As data backup and media servers become more prevalent, they also become more complicated, with ever more devices to sync and ways to store information. Today, Iomega released a new NAS appliance that can serve as both a backup device and a media server with a view to streamlining the setup process for home or small business users, while implementing a few features that are more commonly seen in larger-scale networked servers.
The newest iteration of Iomega's NAS appliance line, the dual-drive StorCenter ix2-200, has many of the features that you'd want to see in a media server or a backup target. As a backup device, the StorCenter can be set up as a Time Machine target for Macs and for remote access, so that the user can manage and upload or download files from anywhere with an Internet connection. It has three USB ports that allow direct interaction with other devices, such as external drives or a printer (the unit can act as a print server).
Iomega's put quite a few other bells and whistles into this NAS. The unit can stream media to Xbox 360 & PS3 consoles, and to many iTunes-compatible music devices. It's also Bluetooth-capable, allowing a smart phone to sync with it, but this requires the separate purchase of a USB-Bluetooth dongle. The StorCenter is VMware-certified as an iSCSI and NFS storage device, supports direct streaming from up to five Axis network cameras, and can even serve as a BitTorrent client.
One of the more interesting features for backup use is the device-to-device replication. The StorCenter can be set up to perform any number of "copy jobs" to sync data automatically to and froms various devices and files at scheduled intervals. It also has a QuikTransfer button on its front, to which you can attach any number of copy jobs that will be performed automatically when pressed, rather than having to wait for scheduled maintenance. For example, if you regularly import videos to your computer and want them backed up, synced to the computer upstairs, and put on another external hard drive you carry with you, you can plug the drive into the StorCenter, press the copy button, and voila! It's all done at once! (Of course, you have to set it up that way first. It's a button, not a mind-reader.) The media server features are pretty standard. A slideshow program is included for viewing pictures, and there's another program to automatically pull pictures from digital cameras when they are plugged into the StorCenter. While the StorCenter's media can be accessed by remote devices, it has no ports for direct connection to a TV.
One feature that sounds particularly useful is the StorCenter's ability to handle torrents. It comes with a torrent client pre-installed, and once the torrents are seeded it will pull data directly to its hard drive, so you don't have to leave your computer on and online all night to make sure you can spend all day tomorrow catching up on TV shows. I mean, reading literature that is firmly in the public domain.
The setup and maintenance of the device is conducted through a web UI, through which the user wields quite a bit of power. The drives run off EMC LifeLine software, and have RAID 1 configurations, iSCSI block-level access (admittedly not crucial for the targeted home/small office audience, but there if you need it), and use RSA encryption. The drive is also intended to be "greener" and run cooler than previous iterations.
As far as a replacement for Apple products goes, the StorCenter can't fully replace both an Apple TV and a Time Capsule, as it lacks some of the media capabilities and isn't a Wi-Fi base station. However, it does have features neither of these products have, such as RAID support and the device-to-device replication services. The StorCenter is available starting today in 1TB (2x500GB) and 2TB (2x1TB) models, for $269.99 and $369.99, respectively. A 4TB model will be released later this month, and will cost $699.99. Mac users need Mac OS X 10.3 or higher to run the configuration app, and a Gigabit Ethernet port is preferable for maximum throughput to the NAS.