WD Introduces Thunderbolt-powered Dual Hard-drive

Western Digital (WD) has introduced an interesting new product – Thunderbolt connected & powered Dual hard-drive, My Passport Pro, to be used to store & transfer data to/from Mac systems (that have a Thunderbolt port, of course). This small, portable dual (external) hard-drive is probably targeted at professionals who require high read/write performance with their storage system while it still being small enough to be carried around easily.

The advertised (theoretical) connectivity speeds of 233 MB/s (2 TB model) and 230 MB/s (4 TB model) is higher than what FireWire or USB ports could offer. Thunderbird port is slightly more expensive (MSRP: 2TB – 299.99 USD; 4TB – 429.99 USD) than USB-based hard-drives. But, for people who need mobility along with performance and reliability, this drive might just be what they were looking for!

This external hard-drive is actually a combination of two drives (dual) that can be set at RAID 0 for maximum performance or RAID 1 for redundancy. Note: If you select RAID 1, one drive will be available for storage and the other drive will be configured to copy all the contents of the first drive. Effectively, your storage capacity will be halved, but you can sleep peacefully knowing that both the drives may not crash at the same time, and hence your data is always backed up within the system. Of course, once you connect it to your Mac system, Time Machine integration will ensure that your data is also backed up in the Mac.

I feel, creating redundancy within a hard-drive is a very good idea – data is generally stored for long periods of time in a hard-drive and hence drive-level redundancy will increase its reliability. The advantage with this drive is, if you plan to buy a third storage device (for creating a backup of the already backed up data), that may not be required any longer, as redundancy is built-in. 2TB/4TB of storage, that too on an external hard-drive, should be sufficient for most use cases.

Another good thing about this drive is – it does not require a separate power source. Like USB drives, this drive is powered through the Thunderbolt port, while connected to a computer/laptop. The Thunderbolt cable is included with the drive, of course.

Since this drive doesn’t have any other port other than the Thunderbolt port, and supports only the Mac OS, you will need to have a Mac-based Computer or Laptop to use it. WD could have extended its utility to support PCs and Linux computers as well, as Thundebolt is Intel’s technology that is OS independent. I guess we might get that in the future.

So, if you have a Mac (with a Thunderbolt port) and you are looking for an external hard-drive with built-in redundancy & portability, go for it!!

Further info/Manufacturer’s web-page: Western Digital My Passport Pro.

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Apple Airport Extreme Wi-Fi Base Station: Fastest AP, yet!

It’s a myth that Apple products are bought only for their premium branding, ease of use, and design. The Apple Airport Extreme Wi-Fi (802.11ac) base stations are not only beautiful, their performance is at par with the best in the market – yes, they’re that good! The only (small) issue maybe the slightly higher price – but people are (generally) ready to pay that premium for Apple products.

If you are looking for an Access Point to beautify your home connect all your (by now overflowing) Wi-Fi devices to the network/Internet, at the highest speeds possible (over the wireless medium), this wireless base station may just be what you need. Please note: Apple Airport Extreme doesn’t come with an inbuilt modem – you’ll have to buy that separately in order to connect the Internet WAN cable from the service provider (Chances are, you have that already).

Highlights of Apple Airport Extreme Base Station:

  • Simultaneous Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi base station (that is also compatible with the older 802.11 a/b/g/n standards) – Gigabit Wireless AC connectivity (up to 1.3 Gbps) is the fastest Wi-Fi connection available now! It’s three times faster than ‘N’ APs.
  • 6 Antennas located on the top and 80 MHz wide channels make sure that the range and speeds are just excellent. Beamforming enables wireless signals to traverse around obstructions and focuses more power towards your 802.11ac devices (if you have ‘ac’-enabled devices connecting to the Wi-Fi network).
  • H: 6.6 inches; B: 3.85 inches; Vertical design – better off standing on something, like a table.
  • Works with any Wi-Fi device – Computers, Phones, Tablets, etc. (Not just Apple manufactured ones).
  • 3 x Gigabit Wired Ports – To connect switches or wired-network (based) devices to the network. You can use these ports to connect gaming consoles/movie streaming devices (that require that extra speed/performance), directly over the built-in gigabit wired ports. Remember: Wired networks are always faster than wireless networks.
  • USB port: To connect an external hard-drive to the base station and share its contents directly with everyone (or) to share a USB-connected printer with everyone (Over the wireless network).
  • Theoretical maximum wireless users: 50. Practically, to achieve best speeds, you may not want to connect so many devices simultaneously. (Remember: Speed with which each device can connect to the Wi-Fi network decreases with increase in the number of devices connecting to the network).
  • Security: Password (WPA/WPA2); Mac Address Filtering.

