2.14.2009

IOCell NetDISK 352ND Review

In my never ending quest for expanding storage, I chanced upon a 2 drive NDAS enclose at Fry's called the NetDisk 352ND from IOCell Networks. It is a fairly unassuming product that has internal space for two SATA hard drives and a 10/100/1000 network connection on the back. For $90 I thought I would give it a try:

IOCell_001 IOCell_003

The box contains the 352ND NDIS device, a power supply, a 6' patch cable and an installation packet with a quick guide and CD.

My first concern was that the tape on the internal box was opened but the external IOCell seals were intact; further inspection made me think the unit was returned as the power cables were not customarily bound by twist-ties and there were stretch signs on the plastic bags. None-the-less I decided to continue on.

The system opens pretty easily; there are two screws on the bottom that let a side panel slide off, revealing a hard drive cage held in by two similar screws:

IOCell_005IOCell_006

IOCell_007 IOCell_009

The HD cage has a circuit board on the back that hold the bulk of the electronics:

IOCell_008

The entire setup is fairly well engineered; two SATA drives go into the HD carrier and are secured by four screws each (like a HD is normally secured in a case). The carrier is then placed back in the case and slides over two connectors that provide power to the board and allow communication to the RJ45 interface and the front panel lights. The entire assembly is 4 screws to open, 8 screws to secure the HDs and the same four screws to re-close; total assembly (without assistance from the quick guide is about 5 mins).

I chose to installed two Seagate 1TB drives; 7200rpm, 32MB cache drives. Once the HDs are installed I powered the unit up and turned to the NDSD software.

The system is a NDAS device- or a 'Network Directed Attached Storage' device- which means that it cannot be accessed with out specific software on a PC. The NDAS software is fairly simple and it installs three drivers for Windows XP/Vista; a LPX Protocol, a NDAS Bus, and a NDAS Miniport controller .

After installed, I ran the software and it prompts me to connect to actual device where I must enter a 'NetDisk ID' from the bottom of the unit:

IOCell_004

There is also a 'Write Key' that can be entered- and I assume is required to write/delete from the drive. Once installed it puts a 'NDAS Device Management' icon in the system tray that allows me to mount/dismount either drive or check status of the system.

When I right click and mount a drive, the drive is presented to the Windows disk manager which assigns it a drive letter and prompts me to format (if necessary).

The NDAS Device Management icon does not indicate how to create an array out of the drives- nor does the included quick start guide give instructions; This is done by another 'NDAS Bind Utility' that is installed in the start menu. The Bind Utility will allow creation pf a RAID0, RAID1 or an 'Aggregation' Bind- the later being needed to 'create an aggregated disk if you need a disk that is too large for a basic disk'- so it appears to be a RAID0 for larger than 2TB partitions.

I created a RAID0 (stripe) set and let it build. After it was done, I right clicked the tray icon and told it to 'Mount Device'. This brought up the Windows disk administrator where I created a 2GB partition and formatted it with FAT32.

At this point, I have a 2TB NDAS deice that appears as an 'N:' drive for my PC. so I decided to copy over a few dozen GB of DVD images to check the speed. The transfer speed was not bad- averaging about 60MB/s per windows calculations (about 480Mbps- or 1/2 of my 1GB network speed)- but issues quickly arose.

After copying about 4GB of data, I heard a distinctive click from the NDAS that sounded like a hard drive power cycling. Shortly thereafter I received a message that the NDAS connection had degraded and the a second message that the NDAS connection had dropped. The transfer failed.

I checked all the cables, reconnected to the NDAS (via the tray icon) and stared over. After another 4-5GB it happened again- and yet another 3 times before I stopped trying to copy to the device. I tried the latest software download from IOcell but still with no luck.

I managed to find a single review on NewEgg that indicated there was a potential thermal issue with the design -so I opened it back up and had a look for myself. The reviewer was spot-on about the heat issue; after about 20 minutes of use the HD carrier was so hot that it was near painful to the touch; the drives were so hot that I could not hold either one in my hand for more than a few seconds; it is not good for HDs to get this hot. I am assuming the 'click' I heard was the hard drive having a thermal event and resetting to prevent damage.

