So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
WD Sentinel DX4000 storage server
The Sentinel DX4000 is a good option for small offices looking for a unit with easy to use back up and remote data access features
- Decent build quality
- Relatively easy to use and maintain
- Good remote data access
- Could use better support and documentation
- Recovery process didn't work
The WD Sentinel DX4000 can be used effectively as a storage, back up, and remote access solution for small businesses. It's easy to configure back up schedules for networked computers, and setting it up for remote data access doesn't require great networking knowledge. WD needs to improve the documentation and support aspects of this device though.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Running an Intel Atom CPU and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2, the WD Sentinel DX4000 is designed for small business users who want a relatively easy solution not only for backing up data and serving files, but also for accessing data remotely. It's a four-bay NAS (network attached storage) device with dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and dual power supply connections for redundancy, and it comes in 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 12TB and 16TB configurations.
Setup for the server can be accomplished through a Web browser, and your best bet is to use Internet Explorer 8 or 9. We experienced many certificate problems when trying to access the drive using Firefox. Setting up the drive entails giving it a name and password, as well as installing updates to the system. All up, it took about 30min to prepare the server in our tests. Once the set up was complete, we were able to connect computers to it using the "Connect Computer to the Server" wizard (yes, that's what it's called). This wizard installs the software that makes the Sentinel worthwhile: Dashboard and LaunchPad. Through these applications you can access the Sentinel to back up computers, add users, add folders and change folder permissions on the server.
If you want to use the Sentinel to back up multiple computers, then you will have to run the wizard and install the Dashboard and LaunchPad software on all of them. This can be done by typing the server's name followed by "connect" in the URL (for example: http://wd-sentinel-1/connect). It's very easy to start back up procedures once you have this software installed; the server will back up your computer once in full, then it will perform incremental back ups for added and changed files every day. The back up occurs peacefully in the background. Files can be restored by browsing the back up on the server once the initial back up is complete. The initial back up can take a long time depending on the speed of your network (computers connected to a Gigabit Ethernet router will perform best).
You can access the Sentinel through the Windows network and drag and drop files to it just like any other drive, or you can map a drive location to make things easier to find. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the Sentinel is how easy it is to remotely access data that is stored on it. You'll need to set up an account with Windows Live (if you don't already have one) and use it to create a free domain name (https://xxxxx.remotewebaccess.com — where the 'xxxxx' is the name of your choosing). The next step is to give user accounts permission to access the server remotely. The only technical thing that might arise is the need to forward port 443 on your router if the server can't do it itself using UPnP (universal plug and play). We had to forward the port manually in our tests because it couldn't detect our router, but we had no problems at all in accessing the Sentinal over the Internet. It even has built-in media streaming capabilities for music and videos.
This is the remote interface when you log in through a Web browser after you've set up the Sentinel with a domain name.
The Sentinel streaming music through a browser.
By default, our two-drive, 4TB Sentinel was set up in a RAID 1 array, mirroring data on both the installed disks and giving a total formatted capacity of 1.76TB. Striping (or RAID 0) is not supported, and RAID 5 is used in models that have three or four disks installed. The disks themselves are Western Digital enterprise-class drives (WD2002FYPS) that are suitable for 24/7 operation. They sit in bays that are sturdy and they don't require tools to be removed and replaced. The levers for each bay feel strong and not at all like plastic — it's a unit that feels fairly well made compared to many NAS devices on the market. The drive bay levers can be accessed by opening the server's "front door". A single cooling fan is present and it blows warm air created by the drives out through the rear of the server.
An two-line LCD display is present on the front of the server and it's used to display the unit's IP address, drive status and capacity, as well as any important messages (such as if a back up has failed or if there is a software update available). There are dual Gigabit Ethernet ports at the rear of the server, along with two power ports, which are present for redundancy. One power supply is provided and it's an external brick similar to those used for laptops. During regular operation, the drive consumes between 30 and 40 Watts. Two USB 3.0 ports are present for attaching and sharing external drives.
While the overall user experience that the Sentinel provides is fairly good, there are some things that WD needs to work on. Recovering the server using the ISO image on WD's Web site was something that we could not get to work. The interface didn't work properly, certificate issues were persistent, the server could not be found on the network, and we experienced other errors that would not let us proceed. The chances are that you probably won't need to recover the server from scratch any time soon (unless you forget your password), but we feel it's worth mentioning nonetheless. WD tells us that the problems we faced are due to a corrupted download of the ISO file, which means we're going to have to try again. [Update: we re-downloaded and re-tried the ISO file and didn't experience the same interface issues. If you have problems with the recovery file, then downloading it again through a download manager should fix them.]
In a nutshell, the WD Sentinel is a good solution for a busy home office, or a small office with a handful of computers that require regular backing up (it supports up to 25 computers and also works with Mac OS X). Not a great deal of technical nous is required to set it up and keep it maintained. It's an effective product for storing and sharing local data, and can be relatively easily set up to allow for your data to be accessed securely over the Internet.
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