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Seagate BlackArmor NAS 440 NAS Device
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Date: Aug 19, 2009
Section:IT/Datacenter
Author: Daniel A. Begun
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Introduction & Specifications


With the growing popularity of cloud-based storage solutions, such as the Amazon S3 and Nirvanix services, many businesses--both large and small--are eschewing traditional onsite file servers, and instead opting for offsite, third-party storage solutions. But the ongoing cost of maintaining cloud-based storage as well as the often unproven reliability of it makes it a less than ideal solution for some businesses; and this leaves those businesses with the conundrum of how to store and serve files, provide safe backups, and enable remote access, without breaking the bank.

For such businesses, maintaining an onsite Network-Attached Storage (NAS) solution is often the best answer. NAS devices are much less expensive to own and maintain than traditional file servers, and are often much easier to manage--sometimes even requiring very little networking knowhow. Business-level NAS devices typically differ from consumer-level devices (which are meant for home networking environments) in that they often offer greater data reliability in the form of RAID, and they sometimes even offer data encryption options to keep your files safe from prying eyes.

One such NAS device that is geared for small-businesses is the
Seagate BlackArmor NAS 440. The 440 is a four-bay NAS device that comes with four, user-serviceable, internal SATA drives, which can be configured as RAID 0, 1, 5, or 10 arrays, or as JBOD (just a bunch of disks). Depending on which RAID mode is being used, drives can be swapped out without needing to shutdown the device--commonly referred to as hot-swapping. The 440 also includes a total of four USB 2.0 ports, which can accommodate additional storage in the form of external hard drives or for attaching a USB-based printer to make the printer accessible to users over a local network. Another feature of the 440 is that it includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports for port-failover or aggregation. (Aggregation provides a wider data pipe by using multiple network ports simultaneously, which--in theory--should improve data-transfer performance. Unfortunately, not only is this not the case with the 440, but we actually saw a performance drop when we aggregated the two Gigabit Ethernet ports--more on this a bit later.)


Seagate BlackArmor NAS 440 NAS Device
Specifications and Features

 Internal HDDs: 
 4x 1TB SATA-II 7,200 drives
 External HDD Interface:  4x USB 2.0 ports
 LAN:  2x Gigabit Ethernet
 Network Protocols:  CIFS, NFS, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, Bonjour, Microsoft RALLY
 Network Authentication:  Microsoft Windows Server Active Directory
 File Sharing Protocols:  CIFS, NFS, HTTPS, FTP
 File System Management:  RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD
 Media Streaming:  iTunes server, DLNA-compliant media server
 Processor & Memory:  1.2GHz processor with 256MB RAM
 Size:  6.30x8.15x10.59-inches (HWD)
 Weight:  13.6lbs.
 Inside the Box: BlackArmor NAS 400 series storage server; 4 Seagate hard drives; 2M – RJ45 Cable; AC Power Cord; Quick Start Guide; CD-ROM with BlackArmor Discovery Software for Windows, BlackArmor Discovery Software for Mac, BlackArmor Backup Software for Windows (10 licenses), System Recovery Boot for Windows (required in the event of hard drive failure)

MSRP: $1,199.99



The 440 is available in three different storage capacities. The 4TB version has an MSRP of $1,199.99; the 6TB version sells for $1,699.99; and the 8TB version costs $1,999.99. There is also a 2TB version of the BlackArmor--called the BlackArmor NAS 420 ($799.99)--which has 2TB of storage and comes with two of its four drive bays populated. It is important to note that that when a NAS device is configured in RAID modes 1, 5, or 10, your total available storage decreases as some of the storage space is reserved for redundant data storage. For instance, we looked at the 4TB version of the 440, which came preconfigured as a RAID 5 array, with a total of 2.68TB of available storage out of the box. The 440 comes with a three-year limited warranty.

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Design & Build Quality


The 440 comes in a black aluminum and plastic enclosure that measures 6.30x8.15x10.59-inches (HWD). The front of the device includes an LED display with two navigation buttons that let you scroll through 10 different bits of information about the device, such as IP address, disk health, fan speed, and temperature. Located on the bottom of the front of the device are the power button and three blue LEDs, which display system status, and the status of each of the two LAN port connections. This lower panel also houses a single USB 2.0 port.

