Thanks to the abundance of consumer electronics, NAS has become widespread beasts. Most of are Linux-ARM units and it’s not difficult to understand why: Linux is open source and can be freely customized, there is a lot of server-specific software and can run on cheap ARM CPUs.
But for business usage those customized and limited OSes may be too weak. So I was really glad to try a different kind of NAS: the WD Sentinel DX4000 with Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials.
A Windows-based NAS is a different kind of product: it can store files and folders but it would be a waste. The real power here is the possibility to install Windows software and get updated by Microsoft. Of course it needs a x86 CPU and the Sentinel has one: an Atom dual-core D525 1,80 GHz.
- Intel AtomTM D525 1.8 GHz Dual Core
- 2 GB RAM
- 4 3,5″ bays (2x2TB equipped)
- 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports
- 2 USB 3.0 ports
- Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials
- RAID 1 (2 drives only) and RAID 5 (3-4 drives)
- Automatic migration and capacity expansion
- Active Directory
- CIFS/SMB, NFS, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, WebDAV
So you have two ports to connect whatever USB peripherals you want and two Gigabit Ethernet NICs. With 4 bays it’s possible to configure RAID 1 or RAID 5 arrays: I don’t like RAID 10 but it would be a nice to see it between supported RAID modes.
Here are some pictures of the product.
The DX4000 is an aesthetically pleasant solution. Build quality is excellent: never tested a NAS as good as this Sentinel. A display shows basic information like the status and the network address (IP).
There are four vertical bays (3.5″). Mechanic locks are quite good and removing a drive is easy and safe. Our model has only two 2TB Western Digital RE4 – GPs. Those are 5400 rpm enterprise class disks with 64MB of cache.
Here is a shot of the hard drive:
The back side is really interesting. It’s possible to connect two power adapters to be sure the NAS will never go offline.
Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials
Windows Storage Server is, ehm, Windows. Microsoft puts some limitation and you can’t setup an Active Directory like a “complete” Windows Server.
The WD Sentinel DX4000 has no video output so it’s not possible to connect it to a display. To manage it you have to use the Windows Remote Desktop application. But at the first boot you have to access the unit through the browser (simply specifing the IP). You will find a quick wizard:
After a few steps you will be able to login to the NAS via Remote Desktop. There’s nothing spectacular in the GUI, is a classic Windows Server environment with the blue background. There is even the Server Manager that allows you to install new roles.
The storage is divided into two partitions: one dedicated to the system while the other contains the shared data.
If you are an advanced user maybe you will use the powershell to customize the unit.
Of course the system will be updated through Windows Update.
The dashboard is a panel that allows you to quickly configure basic tasks and monitor your NAS.
Windows Storage Server is a big selling point here: you have an almost unlimited stream of server-side software to install into your NAS. You won’t depend from developer communities and tech-enthusiasts. A different kind of beasts compared even to pro-sumer competitors.