Buying a NAS is tricky. You want one with lots of storage space, room to expand, a good feature-set and excellent performance. Seagate's Business Storage NAS fulfills most of these goals, but falls short on speed and the versatility of its management software.
What Is It?
The Business Storage is Seagate's most recent attempt at making a network storage drive that is simple, powerful and well suited to both business and home users. It's relatively cheap compared to the Synology and QNAP enclosures that are its competitors, and has the advantage of Seagate's add-on Universal Storage Module slot for hot-swapping portable external drives.
The Business Storage NAS is available as a 1-, 2- or 4-bay standalone enclosure, with removable and hot-swappable 3.5-inch hard drive caddies. There's also an 8-bay rackmount unit designed for serious business users. I tested out the $699 2-bay enclosure, which can be bought diskless or in bundled capacities of up to 8TB using Seagate's own NAS-certified hard drives.
Seagate is pushing the 'private cloud' idea hard with the Business Storage, letting users store and access their files in the office or via the net when they're travelling. The NAS itself is quite compact, measuring only 203 x 104 x 226mm and weighing 3.73kg with drives included -- it's something that is small enough to hide away under a desk or in a network cabinet, and it's much easier to move around than something like the ioSafe 214, for example.
The Business Storage is vaguely reminiscent of the BlackArmor 440 it replaces, with a front door that hinges on the right to reveal two hot-swappable 3.5-inch disk cavities. In my review unit, two 4TB Seagate NAS drives were preinstalled, but you can buy the Business Storage diskless and install your own drives from Seagate or any other 3.5-inch manufacturer. 2.5-inch drives will work, but you'll need adapters that aren't included.
What Is It Good At?
As NAS enclosures go, the Seagate Business Storage is one of the least daunting and difficult to set up that I've encountered. It's certainly easy to comprehend -- there's a power button on the lower front, two LEDs for status and disk activity, and a front USB 3.0 port for temporary USB flash drive or portable hard drive connections. Around the back, there's another USB 3.0 port, two 1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a 12V DC power jack for the bundled power brick. The integrated fan is a relatively small 60mm unit but it runs silently and slowly to exhaust heat from the drives in action.
Setting up the Business Storage is similarly easy. After it's plugged in and switched on and connected over Ethernet to your router -- you don't need to hook it up directly to your PC for the initial setup as you do some other enclosures -- you can either run Seagate's bundled Discovery software or navigate directly to the NAS's Web interface. The Web interface is pretty simple to understand -- there's a sidebar with menus and submenus and the dashboard shows you all the info you'd expect to see. You can set the Business Storage up with all the different RAID and JBOD options you'd expect, and split the drives into different volumes and shared folders and so on.
Apart from Discovery, the other bundled Seagate software is NAS Backup, which lets you schedule complete or partial backups of your Windows PC across scheduled intervals, so you can use the Business Storage for saving your system's state and keeping it secure. Macs can use Time Machine natively with the Business Storage, so that's even more seamless. The Business Storage is cool and quiet during any operations, too. The rear fan runs slowly and silently, but pushes enough air to keep the internal drives at an acceptable temperature.
What Is It Not Good At?
You can't use the two Ethernet ports on the Business Storage together for link aggregation, which is a feature found on competing NAS enclosures that doubles the potential data transfer rate with a compatible router. This isn't exactly the Business Storage's target market, and you can still use the second point for failover or for connecting to a second wired network, but it's disappointing to see link aggregation omitted.
More generally, the Business Storage just misses out on the general enhanced feature-set of other competing NAS drives, like Synology's range of enclosures that have the option to support third-party Wi-Fi USB dongles and 3G/4G mobile broadband sticks and so on. The online features of the Business Storage are relatively rudimentary and while there are Android, iPad and iPhone apps to access your files when you're not on the same private network as the Seagate NAS there are more complete alternatives out there.
When it comes to outright transfer speeds, the Seagate Business Storage NAS is OK, but not great. In its optimised-for-speed RAID 0 mode, I clocked 87MBps read and 56MBps write speeds to the NAS's internal hard drives, which is slightly lopsided -- compared to my benchmark Synology DS214 which manages 104MBps read and 102MBps write. If you move to RAID 5 for data redundancy then you'll take a hit down to around 80MBps and 38MBps read and write respectively in my testing. These results are good enough for the average data-storing home or business user, but someone using the NAS as a scratch drive for video or photo editing would be better off looking elsewhere.
Should You Buy It?
The Seagate Business Storage NAS certainly lives up to its namesake of providing plenty of storage for a business or a home user in a surprisingly compact chassis. It's quiet, keeps its internal drives cool, and operates without any fuss or complicated setup required. It's reasonably priced -- I've seen it for around $650 on the street -- and should suit regular users well.
However, it's not the most feature-packed NAS, which might be an annoyance to anyone expecting an upgrade from their existing Synology or other network-attached storage drive. As NAS devices go, it's relatively barebones in its extra features and integrated management software. If this isn't a concern, don't give it any more thought, but if you're the kind of person that wants to tinker, give the Seagate Business Storage careful consideration.