   

A server door on the front of the device swings out to reveal the four drive bays. Below each bay is a green LED activity status light--these lights are only visible when the server door is open. Swapping drives is a completely tool-less affair: The drives mount into the drive cartridges using pins, and then the cartridges simply slides into the drive bays.

   

The most prominent feature on the back of the unit is the exhaust port for the internal fan. A Kensington Slot is located on the upper-left of the back panel. On the bottom of the back of the unit are two Gigabit Ethernet ports, three USB 2.0 ports, the power jack, and a reset button.

   

You can connect external hard drives or flash drives to all four USB ports. In fact, a Seagate tech informed us that he was able to successfully attach seven USB drives to the 440 using a USB hub. You can only attach a single printer to the 440, however, despite the plethora of USB ports. Seagate has tested the 440 internally with close to 60 different printers, but the company doesn't currently post this list on its site (note to Seagate: perhaps this is something you should include in your online support documents). The 440's print server uses CUPS (Common UNIX Printing Services), so Macs and Linux systems should have little trouble printing to the 440's printer server. Windows XP also has a pretty good track record printing to CUPS-based print servers. Windows Vista systems, on the other hand, have proved more problematic getting them to print to CUPS-based servers--it can be done, but it might require a fair bit of tweaking and experimenting to get it to work.

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Setup


The 440 comes with its installed drives preconfigured as a RAID 5 array, using all of the available storage space. In RAID 5 mode, the 4TB device has 2.68TB of available storage space. Since there are no drives to install or format, setting up the hardware is as simple as connecting the device to your local network, plugging in the power cable, and turning the device on. You still can't quite use the device yet as there is still some minimal software-based setup steps that must take place.

  
 Install options from the bundled CD.
 BlackArmor Discovery application.

The bundled CD includes both Windows and Mac version of the BlackArmor Discovery application. Once installed onto a system it automatically locates the 440 on the local network, lets you manage the device's settings by launching the device's browser-based BlackArmor Manager tool, and creates maps to existing folder shares. You don't have to install or even use the BlackArmor Discovery app in order to access the BlackArmor Manager tool, however; if you know the device's IP address, you can access the tool directly simply by navigating to the device's IP address in a browser.

  
 Setup Wizard.

When you access the BlackArmor Manager tool for the first time, you must make a few settings with the Setup Wizard, such as creating a device name, assigning an administrator password, and setting up the IP address (either DHCP or static). Once this has been done, you can start using the device. By default, the 440 already has two shares (also known as folders) on the root of it single storage volume: Download and Public. Both of these folders are public shares, so any system or device that can see the 440 on the network has full read and write access to the folders and their subsequent subfolders. The Download share is meant to be the default location for files downloaded using the 440's built-in file download utility; and the Public share is meant to house all non-private files, such as music, photos, and videos that you intend to be accessible via the built-in DLNA or iTunes servers.

  
 Setup Wizard.
 Updating the firmware.

The next thing you'll likely want to do with the device is to see if there are any firmware updates available. In our case, our unit came with firmware version 4000.0181 installed, but version 4000.0261 was available. Updating the firmware was a fairly quick process, but it does involve rebooting the server. The 440 also includes some rather robust system backup features, so you'll also likely want to install the BlackArmor Backup utility on your local Windows client machines. Unfortunately, there is only a Windows version of the backup software, so Mac users are out of luck. (Some NAS devices include Mac Time Machine support, such as the Synology Disk Station DS409+ {with Disk Station version 2.2 installed}. The 440 does not have Time Machine support.) The 440 supports up to a total of 50 systems backing up or syncing their data via the BlackArmor Backup utility; however, it only ships with a 10-user license--if you want to add more users, you will need to purchase additional licenses.

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Setup: Users, Groups, Share, and More


Having no defined users yet (other than the admin) and just two shares--which have public access--is not the safest, nor most efficient use of the device; therefore you will likely want to create users, groups, and some private folder shares. When you create a user, you have the option of assigning administrator rights to the user, adding the user to existing groups, and creating a private share for the user.

   
 User administration.
 Groups administration.

