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Is Zettabits Next Generation Storage?


Zettabyte offers an interesting product. Or is it a service? It's both, but you never really buy hardware. Pick your storage capacity, contract period and payment options, and you will receive a convenient NAS box on some kind of rental contract. Once you store data, it will automatically synchronize contents with the Zettabits online storage services. Should the NAS box become damaged, broken, stolen or out of date, the vendor will automatically replace it, and the new zBox will download your data from the securely encrypted online storage.

Both zBox devices, the basic and the Professional edition, live up to feature expectations: they are fully featured NAS devices that store data at your home or office location. Configuration can be done via a comfortable web interface, and the boxes even update their firmware automatically. Power consumption and noise are both at low levels, although the zBox Pro is always acoustically noticeable. Neither of the two editions does yet allow you to define user groups. It wouldn't hurt to upgrade the basic edition with a higher grade enclosure, because it looks rather cheap and doesn't match the very functional Zettabyte service.

Both devices will back up your data automatically and allow you to retrieve files via a web interface. However, this can only be done one file at a time; this means that you cannot quickly get a folder full of files, which is annoying. The zBox Professional supports local encryption and thus requires a USB key with the decryption key to boot the storage appliance. Be careful with the decryption key: anyone with access to it can access all the files on the Internet backup, regardless of the permissions you may have set locally. While Zettabits Pro performs well, delivering over 20 MB/s effective data rates, the basic edition maxes out at a few megabytes per second - this is way too little if you frequently handle large files.

Two issues remain: cost, which may be acceptable for small business users; and the time required for the initial backup. Since most Internet connections are still limited to several hundred kilobits per second, it can take many days or even weeks to upload 10 GB or more of data. This can be an issue for data safety, because lots of files won't be synchronized quickly, and the upload will likely clog your Internet line as well. Further synchronizations will be much quicker once all data has been mirrored to the Internet servers. Cost is an item that could repel home users: you only get nice discounts if you decide to go with a two or four year contract, which many people might not want to do. And interesting capacities of 100 GB and up will cost $89 with the basic zBox, or $199 and up with a redundant zBox Pro. We realize that this includes renting the hardware; yet this is as much as you pay for an entry-level 250 GB NAS box.

So, do we recommend Zettabit? Due to the relatively high price points, cheap looking hardware exterior and below average performance, we wouldn't go for the basic edition of Zettabits. There are many online storage services that offer acceptable capacities and nice features for free, and external or NAS storage is extremely affordable today. Things are different for business users: the business model makes the cost very controllable, and Zettabits Pro, with redundant, encrypted storage, sufficient performance and off-site synchronization in a bracket of $200 to $400 sounds reasonable for SMBs. Make sure you control access to the USB sticks with the decryption key, and that you have an Internet bandwidth of at least several megabits per second to avoid the week-long initial synchronization.

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