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Linksys NSS3000

At a Glance
Product Cisco 4 Bay Gigabit Storage System Chassis (NSS3000)
Summary Slow, four bay multi-volume capable RAID NAS for SMB users
Pros • Gigabit Ethernet w/ VLAN support
• Hot Swappable Drives
• Multiple volumes w/ optional encryption
Cons • Slow
• 15 max. concurrent CIFS users
• No Backup Software included
• No attached backup

A few months back, a SNB Forum reader suggested that we review a new desktop NAS from Cisco's Small Business group, the NSS3000. We looked at its older rackmount sibling, the NSS4000, a few years back when Cisco's Linksys group was still chartered with trying to serve small businesses as well as consumers.

Flash forward a few years and Cisco's "small biz" business has been moved to the Cisco Small Business group. But Cisco also has continued to expand its NAS offerings with the dual-bay NSS2000 and four-bay NSS3000 desktop models.

Since Cisco has traditionally elected to not have its Cisco-branded products reviewed by SmallNetBuilder, I expected the same response to my NSS3000 review request. So I was pleasantly surprised when Cisco agreed to send the NSS3000 along, but generally disappointed with the product.

The 3000 is a four-bay desktop BYOD NAS that accepts 3.5" SATA drives. It also can be purchased diskful as the NSS3100 (2 X 500 GB). NSS3200 (4 X 500 GB) and NSS3400 (4 X 1 TB) configurations are planned for later this year.

Unlike many competing NASes, the 3000's approved drive list is relatively short and doesn't include any 1.5 or 2 TB drives. So the maximum raw capacity is 4 TB—at least if you want to stick with approved drives, which I recommend.

Cisco originally sent only a two-drive unit, so I pulled their drives and put in four Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 (ST31000340AS) 1 TB drives instead so that I could perform RAID 5 and 10 tests. I wasn't too far into testing, however, when I suffered a corrupted RAID 5 volume. So out came the drives and I waited until Cisco sent two more Western Digital WD2500YS-01S 500 GB drives so that I could resume testing.

The drives mount on the same metal trays used in the NSS4000, which aren't lockable. Cisco went for a clean look for the 3000's front panel, which doesn't show or provide direct access to the drive trays. Instead, the whole front panel is hinged and can be swung open for drive access. The panel is also lockable, if you want to control physical access to the drives.

Figure 1 shows a close-up of the front panel. Each drive has separate activity (ACT) and ERR lights and there is also a LAN to indidcate LAN link / activity and a SYS indicator that turns yellow or red depending on the severity of the problem that it is reporting.

Front Panel

Figure 1: Front Panel

You can use the Display button to cycle the backlit LCD display through various screens that include IP address, Volume and RAID status as well as system alerts. The screen automatically reverts to the Name / IP screen shown a minute after the last button press and automatically shuts off the backlight four minutes after that.

Figure 2 shows the back panel with a single 10/100/1000 Ethernet port that can be configured to support up to 9K jumbo frames. The three covered connectors marked AUX and UPS are USB 2.0 ports that can be used to connect to APC UPSes that support USB synchronization. But they can't (nor can the front panel USB port) be used to connect USB flash or hard drives to expand storage, back up the 3000's internal drives or share USB printers. The only thing you can do with the USB ports is to save the system configuration to a flash drive.

Back Panel

Figure 2: Back Panel

The two fans are relatively quiet after they settle down from full speed during system boot. Overall, the 3000 produces about as much noise as a typical desktop computer—audible, but not annoyingly so.

System power consumption at 46 W is a bit on the high side for current-generation NASes and there isn't a programmable shutdown / startup schedule. You can, however, set the drives to spin down after they have been idle for 1, 2, 4, 8 or 24 hours. Unfortunately, even after leaving the 3000 on all night with no activity on the LAN, the drives failed to spin down with the time set to 1 hour.

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