Icy Box NAS IB-NAS2000 Page: 1
Introduction

So you're running your own small network and you're desperately in need of a solution that will allow you to share files with your friends/colleagues. Sharing folders on your own machine is one way around this, but it requires that you keep your PC turned on 24/7 in order for others to be able to access your share whenever needed. The common solution to this problem is to install a server, but this can be very costly - both in terms of purchasing the hardware and the cost of having the power hungry server running day and night. This is where network attached storage comes in...

Network Attached Storage (or NAS for short) is essentially a unit containing any number of hard disks controlled by a stripped down operating system (often Linux). In its most complex form, a NAS unit used by a large organisation will be a multi-terabyte RAID array racked in either a 1u, 2u or larger chassis. Of course this might be a little bit over the top for most of us, and this is where single disk NAS units such as the Icy Box IB-NAS2000 come in to play.


Packaging

With external storage becoming more of the 'norm' recently, manufacturers often turn to their packaging design in an attempt to capture the attention of passing consumers. The Icy Box has done this nicely, using a range of bright colours on a black background along with images of the Icy Box being modelled by female silhouettes.

Icy Box NAS Packaging Icy Box NAS Packaging

The Icy Box's specifications can be found on the side and back of the box in both German and English. Some of the more notable features include: USB2 Support, 10/100Mbit Ethernet port, Samba/NFS/FTP support and an anodised aluminium casing.

Icy Box NAS Packaging Icy Box NAS Packaging

Packaged inside a single walled cardboard box and held firmly in place with a shaped cardboard insert, the Icy Box should be able to take a fair few knocks from clumsy couriers if purchased over the Internet. Also included in the box are the following items to get you up and running:

• Icy Box manual (b/w).
• Installation CD.
• RJ45 network cable.
• USB cable.
• Power pack and mains cable.
• Hard disk mounting screws
• Icy Box enclosure.



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Specifications

The following information has been taken directly from RaidSonic's website:

• For home and office networks
• ARM9-technology
• Number of users and groups not limited
• Easy configuration via web browser
• Supports 3.5” PATA (IDE) HDDs of any size
• Use ext2, ext3 or fat32 filesystem
• Host link via Ehternet or USB interface possible
° 10 Mbit/s / 100 Mbit/s Ethernet Interface
° USB 2.0 Interface (480 Mbit/s)
• 3 Server in one
° Samba server (for Windows network shares, Mac OS X)
° NFS Server (for Unix, Linux)
° FTP Server (Remote access via Internet)
• UPnP service for network support
• Controllable fan with tree-step switch (off/low/high)
• Front display for power-status, operating-status (NAS or USB) and data access
• Case noiseless
• Low power consumption
• External data cables inclusive
• Aluminium case
• External power supply AC: 100~240 V


Appearance

It's clear to see that RaidSonic were going for 'elegant' when they designed the Icy Box IB-NAS2000 enclosure. Constructed almost entirely out of black anodised brushed aluminium with a silver trim, the Icy Box would certainly blend in very well with a high end PC case.

Icy Box NAS Front Icy Box NAS Back

Icy Box NAS Side Icy Box NAS Side

The front of the Icy Box contains 4 LED's responsible for showing the current status of the unit. From here, you can tell when the unit has power, when the hard disk is being accessed and whether the unit is connected via USB or Network. Around the side of the unit is a circular meshed grill that provides optimal ventilation for the 40mm fan responsible for cooling the hard disk.

Icy Box NAS Back Icy Box NAS Back

The back of the IB-NAS2000 features a bank of 3 connectors for providing the unit with power and connecting it to your machine via either USB or Network. Further down the back we can also see a 3-way switch for adjusting the internal fan speed and an inset reset switch for restoring the unit to factory settings.



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Installation

It goes without saying that setting up a NAS does involve a little more work than simply plugging in a USB pen drive. However, credit has to be given to RaidSonic for producing a well written and detailed manual for getting everything up and running - and I must admit referring to the manual on a few occasions when the Icy Box got the better of me.

In case you didn't already know, the Icy Box IB-NAS2000 requires an IDE hard disk and unfortunately doesn't provide support for the newer SATA standard. IDE is not likely to hinder the performance of the unit, as USB and especially 100Mbit networks will create more of a bottleneck but SATA compatibility would be useful in future versions of the Icy Box as availability of high capacity IDE drives is becoming sparse.

icy Box NAS Inside

In order to open up the Icy Box, 2 screws from the base of the unit and 2 from the back need to be removed. Once inside the unit, you will find a small plastic bag containing the screws and plastic mounts required for installing your hard disk.

