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Buffalo LS-421 Diskless NAS Review

Posted by Andrew at 6:20 PM on January 18, 2014

Buffalo LogoThe Buffalo LinkStation LS-421 Diskless NAS represents a small departure from the norm for Buffalo in that this is the first consumer-oriented unit to be offered as an enclosure without drives. While replacing drives in the previous generation of LinkStations was easy, it’s good to see this being offered as an option from the start. GNC has reviewed several Buffalo units in the past and many have been no slouch in the speed department. The LS-421 features the new generation Marvell ARMADA 370, 1.2GHz ARMv7 CPU core and DDR3 512MB RAM so let’s see if it stands up to the claims of ”up to 80 MB/s” .

Buffalo LS-420 Box

From the outside, the LS-421 hasn’t significantly changed since the previous version with a slightly front rounded surface. The previous iteration of the product had blue LEDs on a black fascia; this time it’s white LEDs on silvery-grey which looks good when they’re flickering away. Overall, it’s not going to win any design awards, but it’s not going to offend either. There are two USB ports, a USB 3 one on the front and a USB 2 on the rear. These can be used for additional storage or printers.

Buffalo LS-420 NAS

 

Buffalo LS-421 rear

Installing the disks is straightforward, needing only a screwdriver to screen the hard drives into plastic frames which then guide the drives into place in the NAS. The front of the unit simply pops on and off. Once the two drives are in place, the network cable can be connected and the power plugged in. For those interested, it’s an external PSU.

Buffalo LS-421 with disks

On power-up for the first time, there’s about ten minutes of activity while the LS-421 sorts itself out. While that’s happening, the supplied Buffalo NAS Navigator 2 software can be installed on the PC or laptop. It’s much improved over the previous version, but it’s not essential software as the NAS is largely configured via a web client. However, it is useful for troubleshooting and finding the IP address of the LS-421 for the first time.

Linkstations

Those used to the old tabbed style of web interface will discover that Buffalo has gone all Metro with a tile-based UI, albeit without the Microsoft colours. All the usual configuration features are present and correct – disk format, share administration, users, groups, RAID 0 / 1 and so on. Buffalo also gets brownie points for prompting to change the administrator password whenever the web client starts.

Buffalo LS-421 Tile Interface

The LS-421 isn’t only a network NAS, as it has Bittorrent and DLNA services built-in. Having a NAS-based Bittorrent client is useful as you don’t need to leave your PC on for large downloads and once downloaded, the server with contribute back to others downloading the same file. The DLNA server worked fine too, letting me play mp3s via the Roku.

Apps are available for iOS and Android to access files on smartphones and tablets, and it’s possible to configure access to the NAS across the Internet so that you can upload and download files while out and about. Obviously the speed is going to be limited by the network or broadband connection but it’s a useful to have the facility in case you need it.

With all of that out the way, how fast is it? I tested using Totusoft’s LAN Speed Test from a fairly old laptop running Windows 8.1 and also with dd and bonnie++ from a newer SuSE 12.1 Linux desktop. All tests were run at least three times and both computers were connected into the same gigabit switch that the LS-421 was connected into.

From the laptop, LAN Speed Test gave an average over a couple of a runs around 33 MB/s for writes and 22.5 MB/s.
On the desktop, dd gave a write speed of 63 MB/s, and bonnie++ wrote at 45 MB/s and read at 68 MB/s. Remember these figures reflect the performance of the LS-421 in my environment and YMMV as they say. Certainly, the bonnie++ read of 68 MB/s isn’t very far away from Buffalo’s claims of 80 MB/s.

Overall, the LS-421 is a tidy NAS unit and with an online price of GB£85 (without drives), it’s definitely one of the cheaper NAS enclosures. It’s nippy and with a total capacity potential of 8 TB, it can grow as your needs require.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the review unit.

Upgrading My NAS…Yawn

Posted by Andrew at 12:33 AM on June 11, 2012

Hard DriveLast weekend, I upgraded my NAS from 2 TB to 4 TB and it was all too easy. The NAS is a Buffalo LinkStation Duo but as the drives are mirrored, I only get half the total 2 TB capacity, i.e. 1 TB. I was getting pretty close to having the full terabyte of data on the unit, so I decided it was time for a storage upgrade. However, the last time I upgraded another model of NAS, it involved much chicanery and re-installing of firmwire via USB, so I proceed with trepidation.

Not so this time. It was mostly lots of waiting interspersed with a few minutes of activity, followed by first time success. Disappointingly little geekery was required.

Step 1. Buy a pair of SATA 2 TB hard-drive. The LinkStation already had Seagate drives installed, so I played it safe and bought some Seagate Barracuda drives. Wait a couple of days for drives to arrive in post…

Step 2. Backup the data from the NAS to an external USB drive. My favourite tool for this is rsync because it simply copies files (no archives or zip files) and you can stop and start the backup as you like. You can even keep using the NAS up until the last minute before running one final rsync to copy the latest changes over. Leave the backup to run overnight…

Step 3. Shutdown the LinkStation via the web interface.

Step 4. Remove hard drives, insert new ones.

Step 5. Power up the Linkstation and log on via the web interface.

Step 6. Format drives in turn. Configure as RAID 1. Wait for best part of a day while array synchronises….

Step 7. Restore data from external USB hard drive. Leave to run overnight….

Step 8. Job done!

It was pleasantly straightforward to upgrade the NAS and a big change from the last occasion I had to swap a disk. For sure it takes a couple of days to do the swap, but the time is spent shuffling data around, not actually working on the unit. Definitely a recommended upgrade.

[Disclosure: this is my personal NAS and not a review unit.]

Buffalo CloudStation Duo Hands-On Review

Posted by Andrew at 5:16 PM on December 4, 2011

On test here is the 2 TB version of Buffalo‘s CloudStation Duo, a RAID-capable NAS with built-in Pogoplug, giving the user their own personal cloud.