When you create a folder share, you assign an existing user as the owner of the share, select which of the available services the share supports (CIFS, FTP, and NFS), choose whether to enable the Recycle Bin Service, and whether to enable the Drag&Sort Service. After creating a share, you are given the option to also set up the folder share permissions.

   
 Shares administration. Recycle-Bin.

Contrary to similarity of the name of the 440's Recycle-Bin Service to the Windows Recycle Bin, enabling this does not create a Windows File Manager-accessible Recycle Bin. Instead, what this service does is create a special folder on the device where deleted files are placed; but the folder can only be seen and accessed via the browser-based BlackArmor Manager tool. You retrieve deleted files by selecting them from the appropriate Recycle Bin Share; undeleted files are placed back into the folder share from where they were originally deleted from. By default, the Recycle-Bin Service will hold onto deleted files for 3 days and use up to 10-percent of the volume's available storage; but these setting can be changed.

 
 Enabling the Drag&Sort Service for a share.

When Drag&Sort is enabled for a folder share, all recognized music, photos, and video files that are copied to that share or its subfolders are automatically moved to either a My Music, My Pictures, or My Videos folder within that share (the folder is automatically created if it doesn't exist). We understand the concept of consolidating media types to relevant folders, but we feel that the 440's implementation misses the boat for several reasons.

  
 Media folders automatically created for a pubic share (left) and a private share (right).

For starters, other than for the Public folder share, these consolidated media folders are not indexed by the 440's DLNA or iTunes severs, so the contents of these folders are not available for streaming. Secondly, while recognized files are moved, unrecognized media files and the existing folders are not--so you can potentially wind up with a bunch of empty folders (with subfolders) in your folder share. But perhaps our biggest fault with Drag&Sort is that it puts all moved media into the relevant media folder (i.e., Our Music if it is a public share, My Music if it is a private share), without maintaining the original folder structure.

 
Drag&Sort dumps all the music files into a single folder.

While you music library might initially be neatly organized into separate folders for artists, with subfolders for each album, that organization gets thrown out the window with Drag&Sort and you wind up with a My Music folder with a seemingly endless collection of possibly indecipherable file names. If a filename already exists, the newly moved file gets a number appended to its name, such as Summertime_1.mp3. For these reasons, we would not enable the Drag&Sort feature for our own use. The problem is, however, that even with Drag&Sort disabled for a folder, it's still possible to unintentionally sort the media for a share on the Storage/Share page of the BlackArmor Manager Tool with an small button that is very easy to accidentally press. We would have liked to see the ability to completely disable this feature.

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Setup: Volumes, Encryption, and More


Some users might want to set up multiple volumes on the 440--for instance, one volume for personal use and one for business use. The 440 supports up to a total of four logical volumes, which can simultaneously utilize nearly any combination of the four physical drives and RAID levels (RAID 0 and 1 use at least two drives, RAID 5 uses at least three drives, and RAID 10 uses all four drives). For example, you could utilize all four drives, assign half of the device's available storage, and set it up as an encrypted RAID 5 array; you could then assign the second half of the available storage (again using all four drives) as a RAID 0 array. RAID 0 doesn't offer any data redundancy, but it theoretically accesses data faster than the other modes.

  
 Available RAID modes for a volume.
Volume-level encryption can only be enabled
when initially creating the volume.


We experimented with multiple volumes on the 440 by setting up two RAID 5 arrays that both utilized all four disks; however, we encrypted one of the volumes. The only way to encrypt a volume is to do so when you first create it; so if you want an encrypted volume on the 440, it means that you will have to first delete the preconfigured RAID 5 array. When a volume is encrypted, the encryption key is stored on a user-supplied USB flash drive connected to the device's front-mounted USB port. If the 440 is power-cycled after removing the USB flash drive that contains the encryption key, the data stored on encrypted volume will no longer be accessible until you plug the USB flash drive back in. If you lose the flash drive or its encryption key file is damaged or deleted, you can consider the data stored on the encrypted volume as irrevocably lost. So if you choose to use an encrypted volume, do so wisely and carefully.

 
 It took over five hours to build two RAID 5 volumes.

This experiment also bore out some additional caveats for us. First of all, it easily took over five hours to create the two volumes. (It took the same amount of time to reset the device back to a single RAID 5 volume using all four drives, when we were done experimenting.) So if you are going to use multiple volumes, be sure to factor in the extra time needed to create the volumes--and those five-plus hours don't even include the time to format the volumes once they are created (which we found could be as much as another hour).

