Installation and Software
The “Lifeline” operating system from EMC that comes with the Intel SS4200-E leaves us with mixed feelings. On one hand, the NAS device is easy to set up and use. On the other hand, it’s almost too easy—enthusiasts will be forced to sit through some of the features intended to dumb-down network storage, like automatic RAID configuration.
Automatic RAID Configuration
Once the Intel SS4200-E is connected to the network, the baseline configuration is done by the "Intel System Storage Manager" program, which comes on a CD included with the device. The default setup contains, for example, a step to set a password for administrative access, as well as to enter the date and time. However the user cannot directly access the hard drive configuration. If you install two hard drives, they will automatically be put into a RAID 1 configuration; if you have four hard drives, they are automatically put in a RAID 5 configuration.
In spite of the automatic setup procedure, the user can manually access the configuration of the NAS device after the initial configuration. In order to do so, you log on to the Web interface using the password created during initial configuration. Here you have to be careful, because the data on the hard drives will always be lost when the RAID mode is changed. Setting up the RAID mode and formatting the hard drives can take several hours, depending on the number and capacity of the drives. As an alternative to the RAID 5 configuration, with four hard drives, you can also choose a RAID 10 configuration. Unfortunately, this cannot be done until you set up a RAID 5 array first.
Web Interface Design
The Web interface is well-organized, and you can access it using Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, as well as Google’s Chrome. The PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and Nintendo Wii browsers are also supported.
On the start page you will find frequently-used functions, like creating user profiles and folders, creating and restoring data backups, and searching. The search function lets you find files on the NAS device that are recognized by the integrated index server. Common file types are supported: .txt, .php, .doc, .xls, .pdf, .ppt, and .html.
The “Dashboard” menu gives you an overview of the system’s status. It shows free and used storage space as well as the device’s RAID mode. You have access to folder and user administration through the menu’s "Shared Folders" and "Users" options, respectively, and can find the extended configuration under the menu "Settings".
Here you will find settings for the power saving modes of the hard drives, an event log, group administration, as well as email notification settings (used in case of hard drive failure). To be able to use group administration, NFS network protocol support, event logs, as well as further improvements to the details, you need firmware version 126.96.36.199736. Although this version contains several improvements compared to the previous firmware version, it is still missing some crucial features: online capacity extension and RAID-level migration. If you’re running out of storage space, or you decide to switch from RAID level 10 to RAID level 5, you have no choice but to back up all of your data and restore it later. When the RAID level is changed, all data is erased.
Network Management With SNMP
It doesn’t really make sense that the Intel SS4200-E supports a feature that private users will never use because it is primarily employed in professional environments: the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). SNMP is used to monitor and control network elements like servers, routers, switches or NAS devices from a central location. With that said, perhaps it’d work in a small office managed remotely by a VAR.