Buffalo CloudStation Duo with PogoPlug

The CloudStation Duo is squarely aimed at the prosumer market, both in terms of the hardware and the software on-board. For the hardware, it is equipped with two 1 TB drives and the unit can either be setup as JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks) or else RAID 1 in which each disk mirrors the other. Obviously, in RAID configuration, the NAS has only 1 TB of storage available for use.

For the built-in software, there’s a BitTorrent client, Time Machine support and DLNA multimedia server

Buffalo CloudStation Duo with Pogoplug

Those familiar with Buffalo’s LinkStation range will spot that the Buffalo CloudStation (CS-WX) looks identical the LinkStation Duo (LS-WX), albeit with a new CloudStation sticker on the top left of the front panel. Removing the front panel reveals nothing different on the inside either. Two swappable SATA drives, allowing for replacement in the event of failure or upgrade to a larger capacity.

Buffalo CloudStation Duo with Pogoplug Buffalo CloudStation Duo with Pogoplug Rear

Round the back, it’s the same layout as well. The USB port can be used to add additional storage or as a print server (which is also available as part of the “cloud”.)

All of the CloudStation’s functions are controlled by a built-in webserver, so it’s not essential to install any software on a PC. I found the IP address of the CloudStation via my DHCP server’s status table and after I had the IP, it was simply http://…. in a web browser. Setting up the CoudStation is straightforward. On first login, it recognises that the device is uninitialised and asks how the drive is to be setup. I went for RAID 1 which then meant it spent the next few hours building the array. This has to be completed before any new shares can be setup.

The shares (or folders) appear in Windows as any normal folder does, so copying files to the CloudStation is just a case of drag’n'drop.

Anyone who has setup a NAS before will find it all straightforward. The interesting part is the addition of Pogoplug’s personal cloud. To get started with this, simply open http://cloudstation.pogoplug.com/activate/ in any web browser. The website asks what type of CloudStation is connected and then walks through five basic steps to connect the device up, finally checking connectivity at the end.

As you might expect, the website prompts for an email address and password for secure access to the CloudStation via Pogoplug. A confirmatory link is sent via email and once that’s all checked, you’re logged into the CloudStation remotely and you can start using your personal cloud.

Buffalo CloudStation Duo with Pogoplug

And it’s brilliant. I was also able to play music and videos directly in the browser. Here’s a screenshot of it playing a video.

Buffalo CloudStation Duo with Pogoplug Video

And playing a music. You’ll just have to hear the tune in your head.

Buffalo CloudStation with Pogoplug music

The web interface is very comprehensive and you can do more from the internet that you can actually do on the local NAS. For instance, it’s easy to share files and folders with friends and family, which is very handy for photos. You can also share to Facebook, if you are into the social networking scene.

If you have a printer connected to the CloudStation, you can print to it to by sending emails with attachments to a Pogoplug email address. Not a perfect solution, but not bad for the odd occasion. There’s a similar feature that lets you upload files to the CloudStation via email which could be handy at times.

I was also able to gain access from my HP Pre 3 using the Pogoplug app. Similar clients are available for iOS and Android.

There are loads of other features such as the transcoding of video, use of HTML5, bulk downloading of folders and backup from the CloudStation to Pogoplug’s cloud. In fact, there’s too many to mention them all but suffice to say that everything I tried worked well.

To close this review, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the “personal cloud”. I mean, how different can it really be from an ftp site with all your files on it? The revelation for me was the media aspect. Showing photos to friends and family is easy, listening to music from your entire collection is simple and videos can be streamed from home to wherever you are. I love what the the Buffalo CloudStation can offer when combined with Pogoplug.

The Buffalo CloudStation Duo comes in 2 TB and 4 TB variants and is available from all good retailers. Prices on-line suggest typical prices of around £250 and £310 respectively, which is only a small premium over the LinkStation Duo’s prices.

Psst….Buffalo…any chance you’ll offer a firmware upgrade for the LinkStation Duo to convert it to CloudStation Duo? I’d even pay for the upgrade.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the CloudStation.

Buffalo Updates NAS with LinkStation Pro and Pro Duo

Posted by geeknews at 12:00 AM on November 9, 2010

Buffalo Technology has announced updates to its LinkStation range of NAS devices in the shape of the LinkStation Pro and LinkStation Pro Duo.  Part of the new V-series, these offer additional features that will be of interest to business users.

LinkStation ProThe LinkStation Pro (LS-VL) retains the familiar LinkStation and DriveStation shape but the addition of a faster processor boosts file transfers when compared to the previous model. Aimed at the prosumer and small businesses, the LinkStation Pro can serve photos, music and video from the built-in DLNA media player. There’s also a BitTorrent client for downloading large files such as podcasts or Linux distros. Available from mid-November in 1 TB (RRP £160)  and 2 TB (RRP £240) flavours.

LinkStation Pro DuoThe big brother of the Pro is the LinkStation Pro Duo (LS-WVL), offering double the storage with dual disk drives in a RAID 0/1 configuration. Although having a similar built-in software, small businesses will be interested in the RAID redundancy for protecting their data and the quick swap hard drives. (Readers are reminded that RAID is no substitute for regular backups). Available in 2 TB and 4 TB variants with list prices of £230 and £360 respectively, also from mid-November.

Where the V-series has additional benefits to business users is in the integration with ActiveDirectory, thus avoiding lengthy setup and configuration of the NAS with users and permissions.

If desired, it’s also possible to access these devices across the Internet, using either the BuffaloNAS on-line portal service or the WebAccess i app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

I’ve always been a fan of the LinkStation range so I look forward to doing a hands-on review in the not-too-distant future.