 
 The icon on the left indicates whether a volume is encrypted or not.

The second issue this brought to light is that the included documentation is significantly lacking. We found much of the documentation to be pretty light when it comes to discussing many of the device's features. In fact, other than mentioning that volume encryption is possible, we couldn't find mention of how to set it up anywhere in the documentation of even via Seagate's online support--we ultimately had to seek guidance from a contact we had at Seagate, who put us in touch with a Seagate tech.

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Configuration & Features


The browser-based BlackArmor Management tool can be accessed by either HTTP or HTTPS--depending on how you configure it. You can also assign up to five different e-mail addresses to be notified when "events" occur, such as a system reboot or deleting a volume. Unlike other NAS devices that require SMTP information in order to use your own e-mail accounts to send e-mail notifications, the 440 merely needs the destination e-mail addresses. The BlackArmor Management tool can display the SMART status of the installed hard drives; but it can only display this information for one drive at a time--it would have been nice to be able to see a quick SMART status of all the drives at once. If you connect the 440 to a UPS device, you can configure the 440 to shutdown after a user-set interval of when the UPS shifts into battery mode.

  
 System Status.
Setting HTTP or HTTPS access.

The BlackArmor Management tool includes a Downloader module that lets you download files directly to the 440, bypassing your local machine. You can put a cap on the maximum download speed and limit the number of simultaneous downloads (the 440 can only download up to three files simultaneously). You can also schedule certain time periods when which downloads are only permitted to take place. Unlike a number of other NAS devices we've looked at, the 440 does not include a BitTorrent client.

  
 Scheduling when downloads can take place.
 Downloading files.

To access the 440 remotely, you have two different options. The first is via FTP. You can enable anonymous FTP access or require users to log in using existing User credentials. Our particular local network set up has a dynamic IP address assigned by our ISP and a hardware firewall built into our router. In order to get remote FTP access to work, we used Dynamic DNS (DDNS) and configured port forwarding on our router for the relevant ports. These are the same steps we've had to take for most of the NAS devices we've tested on our particular setup in order to enable remote access.

  
 Enabling FTP service.
 Setting up DDNS.

The second means of accessing the 440 remotely is via the free Seagate Global Access service (this is the same Seagate Global Service that the Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition NAS device uses). With Global Access enabled on the 440 and linking it to a free Seagate Global Access account, you can access the NAS device via the browser-based Global Service. Similar to FTP access, this is one way you can make file uploads and downloads available remotely to clients.

  
 Enabling Global Access for a user.
 Global Access interface.

We were a bit confused at first as to how to link the 440 to Global Access accounts (once again, we found the terse documentation lacking). It turns out that you can't link the 440 to Global Access accounts when logged into the device's BlackArmor Management tool as the administrator. Each user who wants to link his or her account on the NAS device to Global Access must log in individually to the 440 and configure the Global Access settings for their account. The only control the admin has is whether to enable or disable Global Access for the device--it's an all or nothing proposition. We would have liked to see at least the ability for the administrator account to have access to the individual users settings on the device for Global Access, if not the ability to fully manage that access altogether. Putting such remote access solely into the hands of individual users is a security breach waiting to happen.

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Configuration & Features (Continued)


Perhaps the most robust features of the 440 are its many backup options. You can configure and schedule multiple backups of folders on the NAS device to connected USB drives or from connected USB drives to the 440. You can even backup folders from the 440 to another networked BlackArmor device. It is important to remember that while RAID modes 1, 5, and 10 offer grater data reliability in form of data redundancy, such a configuration should still not be considered data backup. If your data is important to you, it is imperative to also regularly backup the important data files stored on your NAS to another device.

  
 NAS to USB backups.
 Setting up server backup schedule.

Of course, backing up data stored on the NAS device isn't the only kind of data backup the 440 supports--the device also comes with a robust backup tool that can back up the data from individual Windows machines on the local network. The BlackArmor Backup application is a rebranded version of Acronis True Image Home 2009. Not only can you set up regularly scheduled backups for select folders on your system, you can also backup the entire hard drive image of your system. With a full hard drive image backed up, you can perform a full system bare-metal restore from the backed up data saved on the 440.