Advantages of Apple Airport Extreme Base Station:

  1. Easy set-up. Just input a password and you are ready to connect!
  2. The Airport Extreme increases the speed of not only 802.11ac devices, but also of older 802.11n devices. This is because of the extra antennas and higher power rating.
  3. ‘Back to my Mac’ enables remote access to Mac computers from anywhere, over the Internet.
  4. You can set-up a guest network (a separate network with a separate password) that gives your guests access to the wireless network, but only to the Internet (external network). This prevents guests from accessing the files on your computers/hard-drives (internal network).
  5. The gigabit wireless network (for connected 802.11ac-enabled devices) will give speeds/performance that is almost equal to wired networks.
  6. Needless to say, Apple devices add to the decor and will give a premium look to your home.
  7. Approximate coverage: 3500 – 4500 sq. feet; 2 floors below + 2 floors above. (Please note: This is a rough figure, the actual coverage may vary according to the number of devices connected to the base station, number of obstructions the wireless signal has to pass through – like walls and glass panels in between, type of wireless adapters in devices, etc.).
  8. If the cable is unplugged or power is down, the device will auto reboot once things become normal – manual interference is not required. Useful, if you are going to place it in your parent’s place or if your children are going to use the network in your absence.
  9. Apple Airport Extreme will recognize and work together with Apple AirPort Express Base Station (which has a lower configuration, with only 802.11n connectivity). You can either set-up a new network or extend the existing network by using the bridge mode (with both of them on the same network).
  10. Mostly, you will not find any dropped signals, reboots or buffering issues that are common with cheaper access points.
  11. You can connect a USB hub to the USB port of the base station to connect more than one USB device – like an external hard-drive (&) USB-printer.
  12. If you want to limit the Internet/Network usage for kids, you can prevent access to certain (Apple) computers/devices, or you can allow them to access the network only during certain times of the day.

Limitations & Tips:

  1. Due to its design, you cannot mount the Apple Airport Extreme on the ceiling. But you can place it anywhere (like on the table or on a special wall-mounted stand made for it). Try to keep it vertical – as far as possible – because the antennas in this access point are optimized to give the best performance in that position.
  2. While you can get best speeds/gigabit wireless connectivity with 802.11ac enabled devices, very few devices in the market come with ‘AC’ Wi-Fi adapters. USB-based Wireless AC adapters are available (to upgrade existing laptops/computers to Wireless AC), but they cost additional money and occupy one USB port (on the computer). Most of the wireless devices you may buy in the near future should be 802.11ac compliant, anyway.
  3. Comes with USB 2.0 port, not the latest USB 3.0 port (which is faster).
  4. To install this device, you need the Airport Utility software (freeware) that is available on Mac Computers, iPad, iPhone or Windows systems. There is no Android app for setup/maintenance.
  5. You have to use the default IP address, you can’t change the IP address to suit your network settings (applicable more to small business).
  6. Doesn’t come with built-in modem (but chances are, you already have a modem provided by the ISP). Tip: If your modem supports the latest DOCSIS 3.0 standard, your Internet speed will increase.
  7. The guest network can only use the 2.4 Ghz channel (which is generally more crowded and prone to interference). Tip: For your main network, try to connect using the 5 Ghz band as much as possible for better performance (especially if the wireless adapter in the client/computer supports it).
  8. The advertised gigabit speeds are theoretical. Practically, you’ll get around 1/3rd of it (this is common for all Wi-Fi access points, not just this one). Also, the speed decreases with every additional device that connects to the wireless network, and increase in the distance between base station and client device.

Price (USD)/Buy From (US): Amazon product page for -

Alternative/Also consider:

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Your First Network Server + Storage Device: WD Sentinel DS5100/6100

Small businesses may want to minimize the number of devices in their organization, both in order to minimize costs, and to minimize management hassles. While organizations buy separate Servers/NAS devices for the purpose of having a network server/domain controller & storage device (respectively), it doesn’t always have to be that way.

Western Digital has recently launched two devices – WD Sentinel DS5100 & 6100, that are pre-populated with WD disks and Windows Server 2012 RD Essentials (Network OS). Combined with Intel Xeon processor and compact form-factor, this can very well be your first/single Network Server + Storage Device (two functionalities combined into one device), if you are an SMB company.

Consider the limitation of other NAS systems – they (generally) have proprietary Operating Systems, and you are limited to the applications developed for them. They are used more like a storage appliance, than a network server. But the WD Sentinel line of products come pre-installed with Microsoft Windows Server 2012 RD Essentials (Network OS) and automatic backup/restore software. Besides, there are many applications that are developed for the Windows Network OS ecosystem, that can be installed on this device.

The WD Sentinel devices support storage capacities of 4 TB to 16 TB (depending on the model) and support RAID/Storage Space for disk-level redundancy. They also have limited power-supply redundancy, come with Intel Xeon server processor and abundant (8/16 GB) RAM. The WD Sentinel devices support Active Directory (Domain Controller), remote access, VPN & iSCSI and many other network features that are useful for a small business.

