Businesses that run on peer-to-peer networks enjoy simple wiring requirements and a relatively easy setup. However, while peer-to-peer networks permit file sharing, they make no allowances for centrally shared storage. Additionally, adding network printers is often an expensive prospect for low demand applications. But fear not, a solution is at hand.
The Instant Gigadrive from Linksys places 20GB of hard disk storage on any TCP/IP network. It is also equipped with a parallel port and server software for placing a printer on a network. With these two services it replaces both a file server and a network printer two of the most common network devices with a single low cost unit.
The unit can also act as a Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) server for automatically assigning IP addresses to computers on a network. All workstations need a unique IP address to be seen on a network. Support for DHCP makes IP networking much easier to implement.
Setting up the Gigadrive was simple. Using the included Ethernet cable, we connected the device directly to our network hub and configured it to the network using the included Windows PC software. Linksys does not support setup from any other platform. The server's preset IP address made it relatively easy to connect to it with a Web browser and configure it remotely with its HTML-based setup tools.
Files stored on the unit's hard drive can be accessed through Macintosh File Sharing or Windows Networking, but be warned, Linksys does not provide technical support for platforms other than Windows. Files can be accessed remotely from any client through its Web interface. However, the Gigadrive's built-in security may not be robust enough for the public Internet.
The Gigadrive can be set to send out e-mail notification in case it runs into a problem. It can also shut down automatically. For storage management, users and groups can be created and assigned read/write permissions and passwords. Partitions can also be created on the hard drive and assigned to users.
We did come across a couple of points that needed improvement. The username and password required for logging onto the Gigadrive are case sensitive. If your client computers are set up with uppercase characters in their login scripts, the Gigadrive's login process will fail.
The Gigadrive also felt somewhat sluggish during the setup process, with its Web setup pages taking a few seconds to come up. Having more than a dozen users accessing the device simultaneously may overtax the unit's processor, making it better suited to workgroups. However, there is no defined limit on the total number of users and groups that may be set up.
Linksys warns against disconnecting power from the Gigadrive without going through the proper shutdown procedure, a prudent suggestion for any server. We further recommend an uninterruptible power supply. The server comes with an outboard power supply, but it's far too easy to disconnect by accident. This causes the unit to crash, sending it into a long diagnostic process when it is restarted. The power supply should be either built in to the Gigadrive or Linksys should add a clip to hold the connector in place.
Overall, the Gigadrive is a useful tool for adding shared storage to a network. It lets companies avoid the complexity and expense of a full-scale server and adds additional features, including printer and DHCP servers, not found on other network attached storage devices. It is less expensive than comparable solutions and accomplishes tasks very well. If you have a peer-to-peer network or a need for additional local storage within a workgroup on a larger network, the Instant Gigadrive is an excellent choice.