Icy Box NAS Hard Disk Icy Box NAS Installed

Two rubber mounts need to be screwed into both sides of the hard disk. The not only provide an effective way of keeping the hard disk in place but also help to dampen vibrations and noise. Once these are installed, the hard disk can be plugged in and seated inside the Icy Box.

Home Format

Providing your network is able to assign devices IP addresses via DHCP and DNS is configured correctly, you will be able to connect to the Icy Box administration web page by visiting http://icybox. Should this not work, the manual provides instructions on how to configure the Icy Box to work with your network. You will also find a utility for detecting the Icy Box on the included CD.

Once you have logged in to the administration site, the first thing to do is format your hard disk (if it doesn't already contain data). The Icy Box is able to read FAT32, EXT2 and EXT3 file systems but unfortunately not NTFS or some Linux-Based file system such as Reiserfs or XFS. If your hard disk is already formatted in an unsupported filesystem, the Icy Box will fail to power on as I found out first hand when trying to use it with an XFS formatted disk.

Network Users

Should you need to manually configure the IP address of the Icy Box, change its hostname, change the FTP server port or enable/disable services this can also be done easily from the admin panel.

New Share File Server

Adding new users and groups to the system is a breeze, and can be done by simply entering the desired username and password. Each user or group can also be assigned their own storage quota to prevent them from consuming all of your hard disk space. Setting up passworded folders (or 'shares') can also be performed in a similar way as seen above.



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Benchmarks

In order to benchmark the performance of the IB-NAS2000 we will be running two sets of tests. The first will be using a freely available hard disk benchmarking tool named HDTach. This will produce results of the Icy Box using USB against the speed of the hard disk connected directly to the test PC. The second test will be a comparison of the time it takes to copy several files of various sizes (totalling 1.5gb) from the test machine over to the Icy Box using both USB and Network connection methods. The following equipment was used during the testing:

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E6700
Motherboard: Asus P5B-Deluxe (USB2)
Network: 100Mb/s via ZyXel Prestige 650 Router/Hub.
Hard Disk: Maxtor 4D040K2 40GB IDE 5400RPM

Icy Box Nas HDTach Icy Box HDTach Average

As expected, the results obtained from the hard disk installed inside the test PC were much higher than the results from the Icy Box connected via USB. This is primarily down to the internal IDE bus being able to cope with significantly higher throughput than the USB bus. However, to put these results into perspective the Icy Box managed very similar results to those obtained from a 'Metal Gear' USB enclosure used in a recent review.

Icy Box NAS Network

Despite the burst speed of the Icy Box NAS being significantly lower than the Internal IDE speeds in the HDTach tests above, the actual real world difference in transfer speed was less noticeable with only a 20 second disadvantage when using USB over having the disk directly connected via IDE.

Unfortunately the transfer speeds via the network were slightly less impressive, taking just under 7 minutes to transfer the same 1.5gb of files. This could possibly indicate that the Icy Box NAS would benefit from a Gigabit network interface.



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Conclusion

The RaidSonic Icy Box NAS is a very classy looking external storage solution that would look great next to any PC or around the home/office. With its brushed aluminium exterior and speed adjustable cooling fan, you can be certain that even the hottest of hard disks will be adequately cooled ensuring faultless operation.

Both the included manual and the Web based administration interface make setting up the unit extremely easy, and the ability to create users and private shares make the Icy Box NAS suitable for SOHO (Small Office Home Office) use.

Unfortunately the IB-NAS2000 does seem to be slightly behind the rest of the market in its specifications having no support for SATA hard disks or Gigabit Ethernet. Had both of these features been present on the IB-NAS2000 I'm fairly confident that we could have seen some better results both in the USB and Network benchmarks.

With a price tag of around £75 on several sites (Kenable.co.uk / Axia) and no hard disk included, the IB-NAS2000 does seem a little over priced - especially when you consider that NAS solutions with 200gb+ hard disks and Gigabit Ethernet from other manufacturers can be purchased for around £120.

Pro's
• Stylish Aluminium enclosure.
• Easy to configure via Web interface.
• Detailed manual.
• Good performance over USB.
• Adjustable fan speed.

Con's
• IDE interface. Getting harder to find large capacity IDE drives.
• 10/100Mbit Ethernet. Would benefit from Gigabit Ethernet.
• Very pricey at most retailers.



Thanks to RaidSonic for providing this item for review.

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