EMC’s low-end storage specialist, Iomega, today introduced a two-drive version of their iSCSI-capable StorCenter NAS line. The ix2-200 also adds native Time Machine support, data synchronization (including a QuickTransfer button), spin-down for its new low-power drives, and will soon boast VMware and Hyper-V compatibility certification. It also sports a more modern (and much less ugly) look and re-calibrated pricing from its predecessor.
Do you like losing data? If not, I have a simple piece of advice for you: The age of single-disk-drive backup has passed. With new hard disk drives failure rates over 5% per year, massive capacity, and the possibility of bit errors, the use of a single disk drive for backup or long-term retention of precious data is simply irresponsible.
Although a single-drive backup is better than no backup at all, I can no longer recommend the use of single-drive devices like Apple’s Time Capsule or the popular Western Digital, Maxtor, and Seagate USB drives. Redundant multi-drive rigs like the Iomega StorCenter and Drobo and online backup services should be considered a requirement for all computer users. Anything less is a recipe for disaster.
This new ix2 from Iomega is available in three configurations, each boasting two redundant disk drives, thus the “ix2” name:
- A 1 TB unit ($269.99 list) offers 500 GB of usable space
- The sweet spot is the 2 TB unit ($369.99 list) offering 1 TB of usable space
- A 4 TB unit ($699.99 list) offering 2 TB of usable space will be introduced later in the month
Note that, like all Iomega StorCenter devices, the drives in the ix2 can not be swapped out for later units to give more capacity. Even though this new unit boasts user-replaceable drives, only official Iomega spares are supported. In fact, swapping in a different drive (even one which claims to offer the same capacity) might cause the unit to fail! If you want to be able to expand capacity in the future, buy an HP MediaSmart or Drobo.
The “-200” in the ix2-200 name proclaims this the second-generation ix2 unit. Like the similar second-generation ix4-200, this device boasts a faster CPU, iSCSI target support, and additional functionality. Let’s look at the best of these new features:
- Like the ix4, the ix2-200 now includes iSCSI target support. Iomega’s implementation is surprisingly full-featured and robust compared to their competitors, and those wanting to learn and experiment with iSCSI should look no further.
- Performance should be much-improved due to the 1 GHz Marvell CPU and 256 MB of RAM, but both are de-tuned from the ix4, which boasts 1.2 GHz and 512 MB of RAM. Don’t expect massive IOPS or blazing throughput, though: It is still only has two drive spindles to service requests.
- The use of low-power Seagate drives and a variable-speed fan, both of which can be spun down, means that the ix2 should be quieter and use less electricity than its predecessor. I expect it to use less than 25 Watts at full-speed and as little as 1 Watt when idle.
- The native Time Machine target support makes the new ix2 much more friendly to Mac users and the 2-drive configuration makes this a compelling Time Capsule alternative.
- The front-mounted QuickTransfer button allows the ix2 to slurp in the content of any attached USB drive. Users can also set up scheduled sync jobs for network-attached file shares.
All of these features premiered with the ix4-200d in August, but this new device is missing that unit’s dual gigabit Ethernet ports and LCD screen, as well as its extra RAM and faster CPU.
Who Buys the ix2?
Its low(er) price and raft of features makes the Iomega ix2-200 an attractive dual-drive system for home office or light business use. But don’t be fooled by the iSCSI support and VMware ESX compatibility: This is not serious storage for servers. Two 5900 rpm hard disk drives, 1 GHz of CPU power, 256 MB of shared RAM, and a single Gigabit Ethernet port do not add up to high performance. My experience testing an ix4-200d demo unit shows that Iomega’s software RAID and iSCSI stack seriously curtail both throughput and I/O speed. The fact that an inexpensive home storage system isn’t a blazing performer should not shock anyone, however.
Dual-drive storage devices may appear to have questionable value, priced much higher than (worthless) single-drive units but lacking the performance of 4- or 8-drive devices. But we expect buyers to migrate in this direction as single-drive devices fail. Indeed, it is the ix2’s low cost and high availability that will eventually spell success. Packed with appealing features, we expect to see sub-$300 street pricing for the 2 TB ix2 from time to time. At that price, it represents a killer bargain for the computer enthusiast and small-office alike. Oddball features like VMware support, iSCSI, and security camera support will likely win buyers here and there as well.