Iomega StorCenter ix2

March 3, 2009

Designed for small networks, the 1TB Iomega StorCenter ix2 ($299.99) offers built-in RAID and some nice security features in a compact device, and it’s a snap to install. Its write performance is less than stellar, however, and the drives are not user-replaceable.

On the outside, there’s nothing fancy about the ix2. A plain, dark gray case measuring 4.9×3.2×7.9 inches (HWD) sports a blue power light on the front that also serves as a drive activity light. A secondary light blinks red when you use the Blink function to identify the device (in cases where more than one device is installed on the network). Other than that, there are no indicators, such as those found on ZyXel’s NSA220, to tell you what is going on with each individual drive or if the network connection is experiencing a problem. Around back are a Gigabit Ethernet port, the power jack, a reset switch, and two USB ports for connecting peripherals such as printers, cameras, and external storage devices. While it’s nice to have USB connectivity, the ports would be much more useful if they were mounted on the front, for easy access. The ix2 supports DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) and UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) devices and can upload data from Bluetooth devices, too.

Inside the tiny case are two Seagate 500GB drives spinning at 7,200 rpm and a small cooling fan (a 2TB version of the ix2 is available for $479.99). The ix2 is a sealed unit and as such is not meant to be opened by anyone other than an authorized Iomega technician; if a drive goes bad, you have to ship it off to the factory for repair rather than replace it yourself. The drives are configured for RAID Level 1 mirroring at the factory, which means you only get 438GB of total storage, but you can reconfigure them for RAID Level 0 if you prefer more capacity—though you’ll run the risk of losing data if one drive goes down. In addition to RAID, the ix2 offers built-in encryption protection via RSA’s BSAFE virus encryption technology.

Installing the ix2 is a breeze. We hooked the device up to our DHCP-enabled router using the included Ethernet cable, powered it up, and ran the Solutions CD, which installs the StorCenter Manager application and EMC Retrospect backup software. Within minutes the software scanned our network and found the ix2, which was assigned an IP address by the router and added to the Windows My Network Places group. During the initial setup you can create an administrator username and password, select a name for the ix2, and provide an e-mail address for alerts.

You can access StorCenter Manager by clicking on the icon in My Network Places or by entering the ix2’s IP address in your browser. The user interface is very straightforward and easy to navigate and is broken down into five tabbed pages to help you manage the device. The Home page contains a hotkey that launches the Retrospect backup and restore program, a fairly intuitive application that automatically backs up your entire drive or specific files, folders, and drives and creates a restore point for easy retrieval. This page also has a file search function and lets you set up user accounts and create shared folders, which you can also do via the User and Shared Folder pages.

The Dashboard displays drive statistics such as free, used, and total drive space, and you can check the status of backup operations and attached peripherals at a glance. Finally, the Settings page is where you set the time and date, create groups, set up network services such as FTP, SNMP, and Windows File Sharing, and configure the Media and Print server features. You can also manage the hard drives by enabling RAID and write caching, and there’s an Erase function that overwrites both drives, rendering your data virtually unrecoverable.

The ix2 runs cool and is fairly quiet, but its write performance was merely middle of the road. It needed 19 minutes and 49 seconds to write a 10GB folder containing a mixture of data and media files, which is a full 4 minutes slower than the ZyXel NSA220 but on a par with Netgear’s ReadyNAS Duo. On the plus side, it read the same folder in 12 minutes and 47 seconds, which is one of the fastest read times we’ve seen. Iomega provides a standard one-year warranty for the ix2 and offers an extended two-year plan for an additional $149.95.

The Iomega ix2 is a good choice for users seeking a small network storage device that provides media and print server capabilities, is easy to manage, and offers an impressive security feature set. We just wish it offered user-replaceable drives and a bit more feedback on the front panel.

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