I picked up a D-Link DNS 321 NAS device on Black Friday from buy.com for $100. There is also a DNS 323 model which includes a USB port to act as a print server, but I didn’t need that functionality for the significant increase in price it would have entailed. Anyway, this was a nice find as I had been thinking of retiring my Windows 2000 home server – less power consumption, one less PC contributing heat in my cramped office.
The DNS 321 supports 2 SATA drives in the enclosure with a gigabit NIC. The drives are very easy to install; actually lifting off the front cover proved more difficult. Once the cover is off, slide the drive into the enclosure until the power and data ports connect. One thing I had read about this device is that if you only install one drive initially then add another later, you could screw up the labeling of the drives. In a one drive scenario, the drive is labeled Volume_1 no matter which bay you put it in. In a two drive scenario, the right drive is Volume_1 and the left drive is Volume_2. So in order to avoid problems later, always install a single drive in the right side of the enclosure (looking at the front).
The DNS 321 uses a Linux OS with a web interface so it formats the drive(s) with the EXT3 file system (I ‘m pretty sure it’s this and not EXT2). The device includes a wizard to handle basic setup like IP address, admin password, etc. From the setup menu you can change workgroup, name, and other network info. In the advanced menu you can setup user and group access, quotas, shares and permissions. The DNS 321 also includes several network servers: FTP and DHCP, as well as media servers such as iTunes UPnP AV.
Under the tools menu you can set the admin password, set time properties and a time server to sync with, and restart, shutdown, or restore the system to factory defaults. You can also update the firmware, setup email alerts and power management, setup Dynamic DNS, and configure RAID settings if you have 2 drives installed. The DNS 321 supports RAID 0 & 1 as well as JBOD (spanning the drives into one volume), and a standard setting of 2 volumes.
Rounding out the menu is status and support. Status gives LAN info, device info (including temperature), and hard drive info, including the make, model, and size. Support provides a help system for different options available from the web interface.
I have been very happy with the function and performance of this device. The only slowdown noticeable is when the hard drive needs to spin up after being powered down per the power settings, but this is only a very minor 1 to 2 second delay. I have not had to restart the device or even touch it after the initial setup over a month ago. I would recommend the DNS 321 to anyone looking for an inexpensive, reliable device to provide basic file server functionality for a home or small business.