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A Time And A Place For More Storage: Buffalo's TeraStation

Holiday Buyer's Guide 2005
By

With all those photos and DVDs, you might want to think about where you are going to store your files. Fortunately, we have several suggestions. First, if you are looking for almost boundless storage capacity, you might want to consider the Buffalo Technology TeraStation Network Attached Storage (NAS) box.

Nature abhors unoccupied space almost as much as she abhors a vacuum : just ask any chronic digital packrat. Then buy that packrat this unit and put it under the tree, as Teresa so nicely demonstrates.

The TeraStation delivers network-attached storage running at gigabit speeds, and provides high availability to a variety of operating systems and network technologies. Not only does the TeraStation do Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), it also handles jumbo frames for compatible devices, such as the two Gigabit switches from Netgear and SMC also featured in this year’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide.

Internally, the TeraStation has a lot going on. Its core logic is centered around Freescale’s 266 MHz PowerPC processor, interconnected to a 133 MHz EDO/SDRAM memory controller sporting 128 MB of on-board Micron memory. It features 4 MB of Fujitsu flash memory (used during boot-up), a 32 bit 66 MHz PCI v2.2 bus, and an I2C interface. Also present are two ITE IT8211AF EIDE controllers that manage 4 parallel ATA (PATA) UDMA66 133 MHz drives. Realtek provides the framework for the GbE capability through a single unshielded RJ-45 jack. Storage capacity comes courtesy of a quartet of Western Digital Caviar drives that run at 7200 RPM with 8 MB cache each.

Embedded Linux handles all the dirty work under the hood, and lays the foundation for the TeraStation’s RAID capabilities. One clear advantage is that Buffalo utilizes the journaling filesystem (JFS), which performs housekeeping chores to make crash recovery as graceful as possible following unexpected power outages. The TeraStation also provides robust user and group level access controls to secure network data shares or mount points.

Included fore and aft on the TeraStation are a total of four USB 2.0 connectors, two on each side, supporting High-Speed, Full-Speed, and Slow-Speed transactions. Furthermore, the device includes a built-in print server to make any USB interfaced printer network accessible. A single serial port on the unit’s back helps ensure UPS compatibility as well.

Storage space can be sliced and diced in any number of ways, including a full-fledged RAID 5 array. Combine the total drive space into a single volume with RAID 0 for pure performance, or add fault tolerance by using RAID 1 or 5. Add more storage space using any of the four available USB 2.0 connectors with one or more external disk drives.

Since the TeraStation exports Server Message Block (SMB) and Common Internet Filesystem (CIFS), it works with just about any modern operating system. This makes for a simple, seamless appearance on any Small-Office/Home-Office (SOHO) network. Navigating the TeraStation is as easy as loading the TeraNavigator installation media, or firing up a Web browser and directing it to the TeraStation. This makes it easy to index and browse selected volumes, enables convenient remote management, and permits backups to be coordinated among multiple TeraStations.

The TeraStation can even send e-mail to a specified recipient when its status changes or certain events occur. This includes basic activity reports, backup job status, and critical error alerts. Buffalo manages to shoehorn all this into a small box only slightly larger than a typical lead-acid UPS battery (6.6 x 8.7 x 9.5" (16.8 x 22.1 x 24.1 cm). It’s big on storage, but not on footprint, and it’s impressively quiet while working as well. Starting at $900 and up, there’s no reason why you can’t blow the lid off Santa’s (or somebody else’s) network storage needs. Find more info on the vendor’s Web page.

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