The DNS-321 is a Network Attached Storage enclosure that will hold 2 SATA hard drives. It is intended for the home and home office and is ideal for storing and serving up entertainment media like video, picture, and audio files. The DNS-321 comes with Ethernet Gigabit connectivity and couple it with green drives and it hardly sips energy. The DNS-321 can be had for under $100 if you shop around. This makes it ideal for a home environment.
Installation is quite simple for anyone with even a bit of computer expertise. The included CD comes with the D-Link Easy Search Utility but if you know how to locate a device on your network, you can just plug the DNS-321 into your router and access it via a web browser.
The DNS will hold up to 2 3.5” hard drives and supports “Standard”, JBOD, Raid 0, and Raid 1 configurations. You can research what those terms mean but it seems most people prefer Raid 1 as basically everything is written to the 2 drives simultaneously. That means if one drive goes down, the other will continue without you losing your data. I personally have only one 1.5 TB drive configured in Standard mode which means the NAS treats it like a standard drive in any enclosure.
To install a drive, you just lift up the faceplate of the unit, slide the drive into the chosen slot, and replace the faceplate. Once the drive is in place it will then be formatted by the NAS. This means that if you have any data on the drive it will be erased. Also once it is formatted one way, you will have to reformat to switch to one of the other configurations (like Raid 1).
Other than the storage features, the DNS-321 comes with very useful features such as a built in FTP server, iTunes server, scheduling utility, and user / group security options including the ability to set quotas. It will even alert you by email if something is going wrong such as a drive failure or if a drive reaches a defined temperature threshold.
This is where the DNS-321 really shines. When I measured power consumption, I found it consumed 4 watts of power in sleep mode and 14 watts when in use. Others have reported 6 watts in sleep mode. Obviously, it will consume more power when there are 2 drives installed. I only have one. Based on these values, I calculated my cast to leave the NAS on at all times to be less than $0.25 per month. However I am in an area with the lowest electricity rates on the continent.
Using the NAS
The DNS-321 comes with its own UPnP AV server so once it is connected and configured, it should be seen by devices like the WDTV Live, or Asus Air. I personally have a WDTV Live, a D-Link media extender, a Slingcatcher, and an SMC music player. Until I installed the NAS, the only way for me to access my media was to have my computer on or to attach a USB drive. Also, I had to run server software for my devices to see the content on my PC. Now with the NAS my computer can be off and I can still get to my files. I was also able to turn off my PC’s server software – nice.
Unfortunately, the rest of my review is not so complimentary. I have a GB router and a GB switch. Unfortunately my computer’s network adapter is 10/100 so I cannot achieve GB Ethernet speeds. The best speed I have seen so far is about 5 Mb/sec which is what I would expect from a 10/100 connection. However a friend with the same NAS and a GB connection throughout was only able to achieve about 7 Mb/sec – nowhere near what GB should do. In researching this on the net, the best you can expect is about 20 Mb/sec but it may take some fine-tuning to get there.
It gets worse from there. What I have found is that since I have installed the NAS, my system is quite a bit more fragile than before. Firstly, I do not dare to copy more than 4 GB at a time to the NAS. If I am transferring many small files (like when I moved my pictures) I have to do it in small steps. Also, when I do a copy to the NAS I have to be sure to not multitask too much. If I do not take these precautions, I can expect my computer to freeze or experience a BSOD. Similarly, I have yet to do a Drive Image backup to the NAS where the archived image has passed validation. I was told that turning off the AV UPnP server often eliminates the stability issues. Unfortunately, that’s why I bought it in the first place.
I wish I could say that that is a situation unique to me. After all, mine is an old computer with its share of problems. However, I can tell you of others with similar experiences in XP, Vista, and Windows 7.
For me, the DNS-321 is a work-in-progress. I need to get myself a GB network adaptor for my computer to experience better speeds but even after that I think it will take some troubleshooting.
The instability that I have been experiencing is something that I hope will be addressed by future firmware upgrades. For the moment I just have to remember not to ask it do so much at a time.