The limitation when you decide to enter into the Windows eco-system is, full features are supported only for clients/computers that run Windows OS.  Fortunately, for this system, many features are supported for Mac OS X clients, as well. Unfortunately, Linux systems are supported only at the file-access/sharing level.

Of course, you’ll have to deal with those seemingly-unlimited Windows licenses and updates. But Windows eco-system is generally easier to work with, and anyone can easily set-up and maintain the same.

I feel that these WD Sentinel devices are a very good option, especially if you want to consolidate network features and storage features in a single device and your requirement is minimum (like 25 users/16 TB storage capacity). For larger (and expandable) environments, it maybe better to go with separate devices for each.

For further information about WD Sentinel DS5100/6100 devices, refer here

For features, specifications & technical details, refer to the manufacturer’s product pages: DS5100, DS6100.

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Wireless (Wi-Fi) Enabled SD Memory Card

What do you do when you want to transfer the photos in the SD Memory card of your camera, to say, an online destination like Facebook? You either remove the SD card, connect it to a computer, transfer its contents and then upload (or) you connect your camera via USB cable and transfer the SD card contents to the computer and then upload.

Right?

You are still in 2012!! :)

At least three companies (Eye-Fi, Toshiba, Transcend) have introduced SD Memory cards with built-in Wireless adapter that creates its own Wi-Fi network and connects to your computer, mobile or Tablet directly over the wireless medium!!

So, when you click a photo, you can see the preview almost immediately, not only on your tiny camera screen but also on a laptop/tablet, if you use these Wi-Fi SD Memory cards. Some of these cards support Internet (and) computer/mobile device to be connected over the WI-Fi, and hence you can directly upload pictures to your Facebook account/cloud storage provider from the camera! Wireless SD Memory Card manufacturers offer Mobile Apps for phones/tablets to connect and manage SD card operations.

If a 32 GB Class 10 SD card costs around $20 – $30 USD, the Wi-Fi SD Card costs around $65 to $100. That’s a huge price difference, isn’t it? When a Wi-Fi adapter is built into such a small device, obviously there will be a cost associated with it.

But is the cost difference between the two types of SD cards, justified?

That depends on your application. If you carry around a heavy laptop on a trip only to upload photos from your camera to facebook, you might as well want to use this Wireless SD card in your camera and use tablet/mobile devices and do the same thing, easier. If you are a professional photographer or a person who takes/uses photos frequently, you might find the app on mobile devices that gives an instant full preview on tablets/computers, instead of the small preview on the camera screen, very useful.

There are a few limitations to the Wi-Fi SD card, as well. The higher cost is one. Also, since the SD card draws power from the device it’s plugged in, there will be a higher strain on the battery – the camera *for example* will lose charge faster. However, there are enhancements built-into these SD cards that switch the Wi-Fi adapter on only when required and automatically switch it off, during other times.

Security may not be a big issue once you change the default password to something only you can remember. Since the wireless signals are encrypted, others will not be able to access your pictures. Some cameras may go to stand-by automatically, and that might affect the file-transfer (in progress). A simple fix is to increase the auto stand-by timing.

The concept of a Wi-Fi adapter built into a tiny SD card is surely fascinating to me. But buying it or not will depend on the application. Is that small increase in price going to save you a lot of strain/time? Then go for it!

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Netgear Unmanaged Plus/Prosafe Plus Switches: The NEXT Level!

Netgear Unmanaged Plus/Prosafe Plus Switches – Video Introduction: 

Netgear Unmanaged Plus/Prosafe Plus Network Switches come with the plug-and-play simplicity of unmanaged switches AND allow you to perform certain vital configurations found only in managed switches. If you have a small network today, but plan to grow it in the future, you could look at buying these switches. as they are well-suited for homes and small/medium businesses that want the performance offered by gigabit switches, but don’t want to invest in expensive fully managed switches.

It’s tempting to buy unmanaged switches because they are inexpensive, simple to set-up and don’t require any management/maintenance. But, as the network grows or as your applications start consuming more bandwidth, you may find some performance degradation even though unmanaged switches may offer gigabit connectivity. A network that is expected to cater to more than a few nodes and/or is expected to carry real-time traffic like voice/video, should allow isolation/segmentation of traffic in the future (VLAN) and apply some QoS (Quality of Service) policies for prioritizing real-time applications.

These features were hitherto available only in expensive managed switches. But now, they are available in Netgear Unmanaged Plus/Prosafe Plus Switches that are priced attractively.