Active cooling is not present in the 352ND case- but oddly there is a spot for a small fan (possibly 35-40mm) and a 'CN4' connector on the board that looks very much like it would be for powering a small fan:

IOCell_010

The absence of this fan makes the system dead silent but also turns it into a hard drive ready-bake oven. I could purchase a fan and install it in the system, but I am afraid there were other concerns on IOCell's mind when they chose to omit the cooling fan (perhaps the fan size does not provide enough air flow to keep the system cool, so they just omitted it?). The opened internal package with the intact IOCell seals makes me wonder if there were last minute changes to the design- such as removal of a small fan...

I repackaged the system as I received it (the extracted HDs were still pretty warm by the time this was competed) and it will be returned to Fry's tomorrow.

It is a fairy well made/designed device, but the lack of active cooling makes it a hard drive death pit. In short, I find once again that I get exactly what I pay for!

24 comments:

  1. You should look at the D-Link DNS-323

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  2. Anonymous10:22 AM

    Thanks Broo. You saved me from repeating your experience, and wasting most of my precious Saturday. Nice job on the review, great pictures. "Ready Bake drive oven" - not what I'm looking for.
    Cheers

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  3. Anonymous4:56 PM

    Thanks for your review! I was at Fry's and used my cellphone to look up your review. Your review saved me much headache and money!!!

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  4. Anonymous12:41 PM

    Thank you Broo!! I have been researchin for days my diff home storage opts when I saw this in the Fry's ad. Did a Google search and found your review which saved me a 35 min drive to the store just to get p*ssed and have to drive back and stand in the return line for an hour. Great review, excellent detail and pics a plus!

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  5. Thanks so much for the review. I was going to buy this as oppose to the Airlink NAS at frys. Thanks much!

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  6. I purchased this device and noticed no fan as I was about to install the hard drives. I have some extra PC fans so I am contemplating drilling holes in the plastic sides and mounting the large fans on the outside. The power supply that came with the device is rated for 12VDC @ 5A. Each hard drive require 12VDC/0.55A so it should be able to handle 2 hard drives, two fans, and the circuit board which most like draws around 250 mA. I don't have the fans in front of me or I'd list their power requirements.

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  7. 11bravo8:43 PM

    Thank you Broo. Like another poster, you saved me (2) trips to Frys, 1 to buy and 1 to return. I appreciate the time it takes to post this reviews for the benefit of others.

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  8. Anonymous1:35 PM

    Dear Reviewer's and customers. We appreciate your reviews and feedback. We at IOCELL have taken your comments seriously and have redesigned the 352UN to address this problem by adding substantial venting and a fan. The new model will be shipping in about two weeks and under certain circumstances will be willing to ship some replacement units for testing and reviews. We apologize for any problems you may have experienced. Please contact support@iocellnetworks.com.

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  9. Anonymous9:45 PM

    IOCELL support, how do we know which version we will get, the old one or the new one?

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  11. Wow, seriously impressed with IOCell. That ain't too shabby their reply. I was thinking I could simply add the fan, I'm covered up with them (I've saved them from systems since 1994) Been using my fans for fish tank, hermit crab, and pc projects for years.

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  12. Anonymous1:43 AM

    Note that it must be attached via a switch, not a hub.

    The single bay models also support
    USB and eSATA as well as ethernet.

    Despite allegedly working with a switch, when connected via my
    Netgear GS608 gigabit switch,
    the NetDISK software couldn't see
    the drive (my PC was connected
    to the GS608 too).

    When both were connected to a Linksys WRT54G2, the PC could see
    the NetDISK ... and got about 8 MByte/sec speed. USB got about 32 MB/sec. As a local hard drive
    I got 118 MB/sec.

    I'm returning the device.

