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Setup

The only documentation you get is a printed User's Manual, which is really just a quick setup guide. The same thing comes on the supplied CD, which also contains the drivers, utility program and some other programs from partner 2BrightSparks, including 30 day trials of SyncBack Pro and SyncBack SE backup programs.

So I checked the support area of the IOCELL site and found real user manuals for Windows, Mac OS Tiger, Leopard and Panther. I also found and a more recent Windows driver installation package than was on the CD (NDAS 3.71), which I used for my testing.

The download area also had downloads for Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard (Beta) as well as Tiger and Leopard. If you want Linux drivers, you need to hit Ximeta's site, where you'll find that "NDAS Software for Linux is currently in beta status". I guess some things haven't changed since 2003!

Once you have the UNE plugged in via the desired port, you just run the installation file. At some point in the process you'll need to register the drive (Figure 3) by entering information you'll find on the label on the bottom of the UNE.

Device registration screen

Figure 3: Device registration screen

If you installed an unformatted drive, you'll need to use the host systems disk management utilities to format the drive. I used Windows Disk Manager and ran a quick NTFS format.

When you're done, you'll have a little device management utility running in the Windows tray / notification area. You use this to check the drive's status, register / de-register drives and mount and dismount drives. When you mount, you can mount read only or with read/write privileges.

How It Works

When the drive is mounted, it appears as a local drive, not as a network drive. If you check Device Manager, you'll see it as a SCSI drive. Figure 4, taken from a whitepaper published in the May 2005 IEEE Communications Magazine, shows a high-level comparison of traditional NAS and Ximeta's NDAS architectures.

NDAS vs. NAS

Figure 4: NDAS vs. NAS

A key difference is that NDAS doesn't have the TCP/IP overhead that NASes have, so can produce higher performance with simpler (and much less expensive hardware). This page has a simplified architecture comparison diagram and a point-by-point comparison table.

If you're thinkin' this sorta smells like iSCSI, it's not. While iSCSI makes part of a networked NAS appear as local storage, that portion is dedicated to the computer that connects to it.

With NDAS, the storage that sits on the LAN also appears as a local drive, but that drive can also be shared by other (up to 64) users. Each user, however, must have the NDAS drivers and utility installed, however.

But once the drivers and installed and the drive mounted, it acts just like any other mapped network drive...except it's significantly faster without the overhead of TCP/IP! I verified this by installing the driver on Vista SP1 and XP SP3 systems and was able to simultaneously copy files from both machines to the UNE.

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