Important Features & Benefits of Netgear Unmanaged/Prosafe Plus Switches:

  1. Gigabit enabled – supports the fastest 1000 Mbps LAN speeds, but also supports older 10/100 Mbps speeds.
  2. They come in a variety of port options, offer many features offered by manageable switches to manage and segment the network.
  3. Supports VLAN to segment network into many smaller network so that devices can be grouped according to their type or users (for example), to avoid network congestion.
  4. Supports QoS (Quality of Service): Real-time applications like voice and video are processed before normal applications and hence the user doesn’t experience delays due to latency.
  5. Cable diagnostic feature of the switch allows to predict the location of the attached cable at which there maybe a fault. This makes troubleshooting issues due to faulty cables, easier.
  6. Unused ports are automatically switched off and electricity consumption is reduced.
  7. Link Aggregation feature enables you to create a bigger connection (between a server and the switch (or) switch and another switch, for example) by combining two or more cables at both ends. This provides for higher bandwidth, between the two devices.
  8. Rate limiting ensures that one node/group doesn’t use too much bandwidth – this avoids network congestion due to high-bandwidth users.
  9. Traffic monitoring using port mirroring allows you to do a centralized monitoring of switches or record VOIP conversations (using appropriate applications).
  10. Loop prevention is useful in relatively larger networks where administrators may accidentally connect two switches using multiple cables, creating loops which can reduce network performance.
  11. Jumbo frame support enables large files to be transferred faster.
  12. Life-Time Warranty offers peace of mind. The prices at which these switches are offered, life-time warranty may not even be required.

Points to note:

  1. Many models are fanless and offer quiet operation, higher reliability. But some (PoE) models do have a fan – check before buying.
  2. Some models come with built-in power adapter and other models have a ‘brick’ type external power adapter. If you have a preference for either, look at the specifications for the switch before buying.
  3. All the switches can work without any configuration (plug-and-play), and hence you can use them like unmanaged switches (if you want).
  4. These switches can auto-detect devices/computers attached to it, connect at the best speeds supported by them, determine if connections are uplink/downlink, etc. all by themselves.
  5. These switches come with indicator lights to show which ports are in use and the speed of connection in each port (one glowing light on an individual switch port indicates 100 Mbps connection, while two lights indicate 1000 Mbps connection).
  6. You’ll lose one port to connect to an uplink switch or wireless router (Internet) and another port if you want to connect to a downlink switch also. Remember this when you select the number of ports (switch model). It’s prudent to always buy a switch model with more switch ports than what is currently required.
  7. All switches have a metal case enclosure, which makes them more durable.
  8. The switches offer excellent value for cost, because they support so many managed switch features and offers you a futureproof/expansion-proof network.
  9. The maximum distance between the computer/network-device and the switch port should not exceed 90 – 100 meters. Use Cat 6 cables and passive components to ensure the best performance (for gigabit network).
  10. Most switches are small, hence don’t occupy much space.
  11. A few models supply POE (Power Over Ethernet) over certain no. of ports to power POE-enabled devices like IP Phone, IP Camera, etc.
  12. None of these switches has fiber connectivity (for connecting with other switches located at distances over 100m). You can only connect to other switches using copper (Cat 5E/6) cables.

Further information: Manufacturer’s web-page.

Netgear Unmanaged Plus/Prosafe Plus Switch Models and Amazon US Product Page (Price/Buy From):

1. Netgear GS105E: 5 x 10/100/1000 Mbps ports; External power adapter;  64 VLANs (max); No Fan.

Amazon product page (link):
NETGEAR ProSafe 5-Port Gigabit Unmanaged Plus Switch GS105E.

2. Netgear GS108E: 8 x 10/100/1000 Mbps ports; External power adapter; 32 VLANs (max); 192 KB buffer size; No fan.

Amazon product page (link):
NETGEAR ProSAFE 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Unmanaged Plus Switch (GS108E).

3. Netgear GS108PE: 8 x 10/100/1000 Mbps ports; 4 POE ports (45W POE Budget); External power adapter; 32 VLANs (max); 192 KB buffer size; No Fan.

Amazon product page (link):
Netgear ProSafe Plus Switch, 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet with PoE (GS108PE).

5. Netgear GS116E: 16 x 10/100/1000 Mbps ports; External power adapter; 100 VLANs (max); 6 MB or 768 KB buffer size; No Fan.

Amazon product page (link):
Netgear ProSafe Plus Switch, 16-Port Gigabit Ethernet (GS116E).

6. Netgear JGS516PE: 16 x 10/100/1000 Mbps ports; Internal power adapter; Max. 8 POE Ports (85W POE budget); 100 VLANs (max); 6 MB or 768 KB buffer size; With fan.

Amazon product page (link):
Netgear ProSafe Plus 16 Port Gig PoE.

7. Netgear JGS524E: 24 x 10/100/1000 Mbps ports; Internal power adapter; 100 VLANs (max); 6 MB or 768 KB buffer size; No fan.

