Wireless NAS drive is a 1-terabyte network-attached storage drive that you can set up via Gigabit Ethernet or wirelessly. We don't think you'll find a need to connect it wirelessly, especially given the performance we saw from it while running over an Ethernet connection. The £600 drive will have you sharing anything from printers to high-definition video, and it can also serve as a backup for all the PCs on your network.
Its various RAID-array options, backup software, printer and media servers, and speedy performance make the StorCenter Wireless NAS a great choice for home storage and backup. You are limited, however, to 1TB of disk space. If you need a bigger drive with many of the same features, though not the wireless capability, check out the Buffalo TeraStation.
The Iomega StorCenter Wireless NAS drive is a solid piece of hardware. With its blocky shape and silver-and-black enclosure, it screams 'computer equipment that sits in the corner'. The drive is heavy, and the whole unit feels well constructed. The front of the drive houses only three LEDs and a black plastic grid, through which you can see the drives inside. Unlike the Buffalo TeraStation, you can't open the enclosure to take drives out and swap them for new ones, a feature that would come in handy should one of the four drives fail. The team at Iomega felt there was too much risk of user error when trying to swap hard drives, especially among the inexperienced. (Should one of the drives fail, you can send the unit back to Iomega for repair.)
The back of the drive sports a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports for connecting additional hard drives or printers, a small power button and two screw-on antennas. The back is also where the noisy fan lives. The supplied ports and connections are sufficient, though the Buffalo TeraStation provides two additional USB ports on the front of the drive for maximum flexibility and expandability.
Setting up the Iomega StorCenter Wireless NAS drive is fairly straightforward. You have three options for connecting the drive: to your network via Ethernet cable, to your network wirelessly, or directly to a PC via Ethernet cable. If you want to connect it wirelessly, you'll still need to install the drive and configure it over a hardwired connection first. Simply connect the drive to your router with an Ethernet cable, plug the drive in, and power up. Once the blue LED on the front remains steadily lit, you can install the Iomega Discovery Tool and the Iomega Backup Pro software onto your PC from the included CD.
The Discovery Tool is supposed to scan your network and identify the StorCenter drives on your network, as well as assign a drive letter. It also lets you configure the RAID settings for your drive. With our test unit, we were unable to use the Discovery Tool successfully, even with the help of an Iomega support technician. The drive did show up in Windows' Network Places directory, however, so we were able to ping the drive to get its IP address, access the Iomega drive configuration utility directly via a Web browser, and map the network drive using Windows XP.
If the tool works for you, you should be able to take the CD to each PC on your network and install the Discovery Tool in order to map the drive on that computer. The Discovery Tool also lets you set up a RAID array on the drive (the default setting is RAID 0). The helpful support technician couldn't figure out the problem, and Iomega's representative told us he hadn't heard reports of problems with the Discovery Tool.
Once we were in the drive-configuration tool, there were a number of settings we could change. You can arrange the four drives into a number of RAID arrays, which can help increase write speeds or provide safeguards for your data: RAID 0 (striping), RAID 5 (striping with parity; this reduces the drive's capacity by 25 per cent) and RAID 0+1 (mirroring striped disks; this will reduce capacity by half). For comparison, the Buffalo TeraStation doesn't offer RAID 0 or RAID 0+1 modes. You can also manage user permissions, shared folder settings and disk management.
If you like, you can configure the drive to operate wirelessly as a client or an access point. The configuration utility walks you through all the necessary steps, including identifying a network (or naming one, if using the Iomega drive as an 802.11g access point), choosing a static or dynamic network mode, and entering a security key (the drive supports WEP and WPA-PSK wireless security). Most people won't find the wireless capability necessary -- you can simply hardwire the NAS to your router for access over the network, but the wireless capability doesn't add much to the final cost of the drive, so no harm there.
The drive has other features as well, including backup via Iomega's proprietary Iomega Automatic Backup Pro (IAB Pro) software, a built-in print server, and a media server that will work with a UPnP media adaptor. With IAB Pro, you can set up scheduled backups of the PCs on your network, ranging from incremental backups of selected folders and files to full system backups, which you can use to restore a PC in case of data disaster. (Incidentally, through the configuration utility, you can also set backups for the StorCenter NAS drive itself, either to USB-attached hard drives or to another NAS drive on your network.) Unfortunately, the IAB Pro software works with Windows 2000 and XP machines only.
The media server capability lets you use the StorCenter Wireless as a central repository for your high-definition video, music and photos. You'll need a third-party UPnP media adaptor, such as the D-Link MediaLounge, for your TV to interpret the signal.
Performance-wise, the Iomega StorCenter Wireless NAS is the fastest such drive we've tested, though we have to qualify that finding. Over an Ethernet connection, the Iomega wrote our 5GB test folder of mixed file types in a hair over 19 minutes. It read back the same folder in 17 minutes, 32 seconds.
While the Iomega's write performance was faster than that of the Buffalo TeraStation, it's worth noting that we tested both drives at their default setting, which for the Buffalo drive was RAID 5 and for the Iomega drive was RAID 0. The RAID 5 setting normally slows down write speeds slightly, so if you configure the Iomega drive in a RAID 5 array, expect to see slower performance.
Edited by Matthew Elliott
Additional editing by Nick Hide