Seagate Business Storage Windows Server review: No-nonsense NAS for business

Running Microsoft's Server Essentials 2012 Workgroup edition, Seagate's Business Storage Windows Server NAS box is a good fit.

By Jon L. Jacobi, PC World |  Storage, NAS

While NAS specialists such as QNAP and Synology pile on extras that cater to the myriad needs of small business and home users, Seagate focuses on smaller feature sets suited to workgroups, larger businesses, and users who want only simple network-shared storage. Its lean and mean Business Storage Windows Server--which runs Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2012 Workgroup--is a case in point.

You don't set up this box as you would a NAS box that runs on Linux, by connecting the device to your network, typing a predefined IP address into your web browser, and having at it. You must first attach a keyboard and VGA display, and then define a password using its local interface. Once that's completed, you can remove the keyboard and display, connect it to your network, and administer the box via Remote Desktop from another Windows PC on your LAN.

This installation procedure is a pain, but it eliminates the possibility of anyone remotely accessing the box using a default password. It's also easier than installing dedicated connection software, as was necessary with older Windows-based NAS boxes. But if you ever forget the admin password, you'll need to plug in the USB key that comes with the system, restart it, and follow the menus that come up to recover. Don't lose that USB key.

The operating system on the eval unit Seagate sent (model number STDM16000100, a four-bay NAS with four 4TB drives) was set only to share files. I initialized FTP, SNMP, TELNET, and the lightweight Active Directory services (Microsoft's user-control software), but Windows Storage Server 2012 Workgroup isn't nearly as easy to configure as most Linux-based boxes. There's a server manager and some language to learn, for starters. It's all doable, but it's hardly as simple.

Managing storage isn't quite as simple, either. While the concepts are essentially the same as RAID, you'll be using Storage Spaces technology and "storage pools" (arrays, basically), and then defining the volumes (D:, E:, and so on) that sit on top. You can use all the storage, or employ simple mirroring or parity (rough equivalents of RAID 1 and RAID 5, as well as other RAID levels).

You'll probably like Storage Spaces once you've read up on some of its unique features and grown accustomed to it. But Windows Storage Server 2012 Workgroup lacks some advanced features, including data deduplication (a means of saving space by eliminating duplicate copies of data) and failover clustering (using other computers or NAS boxes for added redundancy, and to ensure that server applications remain available should one server fail). It also lacks out-of-the-box support for remote Web access and media serving. You can, however, add your own apps for those functions. I installed PacketVideo's Twonky Server and streamed all types of music and video with no difficulties.

Components and Features

All Seagate Business Storage servers sport dual gigabit ethernet connections that support link aggregation and failover. The STDM16000100 also features a 2.5-inch Universal Storage Module bay at the top of the box. USM drives have recessed SATA power and data connectors and can be paired with USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, and other interface adapters. These drives can can also dock with USM bays or docking adapters. If you buy in, USM can be extremely handy for backing up the unit and storing backups offsite. Finally, the NAS has a USB 3.0 port in front for making quick copies, and another in back for connecting USB storage devices or a printer.

The Business Storage Windows Server has a two-line, front-panel LCD that displays the IP address and various other data. There are two buttons up front for navigating and selecting options. Quick button-presses navigate, while pressing and holding either button selects an option. Having a dedicated select button would be quicker and more intuitive.

The box is sturdily built with an all-metal frame and case cover, and it runs quiet and cool. The CPU is a dual-core 2.13GHz Intel Atom D2701, paired with 4GB of RAM. This model comes with four of Seagate's ST4000DX000 hard drives (7200 rpm, 4TB capacity) mounted in four quick-change bays hidden behind the swing-open door. There is no provision for securing the drives with a lock and key.

Performance

Seagate's STB1600100 proved to be a very good reader when benchmarked, but a rather weak writer. It wrote PCWorld's 10GB mix of files and folders at 31.6MBps, and it wrote a single 10GB file at 35.8MBps. That's about half the speed the Lab recorded when it benchmarked QNAP's TS-469 Pro. On the other hand, Seagate's box read PCWorld's 10GB mix of files and folders nearly twice as fast as the TS-469 Pro, hitting 87.2MBps, and it was only a nudge slower reading a single 10GB file, at 110MBps. In practical terms, this is not a great NAS box for client backups, but I haven't anything that's faster at sharing files.

Final thoughts

If you're looking for Windows-based NAS, you could do a lot worse than the Seagate Business Storage Windows Server. It has no peer in small file serving, and it's more secure out of the box than Linux-based systems. Windows shops will love it, but consumers and other small businesses might be better off with one of the less-expensive Linux-based alternatives.

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