Amazon product page (link):
Prosafe Plus 24PORT Rack Mountable Gigabit Switch.

8. Netgear JGS524PE: 24 x 10/100/1000 Mbps ports; Internal power adapter; Max. 12 POE Ports (100W POE budget); 100 VLANx (max); 6 MB or 768 KB buffer size; With fan.

Amazon product page (link):
Netgear ProSafe Plus 24 Port Gig PoE.

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Wireless Router for Travelers with Interchangeable Power-plugs

TRENDnet N150 Wireless Router for Travelers:

The TRENDnet N150 wireless travel router is a very useful device for frequent travelers. There maybe many mini-routers, but a traveler needs more than just a wireless connection. That’s why the TRENDnet N150 maybe inevitable. Let’s look at this router, a bit in-depth.

Main Features:

  1. Travel router – Wireless N 150 Mbps, Single radio, 2 dBi internal antenna.
  2. Built-in interchangeable 3 x electric plugs (North America, Europe, Asia).
  3. Wired port (10/100 Mbps) to convert wired Internet at hotels to Wi-Fi Internet for mobile/tablets or laptop.
  4. USB Share port to connect USB storage device and share its contents across the Wi-Fi network.
  5. USB charge port to charge Mobile/Tablet or other USB-powered devices.
  6. On/Off Switch, Network mode switch, Reset button.
  7. One-touch secure encrypted Wi-Fi connection with password protection.
  8. Repeater & WISP mode to amplify the signals of the existing wireless network.
  9.  3-year limited warranty.
  10. MSRP: $59.99 USD.

The three differentiating features (IMO) of this little travel router are – interchangeable plug points – you don’t need to worry which continent you are traveling to, as all the plugs are included; USB charging/data sharing ports; Wired network port to convert wired Internet at hotels/guest houses into Wi-Fi network for connecting mobile devices.

The limitations include N150 Mbps speed (quite less by today’s standard) and 10/100 Mbps wired port (could have been a Gigabit port). But for the traveler application this is designed for, I think these limitations may not be a big hindrance  even if you are going to share the Wi-Fi network with a couple of people. You can’t expect to play large multi-player games and stream HD movies simultaneously, but for most normal applications, this router should be fine. Given the size and thoughtful plug placement, this device is definitely a boon for frequent travelers. If you don’t want high speeds, go for it.

Further Information/Manufacturer’s website: TRENDnet N150 Travel Wireless Router.

LenovoEMC introduces px4-400d 4-Bay NAS for SMB

LenovoEMC has released a new 4-bay Network storage device (NAS) for Small/Medium Business (SMB). It’s a good choice for small businesses that want enterprise quality and reliability, in a limited budget.

Highlights of LenovoEMC px4-400d NAS:

  1. 5 Models: Diskless; 4 x 1 TB; 4 x 2 TB; 4 x 3 TB; 4 x 4 TB, ranging from $729 to $2699 (MSRP).
  2. 4-Bay Network Attached Storage unit (NAS) – Supports up to 4 x 3.5″ HDDs, Desktop form-factor.
  3. 2 x 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet; 5 x USB (4 USB 3.0); 1 x eSata; 1 x HDMI ports.
  4. Supports Windows, Mac & Linux systems.
  5. Runs LenovoEMC Lifeline Operating System.
  6. RAID 0,1,10,5 support for disk redundancy or JBOD for aggregation.
  7. Supports up to 75 users, 16 IP cameras (video management software).
  8. Intel Atom D2701 (2.13 Ghz) dual-core processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM.
  9. Backup through Acronis Lite (3 licenses included).
  10. Supports active snapshots, point-in-time backup.
  11. Windows Active Directory for AAA.
  12. Supports dedicated SSDs for caching.
  13. Many built-in applications and options to expand.
  14. Personal cloud option.
  15. iSCSI support.
  16. Local & remote sharing support.
  17. Supports hot-swap, 7200 RPM, SATA III hard-drives.
  18. Supports Virtualization, Data Replication, Device to device copy jobs.
  19. User interface is available in 18 languages.
  20. Out-of-the-box certifications include Windows® Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2, VMware vSphere ESX 5.5 iSCSI and NAS, XenServer™ 6.1, 6.2 (w/ MPIO), iSCSI & NFS.

Further info: LenovoEMC px4-400d 4-bay NAS product page.

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DAS vs. NAS: Drobo 5D vs. Drobo 5N

Drobo Storage Intro:

A DAS (Direct Attached Storage) is different from a NAS (Network Attached Storage). In this article, let us look deeper into two popular storage products from Drobo – Drobo 5D (DAS) & Drobo 5N (NAS).

How is a DAS different from a NAS?

A Direct Attached Storage (DAS), as the name implies, is attached directly to one device and is expected to work only with it. In this case, a DAS is attached to one computer (at a time) and can be used to store/backup data from it. Or it can be used by the computer to extend its storage capacity, externally.

