Sharing large amounts of disk space among many users on multiple platforms used to be a nightmare. Snap Appliances' industrial-grade Snap Server 4100 turns that nightmare into a dream, with painless setup, a simple user interface, huge capacity, and blazing speed.
The original, desktop-size Snap Servers-which allowed Mac, PC, and Unix users to share up to 40GB of storage-were great for small workgroups, but a dozen users could easily swamp them. The latest incarnation is aimed at enterprise-class networks that need capacities of up to 300GB. Running version 3.0 of the Snap OS, the Snap Server 4100 has an extremely fast processor that the company rates for 50 or more busy users. New features include additional protocols and a Java Virtual Machine add-on that lets developers customize the server with their own application code.
The 4100 is big-about the size of an extra-large pizza box-and is intended for rack mounting rather than desktop installation. Its front panel includes disk- and network-activity lights but no disk-capacity indicator or error-message display. It offers two disk capacities, 160GB and 300GB, using four disk drives, with both RAID 1 (mirroring) and RAID 5 (striping with parity) protection. RAID 5 lets you recover from a single disk drive failure without data loss, while providing 75 percent of the raw disk capacity as usable file space (RAID 1, which makes a copy of all your data, yields only 50 percent). Like its predecessors, the 4100 is easy to set up-just plug the unit into an AC outlet and a 10/100BaseT Ethernet port on your LAN. The server is immediately accessible by everyone on your network; no configuration is necessary unless you want to add security or fine-tune various services.
In addition to Web hosting, the 4100 supports a variety of file-sharing protocols: On the Mac, AppleTalk and TCP/IP; on Windows, NetBEUI and TCP/IP; and on Unix, NFS 3.0. It also adds support for FTP, making the server a very well-rounded host. You can set disk quotas by user, give users their own Web-hosting folders, and password-protect any Web-accessible directory. The server supports AppleTalk file sharing over TCP/IP, which lets you share files with any location on the Internet. Version 3.0 of the software also adds SNMP network management, directory- and file-level security, and compatibility with additional backup programs. (Upgrades for older Snap Servers are a free download.) Updating software on Snap Servers is a sore point with Mac users: the upgrade utility runs only under Windows, either on an actual PC or via a Windows emulator.
Performance tests with a dozen users yielded single-user file copy speeds of about 25 Mbps-four times faster than the Snap Server 2000. Multiple users increase the overall throughput to a point, but the highest speed at which the server could transfer files to multiple users simultaneously was 50 Mbps.