D-Link DNS-320 ShareCenter 2-Bay Network Storage

Network Attached Storage is a powerful way to store and share information among multiple devices over a network. While USB storage systems typically connect to a PC, the D-Link ShareCenter 2-Bay Network Storage solution, or DNS-320, connects to your home network to share files with not only all the computers on your network but also home theater systems, iPads, iPods, game consoles, and more. The DNS-320 is a compact box that lets you install up to two hard drives and share files over a wireless or wired gigabit network.

A variety of features make the DNS-320 more than just a way to share files. It can back up files from all of the PCs on your home network without the need to plug in a USB drive to each computer. And for added protection, it can back itself up to a second NAS device, or to an FTP, HTTP, or file server. The DNS-320 also works as a DLNA server for serving music and video, or as an iTunes server. This means that music or videos stored on the device can be accessed from any device that supports the DLNA standard, including portable players, PCs, home stereos, Blu-ray drives, Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and the Boxee Box by D-Link. The DNS-320 supports multiple streams, so you can have different music playing in different rooms.

If you’re not a Windows user, don’t worry. The DNS-320 also supports the Apple File Protocol for Macs, and it works with Mac OS X Time Machine. For Linux users, it supports NFS. It also supports FTP to allow sending files that are too big to email.

The DNS-320 ShareCenter device also lets you get to the files you need wherever you are. Files can be easily accessed over the Internet via a web browser, and the system supports configuring multiple users with different levels of access to the system and to specific folders so only those users that ought to have access to specific files can get to them. This allows you to have files that are private for the adults, and different ones for the kids. The unit supports peer-to-peer file sharing so you can set automatic downloads from the Internet. Another handy feature is the USB port, which allows you to insert a USB drive into the device and automatically copy its contents to the DNS-320 with the press of a button. The USB port also lets the device function as a print server so you can share USB printers with all of the computers on your network

Installation is very straightforward. No tools are required, just one or two off-the-shelf 3.5” SATA hard disks. The system supports 3Gbit SATA and drive sizes up to 2TB, which can yield either a 2TB capacity with redundant drives or 4TB if you don’t need the extra protection.

After inserting the included CD in your computer’s disc player, click install and agree to the license agreement. The software then walks you through inserting drives into the enclosure, attaching the power supply and network cable, and switching the device on. Next, the software discovers the DNS-320 on the network. With more than one ShareCenter connected, you can choose which to configure, set up networking (if your network uses a DHCP server this step isn’t necessary), and choose a password. Then you can join a Windows Workgroup, for small networks that go beyond simple peer-to-peer file sharing, letting the system be used in a small business environment as well as at home. The default settings will work for most small networks.

The system lets you connect to a Dynamic DNS, or DDNS service, so the DNS-320 can be accessed from the Internet. If you don’t have a DDNS account, D-Link provides one free. Then you set the time and configure an email address where the device can send alerts if necessary. The installer also allows you to test the email configuration before proceeding.

Next, you set up the disks. The DNS-320 lets you use the disks either independently in Standard Mode or together in JBOD Mode. You can also use a RAID 0 or RAID 1 configuration. RAID 0 gives you more storage capacity than RAID1 and more speed than standard or JBOD mode. RAID 1 mirrors the drives, which halves the capacity, but if either disk fails, your data is still protected and accessible. The system automatically assigns a drive letter to ID the DNS-320, then formats the drives. Once this is all done, the unit is ready to use. A web interface can be used for further configuration tasks.

To save power, you can set the unit to hibernate and spin down the disks after a pre-set interval of inactivity. It will come out of hibernation automatically when anyone accesses it. You can also power off at set times, but there is no provision to power back on automatically. The fan is very quiet and automatically changes speeds with the drive temperatures.

The package includes an excellent backup program, FarStone Total Recover Pro 7, licensed for one system. This software backs up a Windows system and allows both full and incremental backups of files or complete disks, and it can recover all data to a new disk if the one in the PC fails. It can even convert a backup into a virtual disk so the same PC operating system and applications can be run from VMWare’s virtual environment, which allows you to access files and applications even if the PC hardware fails.

With a street price around $110, the DNS-320 ShareCenter offers all the features a home network or small business might want, all in an easy-to-use package.

Subscribe to the Business Brief Newsletter