A Network Attached Storage (NAS), on the other hand, is connected not to any one system (although that can be done), but is connected to the common network – think Network Switch or Wired ports of a Wireless Router. The NAS unit stores data – generally from more than one computer – and enables multiple computers connected to the network, to access it.

Drobo 5D (DAS):

  1. Direct Attached Storage (DAS).
  2. 5 bays: Can hold 5 x SATA I/II/III Hard-drives or SSDs.
  3. Additional Accelerator bay: 1 x mSATA SSD.
  4. Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 Interface for connecting to the computer.

Drobo 5N (NAS):

  1. Network Attached Storage (NAS).
  2. 5 bays: Can hold 5 x SATA I/II/III Hard-drives or SSDs.
  3. Additional Accelerator bay: 1 x mSATA SSD.
  4. 1 x 10/100/1000 Mbps (1 Gbps) Port for connecting to the network.

Important (Common) Features for both models:

Beyond RAID:

RAID is a technology used by storage devices to ensure disk-level redundancy. There are many types of RAIDs and in certain situations it maybe difficult to set-up and maintain RAIDs. See the above embedded video for more details on BeyondRAID.

The BeyondRAID from Drobo – although proprietary – simplifies the RAID process by allowing customers to create RAID automatically, irrespective of the size and the manufacturer of the disk-drives inserted into the Drobo units. So, you can remove any drive, put another one in (preferably larger, to increase capacity) and still expect all your data to be intact!

Built-in Battery:

This is an excellent feature offered by Drobo. Power-cuts might result in data loss, sometimes. Even though it is recommended to connect storage units behind UPS, many users don’t do it. Drobo has solved that problem by placing a battery (enough not to result in data loss during power-cuts) that recharges itself, whenever needed.

Simple installation & Maintenance:

Drobo offers one of the simplest and easy-to-use GUI (Graphical User Interface) that enables users to install and get the units up & running, quickly. It’s almost plug and play and the user dashboard offers simple monitoring options. The LED lights outside the units also help in identifying the health of the device/drives and the capacity. These LEDs can be dimmed – useful for dark rooms. These units are meant to be used 24×7 ~ So, you can keep them ON. Tool-free installation of drives/SSDs makes installation, a breeze.

Important features specific to Drobo 5D:

  1. Thunderbolt port & USB 3.0 port for connecting to a Computer/Laptop. No network (RJ-45) port.
  2. Thunderbolt port offers higher read/write speeds in excess of 200 Mbps (practically) while USB 3.0 offers a read/write speeds in excess of 80 Mbps (practically).
  3. In addition to the 5 storage bays, there is an accelerator bay that can hold one mSATA SSD to improve the performance (128 GB SSD maybe optimum).
  4. SATA I, II, III interfaces supported, SAS interface not supported.
  5. The Drobo 5D supports/integrates with Apple TimeMachine natively. Supports both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connectivity with Mac systems. Excellent option to use with Mac systems, some restrictions apply for usage with Windows systems (support for high-speed Thunderbolt port not available – currently).
  6. Two Thunderbolt ports enables users to daisy chain multiple Drobo 5D units to create much more storage space (up to 96 TB), if required.
  7. RAID is proprietary, hence if the system fails (instead of hard-drives), data cannot be recovered unless you buy another Drobo system that can recognize the RAID format. So, it’s better to have another copy of critical data on user’s computers or in the cloud. Also, Firewire port is not supported.

Important features specific to Drobo 5N:

  1. Single Gigabit Ethernet port (10/100/1000 Mbps, RJ-45 interface, Cat 6) for connecting to Network Switch or Wired ports of a Wireless Router.
  2. User can also connect it directly to the network port of a Computer/Laptop, if they want.
  3. Remote access of files (in addition to access over LAN) is possible with a few tweaks.
  4. Compatible with Apple, Windows and Linux systems (supports their respective file-formats).
  5. It is possible to restrict access to folders, based on user.
  6. It is the next version of the hugely popular Drobo FileServer 5-bay system.
  7. Competitively priced, when compared to other 5-bay NAS systems in the market.
  8. User can store/access files and stream media (music, movies) from the Drobo 5N.
  9. Practical speeds of 80 Mbps+ realizable.
  10. Try to use it with Gigabit switch or Gigabit ports of Wi-Fi router, for maximum speeds.
  11. User may have to use the backup utility provided in Windows 7/8 systems or purchase a backup software, if they want automatic/incremental backup.

Please note:

  1. Standard 2-year Warranty for product and Tech support for first couple of months included. DroboCare @ Additional cost needs to be purchased to get 3-Year Warranty with Tech support.
  2. Have a look at the Drobo capacity calculator to determine the total storage capacity & usable storage capacity (after RAID space is deducted). User can also opt for dual-disk redundancy, but usable storage space will be reduced further.

