What a shamewasting an entire Mac only on file sharing. That's just the problem network storage devices addressthey free up your Macs for real computer work by providing the function and performance of a 10/100BaseT Ethernet file server in a self-contained box requiring minimal administration. Linksys's EtherFast 10/100 Instant GigaDrive and Quantum's Snap Server 2000 bring this technology to Macintosh networks in a big way with 20GB and 40GB capacities, respectively. Both servers also let you share files with Windows users.
About the size of a large modem, the single-drive Linksys GigaDrive has three simple connections: power, Ethernet, and printer. The printer connection lets you attach a PC-style parallel-port printer to operate as a network output device.
A brief user's guide tells you everything you need to know to set up the GigaDriveif you're a Windows user. Mac users must call Linksys tech support to get essential installation details, such as the server's default IP address. Linksys says it will remedy this shortcoming in the near future.
Quantum's somewhat bulkier dual-drive Snap Server is much more Mac-friendly, with a comprehensive user's guide and Mac-specific quick-start instructions. The Snap Server lacks print-serving capability but has other useful functions not found on the GigaDrive: a built-in Web server for hosting users' Web sites, and Network File Sharing (NFS) support for Unix interoperability. You have the option of configuring its dual disk drives as either RAID 0 (striping) to combine the drives in a single large logical drive, or RAID 1 (mirroring) to provide enhanced fault tolerance.
Both servers have common features: 10/100BaseT Ethernet, Web-based administration, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) IP-address serving, e-mail notification of problems, and support for multiple users and groups. With both servers, you use a Web browser to set up individual user accounts and passwords, user groups, and shared folders.
The Snap Server supports AppleShare IP, which lets you share content across routers and over the Internet. Among Macintosh file-sharing protocols, the GigaDrive supports only AppleTalk, which is much slower than TCP/IP over Ethernet. In our tests on a 100BaseT LAN, this difference proved large: copying a 256MB file to the Snap Server was ten times as fast as copying the same file to the GigaDrive: 5 minutes versus 50.
The Instant GigaDrive's low price and built-in printer server make it an attractive choice for SOHO users, for whom speed is usually less important than cost and convenience. However, for larger networks with multiple users, the GigaDrive is too confining. If money is not the deciding factor, the faster, higher-capacity Snap Server 2000 is a better product: its Web serving, NFS, and multiuser features help it fit into nearly any network neighborhood.
RATING: PROS: Inexpensive. CONS: Incomplete documentation; no AppleShare IP; no RAID disk protection; no Web serving; slow. COMPANY: Linksys (800/326-7114, http://www.linksys.com ). LIST PRICE: $649.
RATING: PROS: AppleShare IP support; RAID disk protection; fast. CONS: No external disk-capacity or network-speed indicators. COMPANY: Quantum (888/343-7627, http://www.snapserver.com ). LIST PRICE: 20GB, $999; 40GB, $1,799.
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