First Look: Iomega, Western Digital Network Drives

At a Glance
  • Iomega StorCenter Pro 150d 1TB

  • Western Digital My Book World Edition II 1TB

Just because two drives each have an ethernet connection doesn't mean they'll operate similarly. Take the example of Iomega's $800 StorCenter Pro 150d and Western Digital's $500 My Book World Edition. Both drives provide up to 1 terabyte (TB) of capacity, as well as a central, networked repository for your data; in design and bundled software, however, each unit has a very different hook. Overall I preferred the flexibility of the StorCenter's multiple-drive approach, but I found that the My Book's petite size and midrange abilities had merit, too.

The hefty StorCenter is built like a tank--and feels like one, too. It's a large, rectangular box with a ventilated, swing-out front door; additional ventilation is at the back, where a fan pushes heat out. The door flips open to reveal four hot-swappable drives. The 1TB unit I tested had 250GB Seagate drives mounted in an easy-to-remove, black sled. LED status lights, one green and four blue, sit at the front in a vertical row.

A nice touch: The door has a lock, useful for making sure none of the drives suddenly develops legs. Conveniently, the unit has a power button at the rear plus another on the front.

Getting the StorCenter up and running was a snap with the included installation disc. Once I told the installation utility to put on the customized Iomega Discovery Tool Pro utility software and EMC Retrospect Express 7.5 (with five client licenses), the latter an optional program, the utility proceeded to install both simultaneously, showing the progress of each app's installation as well as the state of the full installation. Nifty.

I then launched Discovery Tool Pro, and discovered that the software had autoconfigured the drive's server name, IP address, and MAC address. One button simplified mapping the drive to my network; another button launched my Web browser so I could manage the device's settings. The software gives you plenty of control in setting user passwords and access, creating shared folders, viewing disk status, changing RAID settings (buried under the format option), and more. RAID choices include RAID striping (0), mirroring (1), and parity (5). Set to RAID 5 (the default configuration), our test unit showed 686GB of its 1TB of storage available for use (the remainder goes to the redundancy that RAID 5 offers).

In addition to the included Retrospect software, the unit has a built-in utility for scheduling backups of the StorCenter, either full or differential; you can send this backup to a USB drive (the unit has four USB ports) or another network drive.

Inside the chassis, the StorCenter has a 400-MHz Freescale 8347 CPU, 128MB of RAM, and a built-in print server; in addition, an operating system is embedded on each drive. As with other NAS products, the drives are hot-swappable--but in this case, because of the embedded OS, you can't replace the four drives with any others you might happen to have. Instead, you must buy drives from Iomega (a replacement 250GB drive mounted on a drive bay sled costs $190).

At a Glance
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