Cisco NSS 326 Smart Storage review

Cisco has another stab at the SMB NAS market with a range of new desktop appliances. Read this exclusive review of its NSS 326 Smart Storage to see whether it’s got it right this time.

IP SANs are on Cisco's storage menu and the NSS 326 supports up to eight iSCSI targets. These are easy to create as you select the volume they are to reside on, choose a size and activate CHAP authentication if required.

You can't daisy-chain more appliances off the back of the main unit to increase capacity but the Virtual Disk feature does offer an unusual expansion option. You can declare up to eight iSCSI targets on other appliances to the NSS 326 where it will manage them itself.

For real world performance testing we used a Dell PowerEdge R715 rack server with dual 2.2GHz 12-Core Opteron 6174 processors, 32GB of DDR3 memory and running Windows Server 2008 R2. Drag and drop copies of a 2.52GB video clip returned average read and write speeds of 76MB/s and 72MB/s over Gigabit Ethernet.

FTP speeds were faster with the FileZilla client reporting read and write speeds for the same test file of 99MB/sec and 92MB/sec respectively. Large collections of small files weren't handled so well with drag and drop copies of an 8.5GB folder containing over 4,000 files delivering read and write speeds of 56MB/sec and 42MB/sec.

There are plenty of business backup tools as the appliance can run scheduled backups of local folders to an external USB or eSATA storage device. Plugging an external hard disk into the front USB port and pressing the button either backs up files from the NAS to the USB disk, or backs up file on the USB disk to the NAS, depending on our chosen settings. For remote replication you can schedule copies of selected NAS shares to another remote appliance or use Rsync for block level replication.

Support for Apple's Time Machine means it can be used as a backup destination for Mac OS X clients and it accepts login details of a Mozy account for off-site backup. The only thing missing from Cisco's backup portfolio is any client software for securing workstation data to the appliance.

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