Storage

Three NAS Devices For Efficient Small-Office Backup

Seagate BlackArmor 440

The problem with the finish on Seagate's BlackArmor 440 NAS unit isn't that everyone has already done piano-black to distraction. Instead, it's the plastic "cling-on" strips used to cover the surfaces during shipping so they don't pick up smudges and fingerprints. Peeling them off was a giant pain because they cling for dear life.

On the other hand, peeling plastic from the outside of the enclosure was probably the major hurdle I faced when setting this NAS up.

Hardware

The 440 seats four hard drives (there's also a 420 model that seats two drives). As delivered, they're pre-installed in their trays and nicely tucked inside the box.

You can load the BlackArmor to handle capacities of 4TB, 6TB and 8TB (using 1TB, 1.5TB and 2TB drives). My unit ($1,200 direct from Seagate, but you can find it for under $1,000 at some outlets) included a quartet of 1TB Barracuda 7200.11 SATA drives; that's a total of 2.62TB of storage when using it in a RAID 5 array. The drives can be hot-swapped; they're hidden behind a flip-open panel at the front for easy access.

With everything pre-installed, it's only a matter of yanking the unit out of its shipping box and setting it up on a table. It measures 6.3 x 8.1 x 10.6 inches and weighs 13.6 lbs. Just connect it to your network and to an AC outlet and you're practically done. Although the 440 has a power-on button, the unit I reviewed powered up the first time as soon as it was plugged in and started its initialization routine. All told, it took under three minutes for it to be ready.

One thing to note is that the unit sports two LAN connectors, suitably marked "1" and "2." You can use either to connect the 440 to your network but "LAN 2" can also be used to connect the NAS unit to another NAS unit for backup purposes . There are also four USB ports for external printers or hard drives.

Installation

I ran afoul of IE8's default Internet security settings when attempting to install the discovery tool used to set up the BlackArmor. The software, which uses your browser, stalled without completing the changes to the device's name, workgroup and password. With the help of Seagate's technical support, we determined that it was the security level (accessed through IE8's Tools menu) that was blocking the tool. Once I reduced the security level I had full access.

Seagate's setup software uses a category list with pull-down sub-categories. The complete setup could have taken five or six minutes had I not known what I was doing -- Seagate includes an electronic user guide to help out. As it was, I finished in about 3 minutes.

Performance

The BlackArmor 440 displayed a reasonable read time of 3 min, 42.6 sec., over 20 seconds faster than the Synology and about a minute slower than the Netgear. However, things are different when you look at write times -- at a whopping 8 min., 19.3 sec., the 440 is the slowest of the three NAS units. Second place, held by Synology, is more than 2.5 minutes faster while Netgear's took slightly less than half the time of the 440.

Best fit

From a price standpoint, the BlackArmor fits best in a home office or low-end small business environment where it's more important to have read access to data than quickly back it up; if you're backing up data off-hours, the slow write performance won't matter as much.

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