Western Digital ShareSpace: Storage For Small Business

Among the best things about ShareSpace is its quick and easy setup. Initial configuration was a simple matter of browsing to the box by its default server name, user name and password. Stepping through a setup wizard to configure a dynamic/static IP address (the latter of which includes a rather unusual drop-down menu for the subnet mask) is simple. Once the IP address is configured, the browser is automatically redirected to that address for further administration.

When configured to RAID 0 (all drives spanned with no data protection), ShareSpace maxes out at 7.16 TB. If that doesn't sound like a lot of storage, perhaps it helps to think of it as 7,332 GB. The RAID 5 setting sets aside about one-quarter of the total storage space (in this case 2.6 TB) for data parity, leaving 5.4 TB for data storage. If any single drive fails, the others fill the gaps until the down drive is up again. Failure alerts can be sent to as many as five e-mail addresses and/or LAN-connected Windows computers with the Windows Messenger service running. Logging includes general system events and those for the CIFS and FTP file systems. Logs can display an unlimited number of entries; the default is 50.

ShareSpace includes the ability to back up the contents of a NAS directory to a USB stick -- or vice versa. This feature is useful for creating off-site backups similar to one the CRN Test Center praised recently on a Cisco Smart Storage system; a one-second button press moves the contents of a USB stick to a specified NAS directory, and a three-second press does the reverse. Either process can be disabled to prevent mistakes, but unlike the Cisco solution, there's no option to synchronize the two folders.

Administrative capabilities also include per-user storage limitations, check boxes for enabling services such as UPnP for Web and FTP, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP with port and anonymous logon control and NFS. There's also a basic mode that omits RAID, alerts, firmware updating, UPS and USB backup controls and other advanced configurations and settings. RAID options are limited to 0, 1 and 5. Admin software appeared and worked equally well on Chrome, Firefox and IE browsers.

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The sub-8-inch cube would tuck nicely into someone's desk (it's cool and quiet) or fit two across on the shelf of an equipment rack. The setup software (for Windows only) is superior, but it's a shame it's even necessary. It discovers the ShareSpace(s) on the attached network and browses shared folders, offering to automatically map drives (the user gets to select the drive letter) and create desktop server shortcuts. There's even a button to turn on and off an identifying LED on the unit (for deployments of more than one). The disc also contains a five-user license for Western Digital's Anywhere Backup for Mac OS X and Windows clients and its MioNet remote access utility.

We measured file transfer performance of ShareSpace by copying a file from a stand-alone Windows 7 laptop connected directly to the box via Gigabit Ethernet. A 1.25-GB file was drag-copied from the desktop to a mapped folder on the NAS, which took 2 minutes, 10 seconds. Reformatting the drives for RAID 0 took about 40 minutes. By striping data blocks across drives, this RAID level lacks the protective qualities of RAID 5 but offers better performance, but in this case not by much. The same file copied in the same way completed in 1 minute, 37 seconds, an improvement of only about 25 percent.

All in all, the CRN Test Center favored ShareSpace for its fast and easy setup, browser-based administration and relatively low list price of $1,199 for the 8-TB model. We recommend not only the ShareSpace device, but also its RAID 5 default setting, considering its meager performance gain with RAID 0. One interesting note: Despite running Linux itself, ShareSpace does not support Linux clients.