If you’re managing a small to midsize network and have
recently discovered that you’re quickly running out of storage space on your
file server, chances are that you’re considering expanding your network by
adding some form of Network Attached Storage (NAS). As you’ve begun to explore
your options, you’ve probably discovered that there are actually quite a few
SOHO NAS devices now on the market that offer a variety of features and range
in price from as little as $400 to as much as $1,500.

I recently had the opportunity to set up and use the Linksys
EFG120 EtherFast Network Attached Storage
device on a network and walked
away from the experience thoroughly impressed with both the device’s feature
set and the ease with which I was able to get the device up and running. The
EFG120, which can be picked up for around $750, comes with a 120-GB hard disk
and a whole slew of extra server-type features designed to allow you to expand
the capabilities of a small to midsize network, or even offload some of the
tasks already provided by an overworked network server.

Taking a look at the device

The Linksys EFG120 is a fairly compact device that comes in
a sturdy enclosure measuring just a little over 9 inches wide, 11 inches tall,
and 3 inches deep—about the size of a big three-ring binder. The unit weighs
about 8 pounds and can lay horizontally or be attached to the base, which allows
it to stand in a mini-tower configuration, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

With the base attached, the Linksys EFG120 stands in a mini-tower
configuration.

As you can see, the device has two drive bays into which
mount removable drive trays. The first tray contains a standard 120-GB IDE
drive, and the second tray is empty, as shown in Figure B. This allows you to easily expand the storage capacity
simply by adding another IDE drive. You can add another 120-GB hard disk to
double the capacity, or add a 250-GB hard disk to take the capacity up to 370
GB.

Figure B

The drive cradles hold standard IDE hard drives, making it easy for you to
expand the storage capacity of the EFG120.

(Keep in mind that if you need more storage space, you might
want to consider the Linksys EFG250, which comes with all the same features
except that it sports a 250-GB hard disk in the first tray. You could then add
another 250-GB hard disk in the second tray for a total of 500 GB.)

On the back of the device, as shown in Figure C, you’ll find a standard RJ-45 jack that allows you to
connect the device directly to your network. However, what makes this built-in
Ethernet card a cut above the rest is that it’s gigabit-ready with support for
10/100 Mbps, as well as 1000 Mbps connections. You’ll also find a standard
parallel port, which allows the EFG120 also to be configured as a network print
server.

Figure C

Looking at the back of the EFG120 reveals that the device can function as a
network print server.

The fact that the device’s outward appearance reveals that
the EFG120 can function as both a NAS device and a network print server is only
the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, since this device is packed with extra
features. To begin with, the EFG120 comes with onboard software that allows the
device to be configured as a DHCP server, an FTP server, as well as a network
backup device. And if that isn’t enough, the EFG120 also comes with built-in
hard disk maintenance software for self testing, disk error scanning and fixing,
and defragmenting.

To top it all off, the EFG120 conforms to the Universal Plug
and Play (UPnP) standard. This means that once you connect it to your network,
any Windows system will instantly recognize the device and allow you to take
advantage of the features that it provides without having to install any
special software on the client side.

Making the initial connection

The first step in setting up the EFG120 is simply to connect
the device to your network and the power supply. You then turn on the EFG120 and
wait for it to run a brief self test and its boot-up procedure. After a few
minutes, during which all the lights on the front of the unit blink on and off,
the Ready/Status LED lights up.

Almost immediately, the Windows XP systems on the network
will display a notification window alerting you that a new UPnP device has been
added to the network. An icon for the EFG120 then appears in My Network Places
on Windows XP systems.

Running the Setup Wizard

Once the EFG120 is up and running and connected to the
network, you can begin the actual configuration procedure, which you can do
from any system connected to the network. To do so, you just insert the
installation CD, and the Setup Wizard displays its main menu and prompts you to
click the Setup button. The wizard locates the EFG120 and
displays the default configuration settings, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Once the wizard locates the EFG120, it displays the default configuration
settings.

As you can see, the EFG120 installed itself on my network
using the server name LKG0F727F and a static IP address of 192.168.1.77. To
change the EFG120’s basic configuration settings, click Yes
to proceed.

The next screen in the wizard prompts you to change the IP
addressing scheme. While the EFG120 is assigned a static IP address by default,
you can reconfigure the device to use an existing DHCP server in order to
receive a dynamic IP address. (I personally prefer to assign hardware devices
static IP addresses, so that I always know where they are on the network addressing
scheme.)

Leaving the IP address set to a static and clicking Next
will take you to a screen that allows you to choose a specific IP address,
subnet mask, and default gateway in your particular LAN segment. You can also
change the name assigned to the EFG120.

If you chose to use a static IP address, the next screen
will present you with the option of enabling the EFG120’s onboard DHCP server. If
you go this route, you’ll then specify the range of IP addresses that you want
to make available to your network.

The next screen prompts you to set the date and time as well
as choose your time zone. You will then be prompted to save the settings.

At this point, the EFG120 is ready to go to work, and all of
its storage space is now available on the network.
However, when you go to My Network Places, you’ll discover that the EFG120
establishes its own workgroup under the name of Workgroup, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

By default, the EFG120 establishes its own
workgroup in order to immediately share the hard disk on the network.

Of course, you’ll want to change the default name to match the workgroup name. You may also want to divvy up the
vast amount of available hard disk space among your network users. To perform
these operations and access all of the other features packed into this device,
you’ll use EFG120’s built-in Web-based management utility.

Investigating the Web-based management utility

The EFG120’s built-in Web-based management utility makes it
very easy to configure the device’s various settings. You can access this
utility by opening My Network Places on a Windows XP system and double-clicking
the EFG120 icon. Alternatively, you can open your browser and type the IP
address assigned to the device in the Address box.

