CATEGORY: Storage

REVIEWER: Dan Cowan, manager and Internet advisor for Equinox Systems, Inc.

BACKGROUND: Equinox Systems was founded in 1983 with headquarters in Sunrise, Florida. Equinox Systems designs and markets high-performance server-based communications products such as Internet broadband gateways and managed device servers for remote Internet access, terminal servers and serial hubs for access of LAN- based serial devices and modem pool products. Their customers include both end users and OEM manufacturers.

PLATFORMS: Connex N3000 runs on Novell, Windows NT, Linux and Windows 9.x.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Equinox Systems needed a bulk data storage system that could maintain a large engineering and development database of mission-critical data, such as coding and technical specifications, for their line of products. The database needed to be accessible to remote users and those on the LAN. The storage space on the existing Novell and NT servers was insufficient. Server bottlenecks occurred as users accessed large data files during peak usage periods, and enabling remote access to the database was problematic. The high cost of adding a network server couldn't be justified because only storage space was needed, not the server-provided services. Implementing new technology in the form of the Connex N3000 network attached storage (NAS) solution provided the bulk storage at about two-thirds of the cost of utilizing the traditional solution of (adding a server). In addition, the N3000 was easily incorporated into our heterogeneous Novell/NT server-based LAN, supporting users on mixed platforms including Windows NT, Windows 9.x and Linux. Data protection is provided by the self- contained AIT-2 SCSI tape drive in the N3000 server with a capacity of 100GB supporting the server's raw disk storage capacity of 108GB. The tape drive functions well in both backup and tape restore operations and provides a built- in disaster recovery option for our critical business data without additional cost or management burden.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Connex N3000 functions well for data access regardless of whether the user is accessing through the LAN or remotely through a VPN. Equinox has achieved excellent, problem-free system performance after a quick-and-easy install that was basically a plug-in to the LAN. Configuration and management were set up through the embedded management interface, and a Web-browser interface enables the network manager to administer the appliance remotely. The N3000 operates virtually seamlessly, regardless of the user's location, platform or server, which is vitally important due to the variety of user platform and network configurations in service.

STRENGTHS: Connex N3000 Network Attached Storage (NAS) Server is a complete standalone solution that can connect directly to any existing 10/100 Base-T Ethernet network and functions well in mixed network operating system environments. The Connex N3000 NAS was more easily installed than setting up a Novell or NT server, and the self- contained appliance unit with an integrated backup tape drive makes data management easy without any impact on the network. The embedded management system simplified configuration of the system to accommodate the wide range of user platforms including remote VPN. The overall performance is exceptionally fast.

WEAKNESSES: The documentation could have been more extensive for configurations of heterogeneous environments to reduce technical support calls.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Equinox Systems selected the Connex N3000 NAS System over several other bulk data storage solutions. It was in the top tier of selections based on a cost that was about two-thirds of a full network server. The final selection was based on its performance in a 30- day evaluation period.

DELIVERABLES: Equinox's critical product information is kept secure and accessible at low comparative cost.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Vendor support from Connex throughout the evaluation period was very proactive and outstanding. This made the launch of the N3000 into full production status an easy process. Technical representatives quickly resolved the minor issues encountered in configuring the user platforms to access the N3000 for data retrieval.

DOCUMENTATION: Full documentation was provided. Except as noted above, it is excellent.

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