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  13. Anonymous5:02 PM

    I had the same issue about NetDisk software unable to see the drive. That was like 3 years ago when I got the NetGear WGPS606 to hook my NetDisk NDU-160 (yea I got it when it came out) to my router wirelessly. I called NetGear, they were no help. I called NetDisk, they try to help but at then end they blame NetGear. Story short, I gave up and got myself another Linksys. If you are reading this NetDisk... please get with NetGear and fix this issue.

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  14. Anonymous5:56 PM

    I'm using Ximeta stuff for years, and it was bullet proof. I look for the latest drivers, get sent to a NDAS Survey, apparently hosted by IOCELL. Ok. No more Ximeta? Anyway, put in my idea to beef up NDAS etc. Then I browse around and see the 352.

    Hey, 2 disks, one NDAS Key! SATA speed & Gbps! Exciting. So do homework. Next land on broo's blog. Looks bad. Meanwhile I open the email. Here is a 25% off coupon in the email to use at the the IOCELL online shop. So I wonder, are they dying to do a sell off or what?

    Go back to Iocell and see they listened to broo and put a fan in the 352. Maybe these guys are listening? I should have put more ideas in the survey?

    Now, can anybody tell me that they have a new 352 that works without getting hot. Please let me know before I toss my cash into a 25% off drive toaster!

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  15. I just bought one and it has a FAN!

    but I can't even format my 2 1.5T HD without the device disconnecting.

    I've tried the latest drivers and various options for configuration (raid 0, stipped, etc).

    I have two older Ximeta single drive enclosures that they work great.

    About to return everything.

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  16. Thanks a ton mate!! You saved my money. I was about to purchase it from Fry's but thank God i googled before making the payment.

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  17. I brought the newer 325ND w/ fan. But it is disconnecting during large file transfer > 2 GB.

    It was not too hot on touch. Just warm. So not sure if this is thermal issue.

    I connect directly to the computer and also on the router. Both same result.

    I really like the idea of NDAS and I brought the one bay version 351UNE.

    It is working quite well. Have been able to transfer > 20 GB so far. And watch HD movies from it.

    But the 352ND is still a big disappointment. If it worked, I could have a 4 TB solution.

    BTW, my harddrive is Samsung 1TB RAID version.

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  18. Forget to ask if any one has luck with the 352ND?

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  20. I have the newer version of the 352ND which was sent in as a replacement by IOcell promptly. I'm impressed with the company's customer service.
    I have been using it without much issue with a single 500GB drive for backups. Transfer rates over the LAN are good. I've heard that RAID configurations are handled by the software, and will slow the data transfer speeds.
    I like the fact that it can also be hooked by LAN cable to any PC and used like a directly attached external storage.
    The single speed fan keeps it cool, but is too loud and I have to power it off before going to bed. This leads to issue of running a disk scan via the Vista PC, before the 'net-disk' can be reused for backups. (You can also opt to un-mount it before putting the PC to sleep.)
    I gave up on using it from my Mac, as it can only be read-write for one system at a time, and doesn't work well over wifi.
    So for multiple PC's, the disks can be NTFS formatted. (for cross platform, format as FAT from the Mac, not FAT32 from the PC, since it has a 2GB file limit)
    In short, this is a cost effective solution if:
    1. You have multiple PC's in a SOHO setup.
    2. You have all of them wired to a fast (Gigabit) network.
    3. You want to use this as shared backup device, and not as a shared data store.
    4. You may use it as a Data Store, but set it up in RAID 1 (mirror) configuration, if slower speed don't matter to your work flow.

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  21. Really thorough article there Broo. There is a newer version on the market now, its the NetDISK 351UNE and doesnt have that problem. Thing is...IOCELL only make the shell, the hard drive is put in externally by whoever the distributor has partnered with. Anyway...new version is unreal!!
    FYI to all: you can get it cheapest online from IOCELL's website

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  22. Just got the 352UN. Opened it up and tried to slide a WD 1TB Caviar Black HDD into the chasis.
    The screw on the HDD binds on the aluminum case so much that it won't go in. Not wanting to use a hammer, it won't go in side A or B. I'm going to remove the electronics and then file the rail.
    Can't imagine why quality control doesn't find
    stuff like this.

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