This is the second post in the SMB/LAB NAS review. This review compares the following products on features and performance:

Cisco NSS324
** – **Iomega IX4-200d
** – **Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 6
** – **QNAP TS-859U-RP+
** – **Synology RS1511+

Today I describe my experiences with the Cisco NSS 324. It is a 4-bay SOHO NAS device by Cisco. Well by Cisco … June 2010 Cisco teamed up with QNAP to create the Cisco NSS300 series. This is a series of 2, 4 and 6 bay NAS devices comparable to the QNAP X59 Pro series.

From the outside they look pretty similar only the Cisco looks a bit more slick and the trays have an easier locking system (no key required). From the inside (management and features) it is, say 95%, equal to the QNAP, and that is great since it is packed with a lot of features.

Cisco NSS324 Basics:
# Disks : 4
# Hot swappable: Yes
# CPU : Intel Atom D510 1,66 Ghz Dual Core
# RAM : 1 GB DDR2
# FLASH : 512 MB
# Protocols : NFS, CIFS, iSCSI, AFB/Bonjour

I do have to say though; when I found out that Cisco OEMed QNAP devices, I had a strong hope that they would have their own firmware with a much more business-minded interface and feature set. Now I see that they have kept features like an iTunes server and a Multimedia server available. Sure small business also use multimedia but not like this. In my opinion; a missed chance. One of the things that Cisco does do great is to give the customer the option for a support contract. And this support contract consists of 3 years of tech support, software updates, 24/7 on-line chat support, NBD hardware replacement and more for a price of only $149,=.

Cisco delivered us an NSS324 with 4 2TB disks. The test I did have been with other disks (WD1002FBYS) since I want to compare the NAS devices itself, not the disks; those are replaceable. The disks Cisco delivered with our model are WD20EVDS disks. These are 5400RPM, 32 MB cache GreenPower disks with 3 years of warranty. These disks aren’t the fastest but are very quiet and consume minimal power. Personally I prefer performance over power consumption, definitely in a business environment, so I would choose a more enterprise-level disk like the WD1002FBYS or something)..

The Cisco has an onscreen display with a menu and 2 buttons that allow you to start building your initial RAID set, even if you haven’t attached it to your network. It also gives you the possibility to setup the IP configuration. Works OK but they did forget the “back” button which can be frustrating sometimes! It also has a USB port at the front with a copy-button. Great for attaching a USB thumb drive or external drive and copy a set of files one way or the other without the need for a computer/web interface.

For virtualization the Cisco is certified and gives you the ability to create multiple iSCSI targets with LUNs which can be claimed directly or dynamically.image

What works very nice is that you don’t have to initially claim how much space you want to use for iSCSI LUNs and how much for the shares/folders you create on the EXT4 volume. The NAS handles this space dynamically and that a great feature!

Overall the Cisco NSS324 is a great NAS with loads of features and equipped with the right disks it performs well too. Especially the fact that you can get a support contract for it for an acceptable price makes this one of the better choices for SMB companies. If you’re using it at home and don’t plan on buying or needing a support contract, I would choose a QNAP because it’s exactly the same hardware with more features for less money.

+ Business Support Contract
+ USB Copy button
– Single Power Supply
– Pricy compared to QNAP

STAY TUNED: Since this isn’t all; next week after the general reviews we’ll present to you a feature comparison and some performance indicators and of course the general conclusion.