D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure ReviewNemo - January 1, 2009
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
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Storage comes in many different formats these days, from flash drives you can carry around in your pocket to massive enterprise storage area network arrays. As our lives become more media-centric, so does our need to have a repository for all those movies, photos and music files. There are many options for increasing storage space, from buying additional and larger internal drives for your computer to adding external drive enclosures. Often though, just having plenty of room to squirrel away all your digital goodies isn't the best solution. After all, what's the point of having all those media files if you can't share them with other devices on your network or even other users across the Internet?
The solution to that problem is a network attached storage (NAS) appliance. Although originally intended for enterprise class storage applications, NAS devices have evolved to the point where they are relatively compact and easy to manage and perfectly suited for SOHO and home networks. NAS units contain disk drives and connect to your network using an Ethernet cable allowing that storage to be accessed by anyone on the network. More than just a box to hold hard drives, NAS devices are miniature servers in themselves, generally running some form of embedded Linux and offering a wide range of features.
The D-Link DNS-323 is a two-bay NAS device capable of holding two SATA drives in a space not much larger than three paperback books stacked together. But don't let its small size fool you. The DNS-323 has many features normally found on units twice its size. But can this little box deliver when it comes to features and performance? There's only one way to find out!
The review unit showed up in a sturdy cardboard box that arrived relatively unscathed. Opening the box up showed the DNS-323 nestled snuggly next to two separate boxes each containing a hard drive. The shipping box was obviously designed for just this purpose because the fit was so good, no additional packaging material was required. The actual box containing the DNS-323 displays the normal marketing information with a picture of the unit on the front of the box and the rear of the box depicting the functionality and how it might fit in to a normal home network. The ends of the box are used to list the features of the DNS-323 and the package contents and system requirements. No hard drives are included in the box.
Opening the box shows the protective molded cardboard cap protecting the top of the unit. Under that, the NAS box itself is wrapped in protective plastic and sitting in a second cardboard form. Stowed beneath the bottom tray are all the accessories including a power cord, the external power supply, a Cat-5e Ethernet cable along with a quick installation guide and a CD containing a full version of the user manual, the Easy Search setup utility and a copy of the Memeo backup software.
Extracting the DNS-323 from the box reveals a fairly compact unit that is surprising sturdy and well built. Except for the front cover, the enclosure is all metal with a matte black finish. The front panel sports a vinyl sticker with instructions on how to remove the cover to gain access to the internal drive bays and is easily removed (no sticky residue here). The front cover itself is heavy plastic that simply snaps onto the enclosure. There is a square power button in the middle sporting the D-Link logo and is backlit around the edges with a blue LED. Three more blue LED indicators grace the front panel along the bottom edge – a hard drive icon for each of the two drives to indicate drive status and activity and a center icon for network status and activity. The back of the unit has two drive ejection levers on the outboard sides with a 40mm cooling fan in the middle. Along the bottom from left to right we see the power connection, the RJ45 network connection socket and a USB 2.0 connection. Flipping the unit on its side to have a look at the bottom of the case, you'll notice that instead of feet at each corner, the DNS-323 has two rubber rails running the length of the case and a graphic describing the functions of the back panel.
Next, we need to install a pair of hard drives and configure the DNS-323 so we can see how well this unit performs.