Iomega StorCenter Ix2-200 4TB
Iomega has proven that it's up to the task of competing in the home media server arms race, and now offers the StorCenter ix2-200 as a network-attached storage device for home or small businesses. Boasting a wealth of features and mirrored RAID 1 reliability, the StorCenter ix2-200 brings Iomega's signature usability to a high-end business environment.
The StorCenter ix2-200 is the higher-end, business-focused cousin of Iomega's Home Media Network Hard Drive ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ). It's easy to set up user accounts and maintain control over the content on the drive, ensuring only the people you want to view certain data will be able to view it. The StorCenter ix2-200 features two 3.5-inch 2TB drives and can be configured to a RAID 1 mirrored alignment or a streamlined 4TB RAID 0 setup. The unit also offers a one-touch copying button on the exterior of drive that will allow you to quickly backup any USB drive inserted into the front port. Small businesses may also enjoy the support for video surveillance cameras, Bluetooth dongle support, and iSCSI support.
While the StorCenter ix2-200 offers improved speeds and superior storage capacities compared to the Home Media Network Hard Drive Servers, the StorCenter ix2-200 still offers many of the same features that the Home Media Network Drive does. Though now offering two drives instead of one, the StorCenter ix2-200 can be used for Time Machine backups. The unit also offers an iTunes server, a UPnP AV/DLNA server, bit Torrent download support, print server, and remote access support-all features offered by the more consumer-centric Home Media Network Hard Drive.
But Iomega has made some major changes that leave the Home Media Network Hard Drive in the dust. Iomega's Web browser interface has been revamped for the StorCenter ix2-200 to reflect its more business-centric target audience. Each of the seven icons on the Home tab can be scrolled over to reveal more information about what they do. From this central hub you can access shared storage, backups, manage your torrents, add users, add shared storage, and view printers. The other tabs are also easy to understand and make navigation a breeze. Aside from the HP MediaSmart, it's probably the most navigable browser I've seen for a NAS device.
You can configure the disks through the settings tab, allowing you to see your data protection settings, configure disk write caching, check the internal fan and system temperature, and enable periodic data protection consistency checks. If a drive fails, you'll receive notification here and through e-mail (if you configure the optional setting). Unfortunately, the LED lights on the exterior of the drive do not indicate a hell of a lot, and though when a drive did fail a red exclamation point indicates the drive failure, it won't be an easy matter to switch them out. The two drives are not hot swappable and popping them out requires a screwdriver and some patience.
Switching RAID configurations isn't easy either. You'll be asked to delete all of your folders switching from mirrored to JBOD, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to delete the folders other than selecting each one individually for deletion.
Yet, despite the unfriendly disk formatting/switching processes, the StorCenter has a great set of features that can be easily taken advantage of. Put MP3s in your public folder and you'll see them as shared in your iTunes window. If you enable Time Machine backups, a folder is automatically created to view those as well. If you take advantage of the USB port in the front, you can see the contents of the USB drive in another folder and even watch as the drive copies. The media services offered by the drive include video surveillance, a media server, and a Picture Transfer feature that allows users to download photos from their camera to the unit and effortlessly share them over the network.
Macworld's buying advice
The StorCenter ix2-200 offers a middle-ground between the high-end features and cryptic usability of dedicated NAS devices like QNAP's TS-239 Pro Turbo NAS ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) or Synology's Disk Station DS409slim ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) and more streamlined user-friendly home media servers such as the HP's MediaSmart Server LX195 ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) and Iomega's Home Media Network Hard Drive. IT professionals and others with high-end feature needs will find the 4TB of storage space welcoming, but the lack of ease of formatting and replacing the drives is frustrating. If the StorCenter ix2-200 offered hot swappable bays, the market for it would be much larger. Still, if you're looking for your first NAS device with RAID's added data protection, the StorCenter ix2-200 should be at the top of your list. Iomega's continued effort to make even the highest-end features accessible to the average user always makes their drives worth a look.
[Chris Holt is a Macworld assistant editor.]