Cisco NSS 324 Smart Storage review
Expensive, but quiet and well featured with a good turn of speed, and it's backed up by a five-year warranty
Review Date: 31 Aug 2010
Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell
Price when reviewed: £1,075 (£1,263 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Cisco failed to impress on its last visit to the lab, when its NSS2000 was found wanting for features and performance. Its new NSS 300 Smart Storage family aims to remedy these shortcomings.
At the heart of this desktop unit beats a dual-core Atom 1.66GHz D510 processor partnered by a decent 1GB of DDR2 memory. The appliance can be purchased diskless for under £700 and supports the latest 2TB SATA drives. The unit on review had a quartet of 1TB WD drives preinstalled but the sturdy metal drive carriers also have extra mounting holes marked for 2.5in SFF hard disks.
The NSS 324 has a superior feature set to the NSS2000, presented in a smart web interface. Along with support for Windows, Mac and Linux clients you can use local or AD authentication and, unlike the NSS2000, there's no limit to the number of client connections.
The appliance can run an FTP server, supports IP SANs and offers AES-256 volume encryption. It can host websites using a built-in MySQL database server and run WordPress for hosting blogs.
Multimedia features are extensive and include a UPnP media server, iTunes server and a Multimedia Station. The latter allows you to create albums of photos and videos and publish them online as web galleries.
The NSS 324 has five USB and two eSATA ports, which tie in with the integral backup services so you can schedule copies of selected volumes to external devices. Appliances can be synchronised using the rsync service and the One Touch Backup feature links up with the front USB port and button to run immediate copies to and from plugged-in devices.
It's no slouch for performance either. Copying a 2.52GB video clip to and from a Broadberry dual 2.8GHz X5560 Xeon rack with Windows Server 2008 R2 returned average read and write speeds of around 61MB/sec. FTP speeds were good as well, with the FileZilla client showing speeds of 79MB/sec and 73MB/sec respectively.
The Download Station can retrieve remote files over HTTP or FTP, and this returned speeds of 50MB/sec. The appliance supports up to eight iSCSI targets with a top read speed of 101MB/sec for a 50GB target.
Cisco has redesigned the web interface but it offers a very similar set of features. Unlike Qnap, Cisco doesn't offer any workstation backup software and you can't upgrade the NSS 324 to use the Surveillance Station for recording the feeds from IP cameras.
It's no surprise there's nothing between them for performance, but the Cisco alternative does cost significantly more. If you want features and the lowest price then the Qnap TS-459 is your best bet, but Cisco offers greater peace of mind as the NSS 324 comes with a generous five year warranty, with the first year including full telephone and chat support.
Author: Dave Mitchell
Thanks for the review!
Just wanted to clarify one point on surveillance. While it’s true that you cannot upgrade to include the QNAP Surveillance Station software, you can use other surveillance software, including the Cisco SWVMS16 Video Monitoring System, to record feeds from IP cameras to Smart Storage.
In addition to the longer warranty you mention, we added applications that extend security beyond the NAS and make network management easier (integrated RADIUS and syslog servers), as well as added apps that make it better for small businesses (not just a web server but integrated WordPress as well).
More apps to come in the future – always interested in hearing what you’d like to see on the roadmap.
Leigh Martin, Marketing Manager for Cisco Smart Storage
By leigh_at_cisco on 1 Sep 2010
Peace of Mind
Peace of Mind -- that is exactly why I am NOT buying a QNAP unit!
Not only do they only provide a 1 year warranty, they do not honor that warrenty directly. You MUST work through the reseller if the unit has problems.
In my book that puts QNAP out of the running.
Thank you so much for this review on the Cisco offering. I only hope that Cisco will continue developing this line for small / medium companies.
Since Cisco seems to monitor this forum, I will add that a rack-mount configuration would be great to see in the line-up.
By MikeyLikesIt on 3 Feb 2011
It is a QNAP -- just discovered that!
So I have been reading more, and just discovered that the NSS324 is OEM by QNAP. Ha! What do you know, it is a QNAP!!!
Seems like a good marriage -- QNAP makes a nice box but can't quite figure out how to stand behind it.
Cisco has the "stand behind it" part down.
By MikeyLikesIt on 3 Feb 2011
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