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