Expandable for analog cameras
- Inexpensive route for IP Camera control
- All the features of the PX2-300D NAS
- Internet monitoring of video streams possible
- Secure Internet deployment still tricky
- All the features of the PX2-300D NAS
At this point, the utility of network attached storage is clear -- with a NAS, the need for a small business or home to have a massive, power-guzzling server is greatly reduced, with file storage and other features handled by a box not much larger than the drives themselves. We've spent some time already with the PX2-300d network attached storage device. The Iomega PX2-300d is the Cadillac of NAS boxes. A new model of the PX2-300d, now under the LenovoEMC brand name, is now available -- this time integrating Milestone Arcus IP camera management. Does the addition of the camera control suite change the equation for home and small office users?
From a hardware standpoint, the PX2 runs an Intel D525 Atom dual-core 1.8GHz processor sitting on top of 2GB of RAM. RAID expansion is provided by a front-mounted USB 3.0 port and a pair of rear-mounted USB 2.0 ports. A pair of Ethernet ports can be used for link aggregation or connection failover. The pair of enterprise-class drives can be configured at RAID 0 or 1. A single VGA port in conjunction with the MindTree software allows the device to be used as the core of a IP camera security system -- with some caveats -- but more on that later. The PX2 supports a litany of network protocols: NFS, AFP/Bonjour, SMB, Rally, CIFS, FTP, TFTP, and SFTP are all supported, and the device can also stream media to uPnP DLNA set top boxes.
The hardware design is best described by the word "rugged." With a pair of drives, the unit weighs over eight pounds. No cheap plastic cases here -- the device is shrouded in sheet metal, well secured. Where some hard drive cases feel creaky to the touch, the PX2 is a solid hunk of steel and silicon. A door with a lock covers a pair of pop-out trays for SATA hard drives, with both 3.5 and 2.5-inch drives supported, including SSDs. While the NVR supports SSDs, we feel that the unit is best populated with large capacity hard drives to accommodate the storage needs for video recording.
Initial configuration couldn't be simpler. Plug the device into the network, plug in the power, and start the device. With DHCP configured on the network, the PX2 with Milestone Arcus nearly immediately picks up an IP address, displays it on the LCD, and starts service including location of all the IP cameras on the network. Application-specific settings, like "personal cloud" storage which enables file access while away from the home base is configurable by way of a web-based interface. This functionality is nearly seamless when a uPnP-compatible router controls the network, with the PX2 automatically configuring the router to allow the access.
Remote management of the device is left as an exercise for the user, as well it should be -- WAN security and leaving a large, very capable device like the PX2 accessible on the Internet is not for the timid. It should be strictly managed by savvy users with the skill set to do so to prevent data loss and pilfering -- not to mention the loss of privacy that could result if video streams were available over the Internet unsecured.
Besides just the personal cloud, the NVR works with Amazon S3, Atmos Backup, Mozy Backup, Axis Video Hosting, and can perform Apple Time Machine backups as well. Other applications are available for the NVR for other backup solutions, but the listed ones are provided "out of the box." If a specific backup provider or function is needed, some research before purchase is in order. We performed some testing with Amazon S3 as well as Time Machine, and found the process flawless, both in backing up, and restoring a computer from a simulated disaster at speeds rivaling a directly-connected hard drive.
Across our Gigabit Ethernet network, in our tests with both large and small files, the device clocked in at around 80 MBps when writing to the device, and read at 71 MBps, topping nearly every other NVR we've tested. These max speeds seem to be device-limited, as transferring files from multiple devices seemed to top out at these speeds combined across all devices whether the drives were mirrored or striped. Just the same, these are excellent speeds from a NVR solution and are hard to beat in this class of device.
This particular variant of the PX2 NVR family is tailored for video monitoring. When we reviewed the PX2-300d with limited camera management previously, we pointed out that the setup of the video monitoring was somewhat finicky. The addition of the new Milestone Arcus software smooths out the issues we had with the video setup. IP camera compatibility is much wider, with more flexible options -- including a 16-channel PCI-E card available as an add-on purchase if needed, enabling just about any analog camera to be captured and managed by the Milestone Arcus suite.
In our testing, we found that the device performed the best recording in H.264. Playback is possible on mobile devices from the PX2-300d with apps available from iTunes and Android, making remote surveillance of a location, even well off-site, easy to perform across the Internet. For the first year of the device's life, updates to the Milestone Arcus suite are free, giving it additional value when compared to a PC-based NVR setup.
In short, the Iomega PX2-300d is a best-in-class network attached storage device, intended for heavy users. The problem is, best-in-class comes with a top price -- as configured the two-drive, 4TB total solution we tested tops $1,100, with the bare case (with no Milestone Arcus) running $330. This one box can replace an dedicated server in a small to mid-size office for just about any need, from video surveillance, to a music jukebox, through photo storage, automated backup, and loads more.
Our primary concerns with the PX2-300d as a network attached storage device alone were the cost, and the somewhat lacking camera support. The addition of the Milestone Arcus raises the price to $1,100 for eight camera licenses, only $300 more than the model not so equipped. A PC with the Milestone Arcus suite with licensing for the same amount of cameras can exceed this by a factor of two, easily, with additional annual licensing fees to boot. So, the new feature addition neatly cleans up most of the reservations we had with the device, assuming that the video surveillance is a needed feature.