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Remote Desktop required

Another thing missing was an option on the web interface for specifying an NTP server for time synchronization. But the 200d includes the ability to act as a Windows Remote Desktop server, and supports the connection of Remote Desktop clients to "remote in" and change configuration items like the NTP setting that don't have a web interface.

The downside to this "feature" is that the 200d can be fully administered only from Windows-based systems.

Updated 8/9/2005 - A helpful reader pointed out that Microsoft has a Remote Desktop client for OS X and that rdesktop does the trick for 'nix-based clients. Note that these non-Windows alternatives require you to bypass the web interface when starting up the Remote Desktop client. If you try and start with the web interface on a non-Windows box, you'll get an error before the web interface ever attempts to start up the remote client.

This makes the 200d more like Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 running on an embedded platform than an OS-neutral NAS appliance. The remote desktop access also assumes a fairly high level of administrator expertise with Storage Server 2003. This point was reflected by a warning insert included with the product.

The warning stated that it was not recommended to install operating system service patches released by Microsoft because they may adversely impact the performance of the unit and cause it to fail to boot. Ouch! And users are advised to individually evaluate each Microsoft security patch on a case-by-case basis to see if it is appropriate.

This would seem to put users in a bit of a tough spot when the Microsoft "Security Bulletin Of the Day" comes out. Users will have to know enough about the ramifications of installing (or not installing) a patch in order to make their decision. This issue alone puts management of this box out of reach of many small businesses who don't have a full-time IT staff testing and evaluating Windows patches.

On a more positive note, since direct access to the underlying server operating system is available, a knowledgeable user will be able to customize and keep the device up-top-date using standard Windows menus and tools.

In my case, the configuration needs were fairly simple. I just wanted to create a common directory that could be used from all the machines on my network. It turned out to be fairly simple to use the web interface (Figure 4) to set up a shared folder and I could even specify the protocols that could be used to access the share. Initially, I tried a common protocol, Server Message Block (SMB), that could be used from the various Linux, Windows and OSX machines on my LAN.

Share creation
Figure 4: Share creation
(click on image to enlarge)

This worked fine, and in short order I was able to transfer files among all my machines. Along with SMB support, the 200d also supports FTP, HTTP, WebDAV, Apple's AFP, Netware's NCP, and the Unix standard Network File System (NFS) protocol - a more extensive list than any of the other NAS products I've tested.

But on the downside, this meant that there were a lot of network ports open on the box. A port scan of the 200d revealed 24 open TCP ports - far more than I've seen on other boxes. The more ports that are open, the more chances for an attack against a flawed server. And speaking of possibility of attack, note that access via HTTP and FTP is enabled by default.

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