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3/26/2009
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Seagate Surfaces With New Linux NAS Offerings

Small businesses looking for cheap, reliable storage solutions now have another interesting option to ponder, courtesy of Seagate.

Small businesses looking for cheap, reliable storage solutions now have another interesting option to ponder, courtesy of Seagate.There are a number of network-attached storage (NAS) products on the market that are suitable for smaller businesses. But this was a market where Seagate, one of the world's biggest storage hardware vendors, had been conspicuously absent -- until now.

With its BlackArmor NAS product line, Seagate is re-introducing a brand it acquired after purchasing Maxtor back in 2006. The BlackArmor NAS 440, at the top of Seagate's new NAS lineup, supports up to four 2TB hot-swappable drives. Its Linux-based firmware allows users to set up RAID 0/1/5/10 or JBOD options and supports full-system backups, bare-metal restores, and data encryption, among other management features.

LinuxDevices.com has a more detailed summary of the BlackArmor NAS, including some photos. Purchase information, including PDF data sheets, are available at Seagate's Web site.

It looks like the BlackArmor NAS will be a great deal right out of the gate: A NAS 440 equipped with four 2TB drives will retail for around $2,000, and less expensive models will sell for as little as $600. According to Seagate, the BlackArmor NAS is suitable for use in business environments with up to 50 desktop users, depending on the model and amount of storage.

For some reason, Seagate isn't disclosing what type of processor its NAS boxes will run, although we do know that they will use a 1.2GHz CPU and 256MB of RAM. Similar, Linux-based NAS boxes from other vendors work on a variety of hardware architectures: Both Bell Microproducts (maker of the Hammer Storage MyShare NAS series) and HP's Media Vault products, for example, feature ARM-based processors made by Marvell, while Netgear's highly-regarded ReadyNAS products use a system-on-a-chip processor architecture licensed from Infrant.

All of these products, by the way, generally retail for less than $2,000 -- a price that appears to represent the current "sweet spot" for small business-ready NAS hardware. A four-drive, 4TB NetGear ReadyNAS, for example, sells for around $1,800. And at the low-end, a product like HP's mv2100 is available for less than $300, although this end of the NAS market is really more suitable for consumer or SOHO users than for small businesses.

If all of these acronyms and buzzwords look like gibberish to you, by the way, don't panic. The folks at NetworkComputing.com have some solid, easy to understand NAS guides that will help to demystify the subject. Another site, NAS Devices, offers a comparison chart listing almost every NAS product on the market; although it isn't exhaustive by any means, it provides a decent starting point for business buyers.

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