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Western Digital ShareSpace Lightning Review [Western Digital]

02 Oct

The Gadget: Western Digital's ShareSpace Storage is a steely, cubular vault of NAS with fast Gigabit ethernet that brings enterprise-level centralized storage down to the small business and deathcore nerd space, with 2TB or 4TB capacities in multiple RAID configurations out of the box.

The Price: $699 for 2TB, $999 for 4TB (tested)

Verdict It's a cubular vault of 4TB of basically enterprise-class networked storage that sits on your desk and feels like it could stop a round from the world's deadliest carbine—what's not to like?

It's basically impossible to test actual drive reliability in the short span of review time (though everyone has their own opinion about which companies they love or loathe), so really what it comes down to here is ease of installation—which WD is touting heavily, so you won't need an IT geek—and features.

Western Digital's software walks you through most of the setup, though I still had to manually map the network drives in Vista, and Bonjour didn't automatically pick it up on my roommate's Mac. More frustrating is that despite having a gigabit router and using gigabit cables, I did not see gigabit speeds out of the box—or at all, with transfer speeds hovering around 10.5MB/s writing and 12MB/s pulling data. The default RAID5 configuration in the 4TB model (which balances redundancy against eating whole hard drives, leaving you with 2.66TB actually free) is noted for its relatively poor write performance compared to RAID1, and you'd be better off performance-wise with the latter if you're planning on doing a lot of write-intensive stuff, but that still doesn't explain the gap here.

It also comes with their automatic backup and remote access programs, Anywhere Backup and Mionet, though they annoyingly only give you three licenses for the latter, so if you've got four computers you want to continuously back up, you'll have to get another license. But whatever, the best feature is the built-in iTunes music server, which worked flawlessly. Dump a whole bunch of music into the shared music folder and it automatically shows up as a networked source in iTunes and showed up like magic on my PC and roommate's Mac.

Another (small) aggravation is that it's not hot swappable, so if you want to pop out one of the drives and maybe drop in a 1.5TB drive, you have to power the whole thing down. But I can almost forgive that since three USB ports let you plug other external drives into the box to expand storage even further.

While it's definitely overkill for average home usage, if you're that serious about centralized storage (like if you're if prosumer photographer) or you know, actually running a small business, despite its handful of flaws, if you've got the cash, it's definitely worth looking at. [Western Digital]

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