Iomega StorCenter ix4-200d Test Drive
If you want to get
serious about backing up your data, and small businesses should,
StorCenter ix4-200d, a
four-drive network attached storage (NAS) server, is certainly a
serious piece of backup equipment.
The ix4-200d comes
with big business features — backup software from storage giant EMC
(Iomega’s parent company), RAID configuration, Gigabit Ethernet,
remote access, iSCSI support, etc. — but Iomega designed the desktop
storage server for small offices with 50 or fewer employees. It also
supports PC, Mac or Linux systems.
ix4-200d comes with either 2, 4 or
8 terabytes (TB) of storage, and it sells for $700, $900 and $1,900,
respectively. (We tested the 4TB model.) Should a drive fail, you
can replace the installed drives with standard SATA drives of any
capacity from any maker.
While even 2 TB is
probably more than most small businesses will ever need, given the rate
at which data volume keeps growing at many companies, you never know.
To put it in
perspective, one terabyte equals 1,000 gigabytes (GB). Few PCs ship with
drives larger than 500GB – and few small business employees ever store
anything close to that amount of business-related data.
The ix4-200d comes with the
drives configured for RAID, which reduces effective capacity while ensuring
more reliable storage. Essentially you use about half of the total capacity
to store your data while the other half acts as a backup of your data.
Configured in the default
RAID 5, the 4TB model provides 2.7TB of data storage capacity.
ix4-200d substantially improves on Iomega’s
previous four-drive NAS. It’s smaller, quieter, comes with a more powerful
processor (1.2GHz instead of 400MHz ) and more memory (512MB versus 256MB).
The all-new monochrome LCD
on the front panel provides status information and makes it easier to use
the product’s one-touch QuickProtect features.
The ix4-200d measures only
7.7 x 7.9 x 6.6 inches, which means it can sit on even a narrow office
shelf. The fact that it runs as quietly as it does is particularly welcome
since NAS products can be very noisy indeed.
The storage server also
includes software that provides several different kinds of backups.
Retrospect Express HD, made by EMC, looks after most backup chores, and you
can install it on as many workstations as you want.
With Retrospect, you can
back up everything or choose selected folders and file types. It will backup
only new and changed data and maintain a history of different versions of a
The software can also
backup open files, including Microsoft Office Outlook database files. This
is an important capability not available with all backup programs. It means
that unattended scheduled backups will run completely even if you leave
important files open.
The Retrospect Express user
interface (version 2.5) is a significant improvement over earlier versions
we’ve used. It’s simpler and more intuitive.
We made the mistake of
testing it on a machine running Microsoft Windows 7. While the software
performed basic functions correctly, it was somewhat unstable. EMC promises
a fully Win7-compatible version by end of October.
The new Iomega Copy Jobs
software lets you do low-level machine-to-machine copies of an entire device
— including iSCSI, the very high-speed network data transfer protocol — but
only if you have a network and other devices that support it iSCSI.
For example, you could use
Copy Jobs to create an off-site copy of your business data by regularly
copying an ix4-200d in one location to another at a remote site over a wide
Another convenient way to
move data from one drive to another: if you plug a USB drive into the port
on the front of the device, a message appears on the LCD asking if you want
to copy all its data to the NAS. Pushing one of the soft buttons beside the
LCD launches a copy job.
experience with the ix4-2009 was generally good — despite the noted problems
with Retrospect under Windows 7.
The physical installation
is simple: you plug the device into an Ethernet port on the network router
or hub using the supplied Ethernet cable, and then plug in power.
The software installation
was almost as simple. On one PC, you install both the device administration
software and the Retrospect. On other PCs, you install only the backup
The final stage of the
software installation, during which the PC restarts the software on the
device, involved messages appearing and disappearing from the PC screen too
quickly to read, with insistent beeping at each step. This was
disconcerting, but it culminated with a message saying the device was
The entire procedure took
20 minutes and went without a hitch.
It took only a few minutes
more to set up and schedule a backup using the very intuitive Retrospect
wizard that walks you step-by-step through the process of selecting the type
of backup and the folders and file types you want backed up.
The software reported a
minor error on the first run — an error related to network availability,
though, not a failure of the software. It ran flawlessly on subsequent
The StorCenter ix4-200d’s
more powerful processor may, as the company says, speed raw throughput when
compared to earlier products, but in our testing it was only marginally
faster than a two-year-old NAS drive from Buffalo Technology.
With both products and a PC
attached to the router through wired Gigabit Ethernet connections, we copied
the same 3.56GB chunk of data from the PC to each of the drives. Over a few
test runs, the difference in time taken was less than four percent.
This might make a
difference on very large initial backup or copy jobs, but on routine
differential backups where you’re typically backing up relatively small
amounts of new or changed data, it’s insignificant.
Remote access lets
authorized individuals access the device from any Internet-connected,
browser-equipped computer. If you’re visiting a customer on the other side
of the country – or world – and need a file you forgot to bring on your
laptop, you can go online and download it.
The Remote Access
capability requires a Dynamic DNS service, which keeps track of changes to a
device’s 12-digit numeric IP address and provides an alias Web address —
www.etc. — that always redirects to the device.
Iomega includes a 12-month
subscription to Dynamic DNS service from Tzolkin Corp. (TZO). When it
expires, you have to pay to maintain it.
We had a minor but
irritating difficulty setting up this feature. Messages from the software
did not make clear that we had to manually configure our network router.
(The software can automatically configure some routers, but not ours
Result: the software said
Remote Access was working, but the drive wasn’t accessible. After reading
Iomega Help files, and configuring the router using information provided —
not a difficult task, but one that may intimidate non-technical small
business people — Remote Access worked fine.
If you’re running a home
office or very small business, the
Iomega StorCenter ix4-200d NAS Server may
be overkill. But if you’re a small business with five to 50 employees and
you’re getting serious about backup — this product provides just about
everything you need.