Further Technical Details: Drobo 5D, Drobo 5N (Manufacturer’s web-page).

Buy from (Amazon product page):

Accessories:

 

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WD RED 2.5″ Hard-drives for NAS

While 3.5″ Hard-drives dominate the NAS storage market today, will the 2.5″ Form Factor for NAS systems, catch up soon? Western Digital thinks so and has introduced two new hard-drives – 750 GB & 1TB models – with the 2.5″ Small Form Factor (SFF) design. Should you buy it yet?

Certain compact NAS systems (Like Drobo Mini, for example) can take 2.5″ SFF HDDs. Many NAS systems/Servers take both 2.5″ or 3.5″ SFF HDDs. Servers, gaming systems, media players, etc. also support these smaller hard-drives. While a considerable no. of systems support these Small Form Factor HDDs, is reduced size, their only advantage?

Frankly – at least at this point of time – 2.5″ drives do not seem to have any other advantage over 3.5″ drives. Even though speed/performance is comparable for both of them, 3.5″ hard-drives are established, cost competitive, compatible with most devices out there and offers higher storage capacity (3.5″ disks offer 4 TB per disk, versus 1 TB for 2.5″ disks – max capacity). If reliability is your concern, probably SSDs (Solid State Drives) might be a better option. But they come in lower capacities and cost more.

So, where do 2.5″ hard-drives fit in the matrix for NAS drives? Nowhere! At least not until new NAS systems that can take advantage of the small form factor are brought in by manufacturers. Will they do it? Of course. Smaller anything is always exciting in the world of technology and with the increasing real estate costs, saving space will always be a priority for administrators. But, that may not be at the cost of sacrificing capacity or paying more.

Look at it this way – if your NAS set-up demands a 2.5″ hard-drive, you now have an option to buy a hard-drive optimized for NAS (that’s what the WD RED series drives are). In future, when smaller NAS systems appear and you want it so much, you can buy them and use these hard-drives with them, too. But would you want to do that or buy higher capacity 2.5″ SFF drives that maybe available then?

If 1 TB sounds a lot of data for you, 2.5″ HDDs may offer excellent value, even today.

The same NAS-specific features of WD Red drives like NASware 2.0, TLER, Dynamic spindle balancing and others to increase the reliability are available across the WD RED series drives, including this one. Even the 3-year warranty and 24×7 phone support is included.

Have a look at the technical specification sheet for more information on Western Digital RED 2.5″ Hard-drives. It’s available to buy now at major retail outlets.

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Servers for Small/Medium Businesses – Hp ProLiant Gen8 Servers

Hp ProLiant Architecture & Design (Introduction video): 

Yes, the Hp guys are talking too good about their own product in the above video. But whatever they say and show while they are not doing that, is valuable! :)

Servers are different from computers & workstations. If you are going to use your system for hosting/sharing critical applications, you should be looking to buy servers – not computers. Servers are powerful, can handle multiple users, are expandable, come with multiple network/storage options, enhance performance and reliability, are built for 24×7 applications, and much more. 

Hp is a popular server manufacturer and they are popular in the enterprise segment. Hp also offers many servers for the SOHO/SMB (Small/Medium Business) segment. Let us look at the types of servers, some defining features of Hp servers & popular server models from Hp for SMBs/SOHO/Branches, in this article.

Types of Servers:

There are basically 3-4 types of servers: Tower Servers, Rack Servers, Blade Servers & Servers built for scalable environments. The first two types of servers are applicable for the SMB segment.

Tower Servers:

  1. Mostly stand upright, like a computer CPU, but are larger/heavier than them.
  2. Kept on floors/tables and occupy the largest amount of space among the different types of servers.
  3. Some high-end tower servers are convertible – they can be fixed into a rack if required.
  4. They have maximum in-chassis flexibility and more empty/cooling space.
  5. Independent unit ~ Server (processing) & Storage units are included in the same unit.
  6. Offers good value for money, but configuration is limited and so is expandability. Mostly entry-level servers come with the Tower form-factor.
  7. Optimum for small businesses, branch offices & remote locations.

Rack Servers:

  1. Can be placed inside standard 19″ racks (one over another, along with network switches, etc.) – space utilization is better than tower servers.
  2. Offers decent compute power (multiple options) in a space-saving design (not as much as blade servers, though).
  3. Expansion slots to add NICs, HBAs and other interconnecting components & options.
  4. May come with built-in storage capacity, can also connect to high-speed external storage (NAS/SAN).
  5. Each server is an independent and (mostly) a complete unit.
  6. Can coexist with servers made by other manufacturers, in the same rack.
  7. Optimum for usage in server rooms, small data centers and head offices.