Either way, you’ll see the Web Management home page, shown
in Figure F, which contains several
tabs. Of course, the Linksys Web tab provides quick access to the Linksys Web
site for support and product information. On the User Guide tab, you’ll find a
condensed version of the paper manual included in the box—you can find the full
electronic version on the CD in PDF format.

Figure F

The EFG120’s built-in Web-based management utility makes it very easy to
configure the device’s various features.

As you can imagine, the Administration tab is where all the configuration takes place. Of course, the EFG120’s Web
Management home page is password-protected in order to keep the device’s
settings secure. Right out of the box, both the administrator username and
password are set to admin. You’ll
want to begin by changing the password assigned to the admin account, which you
do from the User Password tab.

When you access the Administration tab, you’ll find the LAN
Settings page, as shown in Figure G.
Here, you can change the IP configuration of the EFG120 as well as enable and
configure its DHCP feature and configure DNS server addresses.

Figure G

You use the LAN Settings page to organize the EFG120’s TCP/IP configuration.

Moving over to the System Information page, shown in Figure H, you’ll find the Information
section where you can change the default name assigned to the EFG120 in the
Server Name field, as well as change the default workgroup name to match your
workgroup. You can also rename the shared printer—if there is one.

Figure H

You can change the workgroup and server name on the System Information
page.

You’ll notice that the Enable Guest Logins feature is
enabled by default. This setting, along with the Convert Failed Logins To “Guest” Logins setting, allows anyone on the
network to access the network storage.

However, giving network users free reign over heaps of
network storage will quickly become an administration problem. You’ll probably
want to disable the Guest settings and take advantage of the EFG120’s Users And Groups features.

Creating users, groups, and shares

To make network attached storage easy to manage in a
stand-alone device, the EFG120 provides you with a pretty comprehensive set of
tools for distributing storage space via users and groups. In fact, the EFG120’s
Users And Groups features will not only allow you to create
users and groups along with private shares and folders, but also to set read
and write access and limit the amount of storage space by setting up disk
quotas.

The Users Information page, shown in Figure I, allows you to set up the user accounts by filling in the
fields in the Properties section.

Figure I

To set up a new user account, you simply fill in the fields in the
Properties section.

Once you create the user accounts, they appear in the
Existing Users list where you can select them and then click the Groups button.
You then see the User Membership page, shown in Figure J, and can assign the user to any of the existing groups.

Figure J

The User Membership page makes assigning users to groups an easy operation.

Selecting the Advanced link reveals the Groups Information
page, shown in Figure K, where you
can create Groups, assign membership, and set access permissions by clicking
the Members and Access buttons, respectively.

Figure K

On the Groups Information page, you can create new groups and assign access
permissions.

Although you can create shared folders when you create user
accounts, you modify existing shares as well as create new ones from the Shares
Information page, shown in Figure L.

Figure L

You can fine-tune and create new shared folders on the Shares Information
page.

Managing the disk(s)

As I mentioned, the EFG120 includes a full set of disk
management utilities, which you access via the Disk Settings page shown in Figure M.

Figure M

You can keep the EFG120’s hard disk(s) in shape with the onboard disk
management utilities.

While the 120-GB hard disk that comes with the EFG120 is
fully formatted and ready to go, you can reformat it, as well as format any
additional disks placed in the secondary drive tray, using the buttons in the
Format Disk section.

While the EFG120 will check itself on boot up, chances are
that you’ll rarely reboot the NAS. Fortunately, you can manually perform the S.M.A.R.T.
(Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) test at anytime or
schedule it to occur on a regular basis. This test is designed to warn of any impending
hard disk problems before a failure occurs. In addition, you can stay on top of
the hard disk performance by scheduling regular Scandisk and Defrag operations.

There’s even a standby mode that by default is configured to
occur after 30 minutes of inactivity. However, you can reduce the standby time
period to 10 minutes or boost it up to one or two hours. You can even set it to
never go into a standby mode.

Clicking the Disk Log button at the bottom allows you to
view a history of disk maintenance operations. If you prefer, you can configure
the EFG120 to send you e-mail alerts when there is some problem requiring an administrator’s
attention.

Built-in backup

Since data backup is a crucial operation for any file
server, it’s nice to find a backup solution built in to the EFG120. When you
install a second hard disk in the device, you can enable the built-in backup
feature simply by accessing the Backup Settings page, as shown in Figure N. You can then select the
Enable Data Backup From Disk 1 To Disk 2 check box and
establish a regular schedule.

Figure N

The EFG120 features a built-in backup solution that includes a scheduler.

If you want to set up a rotating backup, you can purchase
additional disk trays from Linksys—the Network Attached Storage Hard Drive Tray
(EFGHDT2)—for under $30. You can then add your own hard disks and effectively create
a set of removable drives for a rotating backup solution.

In addition to backing up the data stored on the hard disk, the
Backup Settings page also allows you to manually back up and restore all the
EFG120’s configuration settings.

Using the print server feature

Using the print server feature of the EFG120 is as easy as connecting
a parallel printer to the device and running the Add Printer Wizard on any
Windows workstation. The only difference is that you’ll need to install the
printer driver locally.

The FTP server

By default, the EFG120’s FTP server feature is enabled. This
makes it easy for you to transfer files via an FTP client both internally and
externally. While I did experiment with using an FTP client to transfer files
on my intranet, I didn’t test the FTP server access from the Internet.

An easy solution for NAS

All in all, I found the Linksys EFG120 EtherFast Network
Attached Storage device to be easy to set up and configure—the whole process
was complete in just a little over an hour. Furthermore, I’ve discovered that
the comprehensive set of features—especially the built-in backup solution—found
in the EFG120 make the device a really powerful addition to any small or midsize
network.