  
 Seagate BlackArmor Backup.

  
 Seagate BlackArmor Backup.

The software offers numerous granular ways to backup and restore selected data and system settings. It also includes the BlackArmor Backup Secure Zone utility, which creates "a special, hidden partition on the computer system." This partition can be password protected, and you can store backup archives here. With this special hidden partition enabled, you can also utilize the BlackArmor Backup application's Try&Decide feature:

"The Try&Decide feature allows creating a secure, controlled temporary workspace on your computer without requiring you to install special virtualization software. You can perform various system operations not worrying that you might damage your operating system, programs or data.

After making virtual changes, you may apply them to your original system. If you make changes that you want to keep, you might want to commit those changes to the system. Among the operations you may attempt with this feature is to open mail attachments from unknown senders or visit websites that might contain potentially troublesome content."


  
 Designating system hard disk space for the
BlackArmor Backup Secure Zone.
 Try&Decide.

Essentially, the Try&Decide feature turns your system into a virtual system, where all changes you make, apps you install, and so on, all occur inside a "sandbox." As with all virtualization solutions, Try&Decide will slow down overall system performance somewhat.
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Performance


In order to test the functionality of the 440, we placed it on a Gigabit-Ethernet network and accessed it from a variety of Windows and Mac desktops and laptops. We connected to it from clients via both wired and wireless connections, as well as remotely over the Internet. To test the device's performance, we used a combination of synthetic benchmark testing and real-world file copy tests. Throughout the tests, the 440 was configured with all four of its drives as a single RAID 5 volume.



Our first test was conducted with the synthetic ATTO Disk Benchmark. We mapped the 440 as drive letter Z: on the test machine and ran the default ATTO test. On the test, the 440 performed best with block sizes that are 32K when reading and writing. The fastest read speed the 440 put in on this test was 55.9MB/Sec, and the fastest write speed was 31.5MB/Sec. Seagate claims that the 440 is capable of a read transfer rate of up to 50MB/Sec when the device is configured in RAID 5 mode. It seems that at least as far as this synthetic test goes, the performance we measured actually exceeds Seagate's claim. The question is, will that claim still hold up with real-world file transfer performance? Let's see...

Our next set of test are made up of real-world data-transfer tests to and from the device over our network using an HP Pavilion Elite m9550f desktop (2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300, 8GB PC2-6400 DDR2 SDRAM, 1TB NTFS 7200RPM SATA hard drive, ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB, Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit) via a Gigabit-Ethernet connection. We conducted large-file write and read tests where we copied a 1.7GB ISO file between the 440 and the m9550f. We also conducted small-files write and read tests where we copied a 267MB folder made up of 70 JPGs ranging in size from 2.27MB to 4.38MB between the 440 and the m9550f. We conducted these tests by dragging-and-dropping the folders and files in Windows, with the 440 connected as a mapped drive.

We compared the performance of the 440 against that of a number of NAS devices we've looked at, including the WD My Work World Edition, Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition, Linksys by Cisco Media Hub, HP MediaSmart Server LX195, Addonics NAS Adapter, Pogoplug, and the Synology Disk Station DS409+. We also repeated all of our tests on an older 500GB Maxtor Shared Storage NAS device--copying files between the Maxtor Shared Storage device and the m9550f. Additionally, we ran our tests on an external hard drive connected directly to a USB 2.0 port on the m9550f; the drive we used was a 320GB Western Digital Caviar Blue drive (7200RPM SATA-II, 16MB cache) placed into an external enclosure and formatted using the NTFS file system.



When transferring large files, the 440 is one of the faster NAS devices we've seen. In fact, only the Synology DS409+ and the HP MediaSmart Server LX195 show speedier write performance, and the 440 is actually a bit faster than the LX195 when reading large files (based on the tests run on the NAS devices tested on this particular test setup). The 440's write speed of 21.1MB/Sec equates to a transfer rate of 177.1Mb/Sec, and the read speed of 46.6MB/Sec is equivalent to 391.1Mb/Sec. As these transfer rates indicate, you need a Gigabit network to fully appreciate the performance potential of the 440--a 100Mb/Sec network will present a bottleneck that will limit what the 440 is fully capable of. Our measured read speed of 46.6MB/Sec is only a bit slower than Seagate's 50MB/Sec claim.



