NAS Appliances

For the NS440, NEC has taken the simple expedient of sourcing the entire system from MSI so what you have here is one of this Tiawanese manufacturer's X2 server platforms.

We have no problem with this as the NS440 is particularly well built and delivers a tasty specification which includes a large main course of fast SCSI storage.

Standing at 2U high the chassis has room for six-hot swap drives and the review system came supplied with a quintet of 300GB Seagate Atlas 10K hard disks. Everything internally is nice and tidy with the motherboard partnered by a bank of four hot-swap cooling fans and once these have settled down after power up don't produce excessive noise levels.

The price only includes a single 2.8GHz Xeon processor but there's room for a second module and the board also supports up to 16GB of memory. The LSI RAID controller is equipped with 128MB of cache memory and is cabled directly to the hard disk backplane with the drives preconfigured in a quad disk RAID-5 array with hot-standby. Note that the card has SCSI interfaces on its backplate so it is possible to use the second channel to add external devices such as tape drives. General fault tolerance is particularly good and also extends to power as the chassis has room for a second redundant supply.

Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2003 (WSS2003) is the driving force behind this solution and NEC's implementation provides a good range of features. Apart from a few of NEC's cosmetic touches the web interface is common to all versions of this original release OS and is very simple to use. Shares are easy enough to create and you can decide whether to make them available to users over CIFS/SMB, NFS, HTTP and FTP. The appliance can implement local user and group access controls or become a member of an AD domain.

There is plenty of quota functionality as the NS440 supports these at the directory and user level with the former being used to limit directory or partition disk space irrespective of who is using it. Passive and active settings can be applied and a wide range of options can be stored as policies, applied to different directories and can contain a range of alert types.More controls are provided with the file screening feature as you can create policies that determine precisely what files can be stored on the appliance.

It's worth noting that unlike some solutions NEC doesn't bundle any local anti-virus or backup software with the NS440 so you'll need to source your own elsewhere.

However, the SCSI drives showed their might in the performance tests with the NS440 outstripping much of the competition for raw read and write performance.

SCSI based NAS appliances usually incur a price premium but NEC has brought the NS440 in at an affordable price. The OS is the older version of WSS2003 but it still provides as good a range of features as its successor and it's the fastest of all the appliances on test.


SCSI hard disks win out for performance with the NS440 offering plenty of fast storage, good build quality and fault tolerance and all at a competitive price

2U chassis Motherboard - MSI MS-9146 CPU - Intel Xeon 2.8GHz Chipset - Intel E7520 Memory - 1GB PC2-3200 SDRAM expandable to 16GB Storage controller - LSI MegaRAID 320-2 Disk drives - 5 x 300GB Seagate Atlas 10K Ultra320 SCSI Expansion slots - 5 x PCI-X Network ports - 2 x Intel Gigabit Power - 1 x 600W hot-swap Operating System - Windows Storage Server 2003 Management - Local and remote browser Protocol support - CIFS/SMB, NFS iSCSI - No Warranty - 3yrs on-site NBD

Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.