Blade Servers are small form-factor servers that are housed in a purpose-built chassis that share power, cooling, networking and interconnect resources. A blade-chassis has integrated management interface and is designed for modularity, high-density server installations like large server farms/data servers. Blade servers are not applicable to small/medium businesses, in most cases.

Some Differentiating Features of Hp Proliant Gen8 Servers:

  1. Near-continuous health monitoring of all vital system parameters.
  2. Firmware, drivers & tools required for server setup are built-in & system maintenance tool automates updates.
  3. Optimized for SSD Drives, in addition to disk-based hard drives.
  4. Tool to locate and track servers, easing asset tracking.
  5. It is possible to customize the management platform and integrate it with other tools.
  6. All configuration changes are logged, to make problem resolution easier.
  7. Remote support & Cloud-based IT management /support portal.
  8. Supports the latest DDR3-1866 & LRDIMM memory.
  9. Hard-drive status indicator, Activity indicator, Do not remove indicator.
  10. Energy Efficient Ethernet adapters reduce power during periods of low data activity & array of embedded temperature sensors optimize cooling/power resources.
  11. Various components are tested for interoperability and performance.
  12. It is possible to disassemble/assemble most server components, without a tool.

Some Popular Hp Proliant Gen8 Servers available in Amazon (US): 

Entry-Level (SOHO/Home Servers):

#1. HP ProLiant 712318-001 Ultra Micro Tower Server – 1 x Intel Pentium G2020T 2.50 GHz - 2.5 Ghz Intel Pentium II Processor; 2 GB DDR3 SDRAM; Hard-drive Not Installed (SATA interface); Model no: 712318-001.

#2. HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 Ultra Micro Tower Server System Intel Celeron G1610T 2.3GHz 2C/2T 2GB No Hard Drive Operating System None 712317-001 - Intel Celeron G1610T 2.3GHz 2C/2T Processor; Intel C204 Chipset; 2 GB DDR3 RAM (2 x DIMM slots); Hard drive Not Installed – 4 x LFF hard-drive Case; HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i Storage Controller.

Tower Servers:

#1. HP ProLiant ML310e G8 686232-S01 4U Micro Tower Server – 1 x Intel Xeon E3-1220V2 3.1GHz. SMART BUY PROLIANT ML310E GEN8 E3-1220V2 3.1G 4GB 1P US SVR. 1 Processor Support – 4 GB Standard/32 GB Maximum RAM – DVD-Writer – Serial ATA/300 RAID Supported Controller – Gigabit Ethernet - Hp ML310e Gen8 Server; Intel Xeon E3; 4 GB RAM (Max: 32 GB); No Hard-drives included; RAID Controller; Gigabit Ethernet.

#2. HP ProLiant ML310e G8 686234-S01 4U Micro Tower Server – 1 x Intel Xeon E3-1230V2 3.3GHz - Hp ML310e Gen8 Server; 4-Core Intel Xeon Processor E3-1230v2; HP 8GB (2x4GB) Dual Rank x8 PC3-12800E Memory (RAM) {32 GB RAM Maximum}; HP Embedded B120i SATA Controller; HP 4-Bay Large Form Factor Drive Cage; Hard-drives not included.

#3. HP ProLiant ML350e G8 686770-S01 5U Tower Server – 1 x Intel Xeon E5-2403 1.8GHz - Hp ML350e Gen8 Server; Intel Xeon E5-2403 Processor; 8GB (2x4GB) UDIMM RAM (12 DIMM slots); 1Gb 361i Ethernet Adapter 2 Ports per controller.

Rack Servers:

#1. HP ProLiant DL320e G8 687519-S01 1U Rack Server – 1 x Intel Xeon E3-1240V2 3.4GHz - Hp DL320e Gen8 Server; 3.40 GHz Intel Xeon Processor; 8 GB DDR3 SDRAM (RAM), 32 GB Max; Hard-drive: SATA Interface, Not Included; Serial ATA/300 RAID Supported Controller.

#2. HP ProLiant DL380e Gen8 Entry – Server – rack-mountable – 2U – 2-way – 1 x Xeon E5-2403 / 1.8 GHz – RAM 4 GB – SAS – hot-swap 2.5″ – no HDD – Matrox G200 – Gigabit LAN – Monitor : none - Hp DL380e Gen8 Server; 1 x Xeon E5-2403 / 1.8 GHz Processor; 4 GB RAM; SAS – hot-swap 2.5″, hard-drive not included.

#3. HP ProLiant DL380p G8 670857-S01 2U Rack Server – 1 x Xeon E5-2609 2.4GHz (670857-S01)  - Hp DL380p Gen8 Server; 1 x Intel Xeon E5-2609 2.4GHz Processor; 8GB Standard RAM; G200 SAS hard-drive Interface, hard-drive not included.

Further details: Manufacturer’s web-page.

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