As is typically the case for NAS devices, the 440's small-file transfer performance is not as fast as it is when transferring large files. Even so, the 440's small-files write speed of 15.6MB/Sec (130.6Mb/Sec) and read speed of 28.4MB/Sec (237Mb/Sec) are still some of the speediest throughput rates we've seen. Only the Synology DS409+ is faster--albeit, noticeably faster.  The LX195 was only a hair slower than the 440 with writing and reading small files.







As the 440 also allows you to aggregate the two LAN ports in order to supposedly get faster performance, we ran some additional tests with both LAN ports active and connected to our Gigabit router. The 440 supports two different aggregation modes: Round Robin and Fail Over LAN. We expected to see faster performance in Round Robin mode than we saw when using a single LAN connection, but this was not the case. In fact, performance in Round Robin mode was actually marginally slower than what we saw with just a single LAN port in use. We queried Seagate about this surprising result, and this was the response we got:

"The best performance on the NAS 440 can be configured without Link Aggregation enabled. It is a case where the processor power in the NAS 440 does not see any real benefit for most users when using Round Robin (aggregated performance).  That's likely why you're not seeing the performance measures you may have expected in that mode."

In other words, the device is not powerful enough to take advantage of the feature--which begs the question, why offer this configuration setting at all as an option? As to the Fail Over LAN mode being slower than single LAN connection, this makes sense as the device requires additional overhead to monitor the LAN ports and switch over when necessary, while not necessarily utilizing both ports simultaneously.

Accessing the 440's iTunes server is fairly speedy: it took just over 8 seconds to access a 57.69GB library of over 6,400 songs. This was not quite as fast, however, as the mere 2 seconds it took the DS409+. Also note that you cannot password protect access to the 440's iTunes library, so any iTunes client that can see the 440 on the local network will be able to access the library.

To get a sense of how much power the 440 consumes, we connected it to a power meter. When the 440 is sitting idle, it uses around 42-watts of power. When under load, its power consumption appears to top out at around 46-watts. When in HDD Standby mode, the device uses about 14 watts of power.

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Summary & Conclusions


The 440 is a speedy NAS device with a bevy of features that could well serve the needs of many small businesses. These features include dual Ethernet ports with fail-over support, tool-less drive mounts, support for multiple RAID modes with drive hot-swapping, and volume-level encryption. Perhaps unique among NAS devices is the 440's ability to have up to four logical volumes capable of sharing storage space on all four hard drives while still using any of the available RAID modes--which could provide some small business owners the means to keep their business and personal files completely separate, while still stored on the same device.

The 440 also ships with a very robust backup application that includes bare-metal restores and comes with a 10 user license--upgradable to up top 50 users; there is no Mac backup support however. Remote access to the device is supported via FTP and with the free Seagate Global Access service--both of which can be convenient ways to make file uploads and downloads available to clients. And with a total of four USB 2.0 ports, additional storage space can easily be added to the device--or utilized for server backups.






The 440 is relatively expensive, however, with a price tag of nearly $1,200. This price is comparable to other similarly-configured small-business-class NAS devices; but home users on the other hand, can find plenty of significantly less-expensive NAS options--albeit likely lacking some of the advanced features, such as RAID support and volume encryption. Home users are also likely to be put off by the documentation, which tends to skimp on details for some of the device's advanced capabilities. And while the 440 includes some media streaming options in the form of DLNA and iTunes servers, other NAS devices offer greater options--we also found fault with how the 440's Drag&Sort media consolidation feature is implemented. Lastly, home users will appreciate the device's file download utility, but some might lament the lack of BitTorrent support, which numerous other NAS devices include.




  

  

  • Excellent performance
  • Multiple RAID formats & HDD hot-swapping supported
  • Supports up to 4 logical RAID volumes
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports with fail-over support
  • Supports volume-level encryption
  • Tool-less HDD mounts
  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • Robust backup software with bare-metal restore capabilities
  • Expensive
  • Mac OS backup software not included; no Time Machine support
  • Documentation missing key details



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